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THE FINAL WORD: AN INTERESTING OPENING WEEKEND OF NTL FOOTBALL (2021-08-29)

There were some impressive performances in the first weekend of the NTL football season.

Sayre and Canton easily disposed of NTL foes, while Athens and Wyalusing rolled over non-league opponents.

All four teams displayed the ability to score a lot of points, while playing stingy defense. But, to be honest, I expected all four of them to win big.

Sayre, Athens, and Canton showed off a lot of weapons, and are going to be difficult to defend all season.

The Redskins have three running backs in senior David Northrup, a shifty speed back, junior Zach Garrity, a hard-runner with deceptive speed, and senior Jake Bennett, who is big, fast, and powerful.

On top of that, senior QB Brayden Horton is a powerful and elusive runner, who led the team in rushing Friday, with a big arm capable of beating you deep down field. He has four receivers in 6-3 junior Lucas Horton, seniors Josh Arnold and Dom Fabbri, and Jackson Hubbard — all capable of putting up big numbers.

I believe Lucas Horton will be one of the most dangerous receivers in the NTL this season.

The Wildcats leaned on senior tailback Shayne Reid early, and he produced with two rushing scored and one receiving TD, but also received production from juniors Caleb Nichols and Jaden Wright, and freshman Kolsen Keathley later in the game.

Junior QB Mason Lister threw three TDs to three different receivers, a trait that will carry him a long way as the season progress. He also has some good receivers, led by seniors Karter Rude and J.J. Babcock, along with Reid out of the backfield.

After fantastic junior seasons, Rude and Reid will both be in the “Player of the Year” discussions if the Wildcats can get into the postseason.

Both Valley teams are going to be fun to watch this season.

The Warriors, in my opinion, are the best team in the NTL, and they showed why with an impressive win over North Penn-Mansfield.

They used eight different running backs to rush for 311 yards, and senior QB Cooper Kitchen, who was second on the team with 54 rushing yards, threw a 31-yard TD pass.

The Warriors also have perhaps the best all-around player in the league in junior Riley Parker, who ran for a TD, returned a punt for a score, and forced a fumble on a QB sack.

Defensively, Canton limited NP-M to just 30 rushing yards on 23 carries.

The Warriors travel to Towanda Friday to play a struggling Black Knight team.

Playing without the electrifying Kashawn Cameron, Wyalusing’s junior QB Blake Morningstar made an impressive debut with 230 passing yards and four TDs — all four to senior wideout Nolan Oswald, who had seven catches for 182 yards.

I think we will see Morningstar develop into one of the better QBs in the NTL very quickly.

The Rams also showed the ability to run the ball, with Brian Arnold rushing for 62 yards and three TDs on just seven carries.

Montrose was seriously under-manned, with just 20 players on its roster, and Wyalusing did exactly what they should do — played their game, and did it effectively.

They travel to North Penn Friday to play a very young Panther team that was manhandled by Canton Friday.

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Not all the “eye-opening” performances came from winning teams.

Wellsboro has just 24 players on its roster this season, and that’s drawn a lot of attention from those who follow the NTL on a regular basis.

If Friday is any indication, talk of the Green Hornets’ demise has been greatly exaggerated (thank you Mark Twain).

Wellsboro jumped out to a 14-7 first-half lead, but the explosive Warriors scored three TDs in 4 1/2 minutes to take a 28-14 halftime lead, on its way to a 42-21 victory.

Obviously, Wellsboro can’t afford injuries, but if they stay healthy, they are going to be a very tough out for anyone in the NTL.

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Troy dropped a 20-0 decision to Bald Eagle Area Saturday night, but will still be a formidable foe in the NTL.

Mason Imbt is another “Player of the Year” candidate, an imposing and potentially unstoppable presence in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

We’ll get a better idea of where the Trojans — and the Wildcats, for that matter — stack up in the NTL Large School Division title chase Friday when they travel to Athens.

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South Williamsport is ranked sixth in the state in Class AA, so the casual NTL football observed may have expected a lopsided win over Cowanesque Valley Friday night.

The Mounties scored a pair of TDs in the second quarter, and led 13-0 at the half, before storms hit and forced the suspension of the game. (It will be completed Monday evening.)

The Indians have a new coach in Mike Schmitt, now in his second season, and he is drawing rave reviews from people around the program.

All I can say is last season, I watched a CV team get beat 35-14 at Sayre, but it played four full quarters, and never stops hustling or hitting. That hasn’t always been the case with CV teams.

I’ve said it before, I think CV will be one of the most improved teams in the NTL, but it may not translate into a lot of wins.

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In other NTL football action, Small School preseason favorite Muncy was thumped, 40-21, by Class AA non-league foe Northern Lehigh.

I’m not sure what to make of the Indians’ Week 1 loss, and we probably won’t learn much in Week 2 as they play CMVT, which dropped a 61-6 decision to Northwest Area Saturday night.

Muncy squares off with Wyalusing in Week 3, and that could be an interesting match-up.

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I must admit I was a bit surprised to see Montgomery beat Hughesville, 20-7, but upon further review, the Red Raiders won a season-ending match-up of the two teams in 2020, 26-7.

We’ll get a better idea of how Montgomery stacks up in the Small School title picture this weekend when it hosts Northwest Area.

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For those of you not aware, the NTL added Northwest Area and South Williamsport into the ranks of the Small School Division last season. Bucktail Area is no longer in the NTL.

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Tim Birney is the founder of “The Sports Reports,” and oversees the day-to-day sports coverage at Valley Sports Report. He has been covering NTL sports since 1989.


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