Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Battle for Coal Bucket

In a high school series that dates back to 1893 when Grover Cleveland was president, Shamokin and Mount Carmel will strap on the helmets one more time on Friday night. In recent years, this game has not  produced surprising results only some surprising scores.  This rivalry tilted in Mount Carmel's favor over the years and the Red Tornadoes look to win 18 in a row in 2013.

This year Shamokin Area looks to avoid their first winless season since 1983's squad went 0-11.  Back in 1983, Shamokin hired Jack Murdock to take over the Indian's fortunes who were 1-10 the previous year under the direction of Bob Chesney who's only win was over a 1-10 Lourdes Regional squad.  30 years later the Indians have come full circle.  They have a new coach on the verge of going 0-10 after the squad finished 1-9 the previous year under a different head coach. For the record, Shamokin's three-year mark was 5 wins against 28 losses.  After yet another coaching change a few years later, the Indians were in the state semifinals in 1991. 

As far as head football coaches at Shamokin, Sam Schiccatano was the only one to win in his first year.  The Indians defeated Mount Carmel at Kemp Memorial 42-8 in Dave "Whitey" Williams debut for Mount Carmel.  Late in that game, a young freshman returned a kick off for Mount Carmel for a touchdown.  That player named Brett Veach went on to a great college career at Delaware and now works for Andy Reid's undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Is Shamokin on the verge of winning again?  Their is some hope at the junior high level who posted an 8-1 record this season.  Although it is a better gauge than freshman football was years ago (Shamokin went 10 years without losing a freshman game), I will wait until the class of 2018 walks down the aisle.

Last week Mount Carmel honored their 1973 Eastern Conference Championship team.  They were the last one to play Shamokin Area on Thanksgiving Day 40 years ago this November.  The Red Tornadoes needed a late score to win that game 20-15.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shamokin Still Searching for First Win of the Season Against Shikellamy

In Week 8, there was little hope in the central PA high school football universe the Coach Cove's first win at the helm of Shamokin would come against Southern Columbia. However, the Indian came out of the game with a lot more positives than normally come out of 56-0 score.

The Indians held the Southern rushing attack under 300 yards with the longest run being 24 yards.  This was after the Shamokin gave up big runs to Lewisburg and Milton.  The Indians also held Adam Feudale under 50 yards for the game.  Southern could have easily had the 300-yard game had they chose to leave in their starters.  What builds and continues the program for the past three decades is getting the 2nd team and JV's significant quality playing time.

Shamokin came up with the acronym called "medS" to build upon their program.  In order to be successful the Indians will have to build upon these four letters going forward.  The "m" stands for mental and includes knowing your part of the game to taking dumb penalties.  "E" stands for experience, not just years playing football, but the natural reaction to plays.  "D" stands for depth.  It is having athletes available to replace two-way players without missing a beat.  "S" and there is a reason it is capitalized.  It stands for strength.  Growing strength in the weight room will help over come deficiencies in the other three letters.

If a microcosm of Shamokin's season was in their first drive, keeping the ball for over 6 minutes then having to punt from their own 35, Shikellamy could be on the same boat.  The Braves were expected to battle Danville for a possible HAC-1 title the previous week.  After a 45-7 loss, one has to wonder what team will show up on Friday. It seems like ages ago where Shikellamy's victory over Selinsgrove in Week 3 and Shamokin's pounding by the Seals the following week feel like ancient history.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Southern vs. Shamokin Preview 2013

It's funny how rivalry's develop and change over the years.  Some get white hot due to close games and down to the wire outcomes.  Others due to close proximity to one another. While others will stay the course due to longevity with one another. 

From 1974 through 1985, the eighth week of the season for the Shamokin Area Indians was devoted to their annual backyard brawl with Lourdes Regional High School.  During those years, Lourdes Regional were co-champions of the Eastern Conference in 1974 with a tie against West Scranton while the Indians won the title outright against Dunmore. Lourdes Regional won that first meeting with Shamokin, 24-19 then lost the next 8 in a row.  In 1983, Lourdes Regional won again by a 20-8 to 8 score as the Indian finished 0-11 under first year head coach, Jack Murdock. The Red Raiders won the following season with the famous hitch-and-pitch from Chris Reiprish to Vic Olear back to Joe Witt for immortality.  Shamokin Area won the final contest between the two schools.

What does Lourdes Regional have to do with all of this?

On Friday night, Southern Area will start two running backs who's parents were from the OLOL Class of 1982, A starting linebacker's parent graduated from OLOL in 1983 while a starting offensive lineman's mother graduated from OLOL in 1984. My guess is that there are probably more on the Southern roster along with a mix of Shamokin alumni. 

Shamokin Area will be underdogs to heavy underdogs in their final 3 games of the seasons.  30 years ago was the last time the Indians ended a season winless under new head coach.  Many OLOL alumni were there 30 years ago in the stands in week 8 and that should hold true for this Friday night. It has taken Shamokin 30 years to come full circle. Out of the ashes of 1983 came a state semifinal appearance in 1991.  Is the bottom at hand?

My hope for tomorrow night is not only a competitive game, but to have Journey sing the national anthem followed up with a halftime performance of "Don't Stop Believin!"

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Southern Columbia Preview vs. Bloomsburg in 2013

Last week, Southern Columbia celebrated 50 years of varsity football against Selinsgrove by honoring their 1963 team. It was actually outstanding to see many members and their families attend the event. The Tigers then proceeded to harpoon the Seals with a 33-7 lead after one quarter and a 47-7 lead by the half to the 2009 AAA state champions.

The questions that one has to ask is whether Southern is that good or is Selinsgrove that bad.  My answer is that the Tigers are that good and are going to get better.  This year's version of the Tiger offense features 5 guys that could run the ball with Adam Feudale, Blake Marks, Matt Lupold, Nate Hunter, and Brad Noll.  This opens up the air game for Jake Becker to pick you apart with Luke Rarig or Zach Tillet plus go to the backs out of the backfield.

This week's game is centered around the year 2009. Southern finished off the 2009 AAA champions in style last week.  It was 2009 when the Tigers lost to Tri-Valley at Schuylkill Haven in a playoff who were coached by current Bloomsburg head coach, Mike Kogut. The controversial call went against Southern on the Tri-Valley goal line. The Tigers thought they broke the plane, but were eventually called for assisting the runner.  It ended up being the difference in a three point loss.

Bloomsburg is a team that Southern has played every year they had varsity football including a few in the post season.  The rivalry was dominated early by Bloomsburg but has been dominated over the past three decades by the Tigers.  The Panthers have played Southern tough since 2007, but this year's version of the Tigers has a chance to rank up there with the 1994 and 2006 teams who this writer considers the best in school history.

Shamokin vs. Mifflinburg
Shamokin had a strange stat of all stats last week when the Indians held the ball for 9 minutes of the second quarter and were outscored 28-0.  For the Indians, they have to look at that 9 minutes and look at what can be and work for it.  You do that 4 times a game you win easy. 
The Achilles heel for the Indians not only this season, but for the past decade or so.  It is even more troubling when these big plays come on the 3rd and 4th down.  Again, coaching could only do so much.  It is eventually up to a player if they want to make the Heartland Conference 1st team or the Xbox All-Madden team.
Last weeks game served notice of you can be and also of what you don't want to be. The decision is eventually yours.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Shamokin vs. Milton Preview 2013

Shamokin will try to get their first win of the season tonight on the road against Milton.  There really isn't much to preview here.  Milton comes into the game with a 3-2 schedule but a win against Carson Long.  However, the Black Panthers have got 13 touchdowns on the ground from two senior backs.  Most of the 18 seniors on Milton's roster were on the team for that District IV final game in 2011, when Shamokin scored on a late drive for the championship.

The whole key for the Indians tonight will be to get a lead and play with the lead.  The Indians haven't done that all season.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Shamokin Indians at the Half

While the Shamokin Indians had some high hopes going into the 2013 with a new head coach and offense, the current result is an 0-5 mark at the halfway point of the season.  Friday's game against Lewisburg was a microcosm of their season.

If you look inside the numbers from this past Friday's game.  Lewisburg ran 40 offensive plays compared to 56 to Shamokin.  Four of those plays for the Green Dragons went for 68, 22, 51, and 31 yard scoring plays for 162 yards.  Shamokin only netted 204 yards total out of those 59 plays.

If you take away those 4 plays Lewisburg averages a little over 3 yards a play.  With them, their average skyrockets to over 7 yards a play.  What this translates to over the long run is frustration.  If you play 36 out of 40 hard on defense only to get beat by four plays, it does play with your psyche a little bit, especially when your offense is putting points on the board. 

Not to start out with excuses, but Shamokin has been hit with an injury bug to it's players the past two season with key players and captains missing plenty of time.  Add to the injuries is player indifference and moving on to other schools.  The Indians loss 3 key contributors to the 2013 season through this route. 

The Good
At times, the Indians showed that they could play hard on both sides of the ball.  They have bounced back well against some bad losses and continue to play hard while being depleted with injuries and other distraction.  That is a credit to the kids and the coaching to get prepared each week.
The Bad
Big plays have haunted the Indian secondary for the last decade or so, it is nothing new.  We continue to get exploited on height mismatches.  I don't know if players got any better or if they actually got worse over the last decade.  That includes the opponent. 
Lack of scoring has also been a problem.  Defenses feel they have to shut out the team in order to win and that creates some undo pressure. 
Special teams have been shaky giving up a long kick off return and two blocked punts.  There is huge upswing to improvement to this aspect.  The Indians have also returned a kick for touchdown.
Coaching changes can be good, but there are still growing pains.  Sometimes you can't make honest evaluations or where to plug players into positions until you see them play over a period of time.  How they react in certain situations is key.
The Ugly
This past week there was a quarterback change with a senior taking over for a two-year starter.  Both are good kids and will continue to be good kids long after the season is over.  I would like to remind people of Silas Redd (Remember him?).  To borrow from Pennlive PSU writer David Jones:
All that said, there’s a lesson here for everyone. What looks like an easy, simple choice isn’t always the best one. Sometimes it’s not only the right thing to fight through rough times, it does you good down the road.

Jones alluded to this when talking about Redd's transfer to USC seemed like the easy choice to make when the road seemed so rocky at PSU.  Shamokin football is going through some tough times. It is up to the Indians in the next 5 weeks to fight through them.