Nov. 10—District 4 Playoffs
Class 4A final
Jersey Shore at Selinsgrove
I wrote this on Monday, Sept. 11 after Jersey Shore and Selinsgrove tied: "There is little doubt in either team's mind after Friday's game that Jersey Shore and Selinsgrove will probably meet again in the District 4 Class 4A playoffs — they've played twice every year since 2013, except for 2020."
And here we are almost exactly two months later, and the Bulldogs are making a return trip to Bolig Field. Neither team has really been challenged since that Sept. 8 meeting. It's been more than six years since the Seals have had a victory in this series, and this is probably their best chance. It's probably the biggest Selinsgrove game at Bolig Field since both Southern Columbia and the Seals were 9-0 in the final week of the 2017 regular season.
The biggest question mark for the Seals is up front. Selinsgrove's offensive line struggled to give Mark Pastore time or open holes for Tucker Teats, who had a season-low 48 yards on 15 carries in the first meeting. Pastore was under relentless pressure, but still hooked up with Gavin Bastian for a long TD pass.
One thing the Seals can hang their hats on was their defensive performance in that first game. Jersey Shore averages 51.5 points per game and has scored less than 42 points in a game twice — 38 against Montoursville, and 21 against the Seals. Selinsgrove's defense found something in the second half against Jersey Shore. They forced 10 punts in the game, nearly a third of the Bulldogs' punts for the entire season. Can't discount the Seals' defense in that matchup, either. Selinsgrove hasn't allowed more than two scores in a game since that game with Jersey Shore.
It's also interesting to see how both teams handle the emotion around the game. Jersey Shore is headed back to the place where the Max Engle tragedy happened, plus both teams have pointed their season to this contest. You have to take the Bulldogs until somebody beats them.
Jersey Shore 17,
Selinsgrove 14, OT
Class 3A semifinals
Lewisburg at Danville
The Green Dragons have found a quarterback in Derek Asche and a deep threat in Jaylen Walker. They are perfect complements to its rushing game and Jeremiah Davis, but this Ironmen defense is the best they've played since the last time they clashed with Danville in September. Its defense is playing better along with the offense, but is it enough? Danville's defense has scored four touchdowns in the last two weeks to complement its high-powered offense. No matter how many times I see it or type it, 14 catches with 12 going for touchdowns is a crazy stat, but that's exactly what Aaron Johnson has done in the last month. Danville has played down to its competition at times in the last half of the season, but right now nobody wants a piece of the Ironmen. I think Lewisburg can keep it close for a while.
Danville 35, Lewisburg 14
Warrior Run at Loyalsock
This has a feel like last year's Lancers semifinal matchup with Mifflinburg. Loyalsock is a clear favorite, but the Defenders certainly have enough firepower offensively to hang in the game, and the defensive line with the ability to put pressure on the Lancers. Tyler Gee surpassed 7,000 career yards passing last week, and the senior now has more total yards in his career than his cousin — Kyle Datres. But the Lancers are relying heavily on Gee this season, he's their running game as well. And that's the biggest difference this year for Loyalsock, they have to pass to win, and if you shut down the passing game or force turnovers — see the Troy game a few weeks ago — the Lancers are beatable. It's going to take a bunch of points for Loyalsock to get knocked off in this round.
Warrior Run 21
Class 2A semifinals
Line Mountain at Troy
I had a bit of a long football weekend, especially with games at Lewisburg and Jersey Shore on Saturday, and had a long conversation about the Trojans. In these bigger divisions, when matched up with the Heartland Athletic Conference or back in the day, the Central Susquehanna Conference teams, the best Northern Tier teams haven't fared well. Here is the list of Northern Tier teams that have won a district football title since 1986 that haven't come in Class A (All came in Class 2A in both the four-class era, and the six-class era): Athens (1986, 2004), Troy (1988, 2013) and Wyalusing (1990, 2001). The six titles in 81 championships awarded since 1986. Add in the fact that this is a pretty good Eagles team, and don't quite send the Trojans to the final. But also make no mistake this is a pretty darn good football team, and whoever comes out of this two-week tournament with the District 4 Class 2A title will be a favorite to be at Cumberland Valley High School in December. Troy's biggest strength this season is its balance. There isn't one star running back or receiver to key on the Trojans. This is also the best passing Troy team in a number of seasons. Junior Evan Woodward is the first Troy quarterback to top 1,000 yards passing in the regular seasons since 2011, and six different Trojan running backs have rushed for at least 200 yards this season. The Eagles have been stout against the run. Towanda's 167 rushing yards last week were the most Line Mountain has allowed since a Week 2 loss to Danville resulted in 251 yards on the ground. Chandon Maurer has 129 tackles and an incredible 29.5 tackles for a loss, while freshman Noah Ringes has 122 stops this season. Sophomore defensive end Max Johnson has 13.5 sacks this season, and a team-high 33.5 tackles for a loss this season. Line Mountain's offense will want to attack Troy the same way, with a couple of different runners in the run game, and then have quarterback Kaiden Maurer attack downfield at times. Maurer has thrown 19 touchdowns this season to go along with nearly 2,000 yards combined on the ground between tailbacks Nolan Baumert and Ian Bates along with fullback Ringes. I'm not ready to say this might be an upset, but don't be surprised.
Troy 21, Line Mountain 20
Mount Carmel at Southern Col.
Man, all that the regular season win did for Mount Carmel is an opportunity to play the Tigers on the road in the semifinals. Mount Carmel is looking for its first district title since 2011, and the 900th victory in school history. Mount Carmel would be just the sixth school in U.S. history to win 900 games, joining Valdosta (Ga.), Male in Louisville, Kentucky, Washington High in Massillon, Ohio, Mayfield, Kentucky and Highlands in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. What a better way to get a historic win than to end your rival's run of six consecutive state championships, and string eight straight district titles? The biggest difference on either side from the first meeting is the health of Isaac Carter. The senior defensive lineman didn't play in the Tigers' loss in the first game, and his importance to the defense can't be overstated — even though I think I've tried this season. Carter's presence makes the Southern nearly impossible to run against, and I've got to think veteran defensive coordinator Andy Mills will have the screen game figured out after the Red Tornadoes and Xavier Diaz buried the Tigers' defense with it in the first game. That's going to be key for Mount Carmel, it's quick passing game. It might not be the screens again, but Cole Spears is going to have to get the ball out quickly against some intense pressure. Also, a big question mark is the health of Mount Carmel's 1,000-yard rusher Luke Blessing, who missed last week's quarterfinal win over Wyalusing. Another question mark after the Wyalusing game: The Red Tornadoes' rushing defense. The Rams ran the ball 72 times for 348 yards. I know the Red Tornadoes already beat them, but I think it's the Tigers headed north next weekend.
Southern Columbia 42,
Mount Carmel 35