Lose all 10 games a year ago. Lose the starting quarterback to a broken arm in the preseason. Lose the starting running back to a knee injury in the second game.
Be in the thick of the playoff race midway through the season.
Strange as it sounds, that’s where Hanover Area (2-3) is as it hosts Meyers (2-3) at 7 p.m. today in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A-A game with District 2 Class 2A playoff implications.
“Experience,” Hanover Area coach Ron Hummer said of the difference between last year and this year. “We were a young team last year and most of the starting players were sophomores. They dedicated themselves in the offseason to the weight room.
“But remember, we’re still 2-3. We’re no world beaters yet.”
The good news is neither is much of the D2-2A field.
Carbondale (5-0, 580 state pts.) leads the pack, followed by Lake-Lehman (4-1, 460). Then there’s a collection of six teams with two or three victories, none of which that has shown the inclination of pulling away from the logjam. Plus, perennial playoff qualifiers GAR and Wyoming Area — who have combined to win the last three D2-2A titles — have their own issues and are each 1-4.
So a victory over Meyers, which is in the six-team mix, could put the Hawkeyes in the fourth position in the D2-2A standings with four games to play. Four teams qualify for the postseason.
“Lehman is having a good year so far, Carbondale is having a very good year and everybody else is 2-3 or 3-2,” Hummer said. “It’s open for everybody so we’ll have to see what happens these next couple weeks, especially in Scranton area.”
The first five weeks have been more productive for Hanover Area than anticipated. Quarterback Ya’Sir Jones broke his arm in a preseason scrimmage and hasn’t played yet. Hummer said he was getting the cast off this week and could be available later this season. Running back Brian Belcher won’t be. He had rushed for 195 yards and two TDs in the first two games before a knee injury put him on the shelf for good.
The replacements have stepped up to fill the voids. Quarterback Jake Peters has progressed nicely and enters tonight’s game off a 224-yard, three-TD performance in last Friday’s 20-14 upset of previously unbeaten Northwest. Isaiah Taylor took control of the ground game and has a pair of 100-yard games under his belt. He leads the Hawkeyes with 411 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“That’s the thing. The guys we put in are having very good years,” Hummer said. “Jake is a sophomore. He has a great arm, now he just has to read the defense a little bit quicker and relax when he’s throwing the ball. Isaiah Taylor is doing a very good job at tailback. He was held under 100 yards last week, but Jake really shined.”
Of course, some of those old problems popped up in a three-game losing streak. Hanover Area had an opportunity to win all three, but circumstances intervened.
“We’re not a bad team,” Hummer said. “They just have to get out of that mindset that losing is OK.”
The Hawkeyes won’t be thinking that way against Meyers. The next-door rivalry has been heated at times and strange at others. In 2010, Meyers’ best player transferred to Hanover Area. Two years later, Hanover Area’s best player shifted to Meyers.
Meyers will have the best player on the field tonight in athletic quarterback Matt DeMarco. DeMarco is second in Division 2A-A in rushing with 609 yards and is tied for second in the entire WVC in rushing TDs with 10. His 9.2 yards-per-carry average is second highest in the WVC among rushers with at least 400 yards.
The Mohawks’ new read-option offense has yielded 242.6 rushing yards per game, with fullback Nate Mahalak also contributing. However, it was bottled up for a season-low 130 yards in a 14-10 loss to Meyers last Friday. When Meyers resorts to the pass, DeMarco — a converted wide receiver — has had middling success.