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FROM THE PRESS BOX: WEEK 1 PICKS — PIGSKIN PROGNOSTICATORS PREDICT GOOD WEEKEND FOR VALLEY, NTL TEAMS (2021-08-27)

High school football action in one-half (South of the Border) kicks off tonight, and both Sayre and Athens have the luxury of opening at home.

In 2020, the Wildcats bounced back from a disastrous 1-10 record in 2019 with a 5-2 season, while Sayre was 1-2 — losing a pair of 3-point decisions and having three games canceled due to Covid.

Both teams return a slew of talented skill-position players, but have some questions up front.

My guest prognosticators — The Mick, Country Bob, and Little Red — return this season. I’ve used pseudonyms to protect the innocent, but I will tell you that all three are either current or former coaches in the Valley, and all three are Valley grads.

As I say every year, picking games in Week 1 is like throwing darts blind-folded. OK, I’ve never actually said that, but I should have. Here goes:

Towanda at Sayre, 7 p.m. @ The Lockhart Street Bowl: The last two times these teams squared off (Week 2 of the 2019 season), Sayre rallied for a thrilling 38-34 win at Towanda.

The Redskins return a host of players with two or three years of varsity experience, while the Black Knights graduated several of their top playmakers.

Sayre’s offense could prove tough to stop if the line comes through. With a trio of running backs — David Northrup, Jake Bennett, and Zach Garrity — returning, as well as four talented receivers, led by junior Lucas Horton, and senior QB Brayden Horton, the Redskins could score a lot of points.

Sayre’s Achilles Heel last year was penalties. The biggest question for me is, can they keep the yellow flags in check this season? If they can, it would be a big plus.

Prediction: The Redskins have a lot of experience, and a lot of talented athletes. The Black Knights have a large freshman class, and several of them will be on the field. … I expect Sayre to put up points, but don’t be surprised if Towanda puts up a better fight than some expect. … SAYRE 48, TOWANDA 20.
The Mick: SAYRE 13, TOWANDA 7.
Country Bob: SAYRE 35, TOWANDA 6.
Little Red: SAYRE 33, TOWANDA 12.

Hanover Area at Athens, 7 p.m. @ Alumni Field: Two years ago, Hanover Area made plays when Athens threatened to take control of the game in a 31-21 win at home.

The Wildcats return a slew of skill-position players with two or three years of varsity experience, but have some holes to fill up front.

With senior Shayne Reid and junior Caleb Nichols in the backfield, and junior QB Mason Lister throwing the ball to senior wideouts Karter Rude and J.J. Babcock, and freshmen newcomers Xavier Watson and Kolsen Keathley, the Wildcats could put up a lot of points this season.

The biggest question for me: Can the Wildcats compete in the trenches against physical teams? If so, they could be very good.

Prediction: Hanover graduated 11 seniors from an 0-5 squad, including several of their top playmakers. … Everything is set up for the Wildcats to start of the season on a high note. … ATHENS 35, HANOVER AREA 13.
The Mick: ATHENS 28, HANOVER 7.
Country Bob: ATHENS 30, HANOVER 12.
Little Red: ATHENS 47, HANOVER 20.

OTHER NTL GAMES
Bald Eagle Area at Troy, 7 p.m. @ Alparon Park: Bald Eagle Area returns its top playmakers, but has holes to fill up front. Troy is still big, but has taken a hit from graduation and players not coming back out. … TROY 21, BEA 19.
The Mick: BEA 44, TROY 0.
Country Bob: TROY 28, BEA 16.
Little Red: BEA 20, TROY 7.

Montrose at Wyalusing, 7 p.m.: The Rams return one of the most explosive and exciting players in the NTL in Kashawn Cameron. Junior Blake Morningstar steps in at QB. … The Meteors were 1-1 in 2020. … WYALUSING 27, MONTROSE 6.
The Mick: WYALUSING 27, MONTROSE 0.
Country Bob: MONTROSE 24, WYALUSING 8.
Little Red: WYALUSING 27, MONTROSE 12.

Cowanesque Valley at South Williamsport, 7 p.m.: CV could be one of the most improved teams in the NTL this season, but that may not translate into a lot of wins. The Mounties are creating a lot of buzz. … SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT 44, CV 19.
The Mick: SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT 33, CV 14.
Country Bob: SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT 35, CV 14.
Little Red: SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT 33, CV 6.

Wellsboro at Montoursville, 7 p.m.: Wellsboro is still talented, but not very deep with just 25 players on its roster. Montoursville is very good. … MONTOURSVILLE 41, WELLSBORO 13.
The Mick: MONTOURSVILLE 48, WELLSBORO 0.
Country Bob: MONTOURSVILLE 42, WELLSBORO 6.
Little Red: MONTOURSVILLE 41, WELLSBORO 6.

SATURDAY
North Penn at Canton, 1 p.m. @ Miller A. Moyer Field: The Warriors graduated a pack of talented seniors, but bring back a strong junior class, and senior QB Brock Kitchen. The Panthers lost a ton to graduation, but coach Tom Dickerson always finds a way to be competitive — maybe just not in Week 1. … CANTON 34, NORTH PENN 14.
The Mick: CANTON 21, NORTH PENN 20.
Country Bob: CANTON 26, NORTH PENN 12.
Little Red: CANTON 27, NORTH PENN 7.

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