The SportsTalk Shop: District XI Previews – Week 2

First, a quick pat-on-the back for all the people who participated in last week’s “SportsTalk” show poll (a.k.a. “Who will win the Easton/Freedom football game?”).  Extra congratulations are in order for all the people who predicted (and/or rooted) for an Easton victory.  The win sets up one of several great contests this weekend and we’ll be previewing all of the match-ups involving District XI teams on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show (live, 7-8pm on RCN-TV).

Secondly, in addition to breaking down and making predictions about this upcoming weekend’s contests, I’d like to give the Easton and Saucon Valley fans a chance to give some payback to our adversarial co-host, Joe Craig, who predicted double-possession losses for both the Rovers and the Panthers.  After all, turnabout is fair play. We’d be happy to read your emails (RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com) and take your phone calls about those predictions as well as your thoughts on how your teams will do again this weekend.

Now, as we promised in last week’s blog, a closer look at the teams vying for a Class 2A and 3A title this weekend…

Class 3A Championship
Both of these teams got to the title game with solid defense…underrated defenses at that!

Saucon Valley has been in the spotlight because of the running ability of Evan Culver, quarterback Zach Thatcher’s effectiveness in running the offense and the spectacular and timely catches of sophomore Alstan Wolfe.  However, it has been the defensive efforts of those three—and many others—that has fueled the Panthers’ success over the last few seasons.  Culver, who joined his teammates as guests on “RCN SportsTalk” (see it again On-Demand or on our podcasts here on the website), said that he actually prefers to play defense.  That’s a pretty interesting statement considering he’s third among active District XI players in rushing yards and his 64 touchdowns and 4,129 ground-yardage blew away the school records quite some time ago.

Head Coach Matt Evancho, who ran the underappreciated defenses for those great Wilson teams in the 2000s, has been one of the top defensive minds in the Valley for some time.  Seniors Mike Kane, Christian Carvis, Nate Harka and Mike Paolini have been defensive stalwarts for several years and have made for one of the stingiest defenses—Colonial League or EPC–in the area.

Lehighton also allowed just one score in their semifinal game against Blue Mountain. The undefeated Indians forced four turnovers in the first half (six for the game) and scored a defensive touchdown. Their stout defense allowed QB Tyler Cann enough time to warm up the offense and post several second-half scores to put the game away.

Lehighton is similar to Saucon Valley in that they have a core of seniors who have been building to do some special things this fall.  The Indians have a very good secondary and it will not be easy when (if?) the Panthers look to pass the ball.

Class 2A Championship
Speaking of being underrated, I don’t think there’s been a less-mentioned player who’s deserved more accolades than Northwestern’s Harry Hall, who, oh, by the way leads ALL active District XI players in rushing yards.  Hall came into last weekend’s semifinal with 4,860 yards on the ground and 51 TDs (both school records).

I think the Lehigh Valley fan base looked at all the talent that the Tigers lost to graduation from a year ago, and assumed it would be a rebuilding year up in New Tripoli (although they were the #5 team in the “SportsTalk” preseason poll—just sayin’).  However, Northwestern has gotten solid performances on both sides of the ball and played well—even in their losses this season.

One of their losses was to the team they will face in the championship, Notre Dame-Green Pond.  The Crusaders are led by Tre Jordan, who’s passed for over 7,000 yards during his high school career, and he’s just as lethal running the ball.  Mitch Daniel, an outstanding point guard for the basketball team, has made a name for himself as a tailback.  Destyn Woody, Austin Kaulius, Nick Basenese, Jalen Simpson and Aaron Weller all have outstanding abilities receiving the football.  Christian Candelaria, Julian Wismer, Taino Gonzalez and EJ Medina have all had impressive seasons on the defensive side.

The Crusaders have a ton of weapons, a ton of speed and some outstanding defenders.  One would think Notre Dame just has too many horses for Northwestern to handle, but people have discounted the Tigers a few times now, so I’m expecting a very close game on Friday night.

Don’t forget, we’ll be talking about all the 2A/3A/4A playoff teams in our viewing area in action this weekend on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show (if you miss the program, the podcast will be available Friday afternoon here or catch the program On-Demand).  Also, make sure you check out the Easton/Parkland game Friday and Saucon Valley/Lehighton game Saturday on RCN-TV.