Even Wyoming Valley Conference football can’t avoid erosion.
Two games on tonight’s schedule — Hazleton Area at Wyoming Valley West and Wyoming Area at GAR — were big games in the past. Hazleton Area and Valley West were often duking it out for District 2 Class 4A supremacy. Same goes for Wyoming Area and GAR, but at the Class 2A level.
Now, those games are part of a nine-game weekend that for the first time this season — except, of course, for Week 1 — doesn’t have a game featuring two teams with winning records.
Still, the two aforementioned games carry some significance. Just not the importance of the past.
Hazleton Area (3-4) and Valley West (6-1) put on some classic battles from 2001-09. Three of the nine games in that span were decided by one point. Two others were decided by seven points. The others were competitive throughout.
But starting with Valley West’s 34-13 victory over the Cougars in 2010, things began to change. The Spartans were able to maintain their spot among the Class 4A elite in the district while Hazleton Area began to slide. The last two games — Valley West wins of 66-21 and 42-12 — were the two most lopsided consecutive victories by either squad in the series.
Tonight’s game could lean that way. Valley West will sew up the WVC Division 4A title with a win and move closer to a D2/4-11 Class 4A playoff spot with a victory. Hazleton Area’s chances for either are slim, but the Cougars have won three of their last four including a 13-7 victory over Dallas last Saturday.
“If you look at our last four games, we’ve played hard in 14 quarters,” Hazleton Area coach Jim Drumheller said. “That second half against Crestwood, we had some turnovers. Before we knew it, we were down 28-7 and it took us out of our gameplan. (Against Dallas) we stuck to our gameplan and it was nice for the kids to get a victory after that ugly second half against Crestwood.”
As for Wyoming Area (3-4) at GAR (1-6), this was the defining WVC Division 2A-A game the past three years. Not only did the winner end up divisional champion but it also went on to capture the District 2 Class 2A championship. Now Lake-Lehman (6-1) is steering its vessel toward both.
Wyoming Area clawed its way back into D2-2A playoff contention with a 14-8 victory last Saturday night at Meyers.
The main reason the Warriors are still in the hunt for the postseason is aside from Lehman and Carbondale (7-0), no other D2-2A team has established itself as a bona fide playoff contender. Instead, there’s a six-pack of three- and four-win teams that will be whittled down to two to join the Black Knights and Chargers in the D2-2A playoffs.
Neither Lehman nor Carbondale have officially clinched playoff berths, but the likelihood of them missing the D2-2A tournament is minuscule.
Still, Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer likes the way his inexperienced team fought back from a 0-3 start. That 14-7 hiccup against Nanticoke three weeks ago, however, could prove costly in the long run.
“We’re night and day from the beginning of the year, obviously,” Spencer said. “Physically up front, running the ball, defensively we’re running downhill. We’re where we need to be. Now we have to take them one at a time and give efforts like we did (against Meyers).”
Wyoming Area will need a solid effort to defeat GAR. The Grenadiers have been all over the map with their performances, looking good in one quarter but not the next. Or good in one half or not the next. Or vice versa.
But they’ve been playing hard, coach Paul Wiedlich Jr. said after Friday’s 22-14 loss to Hanover Area, and that means they are close to putting a complete game together.
And to bump Wyoming Area off its D2-2A throne, where GAR sat in 2010 and 2011, would be very gratifying.