Week 2 Schedule
Berwick at Pottsville
Col-Mont Vo-Tech at Nanticoke
Coughlin at West Scranton
Delaware Valley at Wyo. Valley West
Dunmore at Northwest
Mid Valley at Lake-Lehman
Mifflin County at Williamsport
Scranton at Hazleton Area
Susquehanna at Meyers
Valley View at Pittston Area
Wallenpaupack at Dallas
Western Wayne at Tunkhannock
GAR at Holy Cross, 1 p.m.
Wyoming Area at Scranton Prep, 1:30 p.m.
Crestwood at Abington Heights, 2 p.m.
Hanover Area at Holy Redeemer, 7 p.m.
Blair Academy at Wyoming Seminary, 7 p.m.
There was a time a football matchup between Hazleton Area and Wyoming Valley West had plenty of meaning.
Big crowds. Playoff implications. Memorable and close games.
Then came 2010 and the rivalry between the Wyoming Valley Conference’s two biggest schools came crashing down. Hazleton Area plummeted from the elite ranks into a morass of five consecutive forgettable seasons while Valley West remained a premier program.
Week 1 gave a glimmer of hope that the rivalry could regain its status come late October. Valley West, as expected, handled Wyoming Area 42-17. Hazleton Area surprised everyone with a 22-20 win over Coughlin, a legitimate contender for a District 2 Class 3A playoff spot.
But both teams still have work to do starting 7 p.m. Friday night. Valley West (1-0) hosts Delaware Valley (0-1), a team that defeated the Spartans twice last season and won the District 2 Class 4A championship. Hazleton Area (1-0) hosts Scranton (0-1) and a win could creep the Cougars closer to respectability, something that has disappeared in recent years.
“We won one game last week,” Hazleton Area coach Mike Brennan said, “but we have to play better than last week. We made some mistakes that could have hurt us. We’re not putting a number on (victories). But the players, the community and the school are on a little bit of a high because we had some success and we haven’t had a lot of that.”
Hazleton Area finished 8-4 in 2009 and qualified for the District 2/4-11 Class 4A playoffs for a fifth consecutive time. Coach Rocco Petrone resigned after the season to concentrate on his duties as the high school principal, and the program won just 12 of its next 50 games entering this season.
Brennan took over last year, leaving Blue Mountain after four years. A two-time state champion at Mount Carmel, Brennan’s job was to rebuild the program, but the first year was rough. The Cougars finished 1-9, with the only victory coming against winless Tunkhannock.
So while the win over Coughlin was welcomed, Brennan pumped the brakes a bit on the enthusiasm.
“It was important,” Brennan said. “The kids put in a lot of time in the offseason and worked extremely hard. But we were and still are a program that didn’t have a lot of success in the last few years. So I’m not sure if the kids are 100 percent buying into what you are telling them.”
Valley West has never missed the postseason in coach Pat Keating’s previous six years at the helm. But even with that impressive record and preseason accolades, he felt some things didn’t go right against Wyoming Area.
“We had some management problems,” Keating said, “from quarterback to some skill guys, some guys up front. It was a total mixture on offense early in the game. I don’t know if it was first-game jitters or what. But I was really pleased how our kids settled down.”
The two games feature four of the five teams battling for District 2’s only automatic berth in the D2/4-11 Class 4A playoffs. Williamsport (1-0) is the fifth team and is favored Friday night against Mifflin County.
“The big thing is year in and year out these crossover games with Lackawanna (teams) usually have big playoffs implications as far as, A – making the playoffs and B – how the seedings fall,” Keating said. “It doesn’t really matter of the year because this is an important game because of the opponent.”
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar