By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
HALIFAX — With their playoff seeding all but secured, Newport knows that it can’t let its guard down against winless Halifax.
The Buffaloes, who for the first time since 1999 are bound for the playoffs, got that message from coach Todd Rothermel early this week.
“We can’t take anybody for granted, we stress that all the time,” he said. “There are games you are supposed to win and one that you are not supposed to win the ones you are supposed to steal. We want to finish with a winning record, not a .500 mark.”
The season and playoff position could have been different if the Buffaloes had won a few more games this year.
“We feel like we let the game against Tri-Valley (leading 7-0 going in to the fourth quarter) and Upper Dauphin (three turnovers in the red zone) get away from us,” he said. “We need to keep winning for the playoffs and what would happen with a loss and a team below us ekes out a spot with a losing record, I’m not sure I want to think about that.
Rothermel has seen big improvements in the team since he took over last season.
“For the year, we’ve improved dramatically on the defensive side from last year to this year,” he said. “We’ve lost two of our kids (tackles Justin Charles and Chance Allen) for the year to injuries. “We are trying to plug kids in to those spots as we look down the road for a playoff spot and to get a win going into the playoffs.
Newport is currently the seventh seed in the District 3 Class AA standings and they could face Littlestown in the first round.
“I wanted to improve the quality of the program and qualifying for the playoffs was one of our goals.” Rothermel said. “It gives us expectations as coaches and the kids to play for. We are building for the future and making the playoffs is the first step.”
The offense for Halifax continues to show improvement despite not having won a game this year.
The Wildcats (0-9, 0-8 TVL) have scored 47 points in their last three games after scoring 12 points total through its first six games.
“I’m seeing heart,” Halifax coach Matt Maniskas said. “We could have easily packed it in six weeks ago, but I give a lot of credit to our players and assistant coaches, they are still in it. As a coach, that keeps me so energized to know that we are doing the right thing.”
Maniskas noted that the team hasn’t had a close game since it lost 21-0 to Millersburg.
“I told out kids that we have to leave it all out on the field on Friday,” he said.
Freshman quarterback Mason Erdman was lost for the season with a concussion just after he had gone past the 1,100-yard passing mark. Fellow freshman Jake Paul is the team’s leading tackler with 97.
“We changed from a power option to a West Coast offense and it’s been a heck of a transition,” Maniskas added. “I would grade the kids’ effort with an ‘A’, I just don’t know if three months was enough time to really evaluate the offensive scheme change. I’d like to say it’s a progression and even talking to other coaches in the league, they are saying that it will be difficult to stop our offense once it is fully worked in and that’s kind of a comfort, given the season we’ve had.”