FROM THE PRESS BOX: THE CRYSTAL BALL (PART I), AND WEEK 1 FOOTBALL PICKS
The 2023 high school football season South of the Border kicks off tonight with Sayre and Athens both on the road against tough opponents.
The Redskins and Wildcats both enter the season with first-year coaches, and a dearth of varsity experience.
Let’s take a look into the crystal ball, and see what lies in store for the Pa. Valley teams:Athens Wildcats:
Athens is coming off a 7-5 season, but graduated 14 seniors, lost two starters to transfers, and a two-way starter to a season-ending injury, which leaves rookie coach Shawn Bradley searching for playmakers.
Unlike his Sayre counterpart, Bradley has a long history of varsity coach experience on the wrestling mats. He’s also been coaching football, including the last three years at junior high, for about 20 years.
The Wildcats have some good experience up front, and they’ll need it to help the young skill players a long.Prediction:
Athens has 45 players in uniform, including 17 sophomores and 16 freshmen. Those two classes have won a lot of football games together throughout the years. They’re going to take a few lumps this season, but I also think they’ll surprise some people. 2023 regular-season record: 6-4.Sayre Redskins:
After not fielding a varsity team for the first time since 1912, it will be good to the see Redskins back on the field in 2023.
Ricky Lindblad takes on his first varsity football job this season for Sayre, but one thing he has going for him is five of his opponents this season will also have a first-year coach at the helm.
If the Redskin line is serviceable this season, I think senior tailback Kaden Bennett could have a big year, and senior QB Tanner Green could be a solid dual threat. The offensive line will be the key for Sayre, as will the defensive line.Prediction:
I think the Redskins will struggle against the likes of Canton, Muncy, and South Williamsport, but should be competitive against the remainder of its schedule. 2023 regular-season record: 3-7.
I will once again in 2023 be joined by the Pigskin prognosticating trio of The Mick (a longtime Valley coach), Little Red (a Valley coach), and Country Bob (a former youth sports coach).
Before we begin, let me say, that picking games in Week 1 of any high school season is like shooting darts blindfolded at a board that is moving.Sayre at Canton:
The Warriors have won the last two District 4, Class A titles, and the Redskins did not field a varsity team in 2022.
Canton lost some quality players to graduation, but have some horses returning, including senior Michael Davis, who could be one of the best players in the NTL this season.Prediction:
I think Sayre will surprise some people this season. I just don’t Canton is one of them. … CANTON 27, SAYRE 6.
Canton 36, Sayre 0 … Little Red:
Canton 35, Sayre 7. … Country Bob:
Canton 45, Sayre 0.Athens at Line Mountain:
The Wildcats are coming off a 7-5 season, but only have three starters (all on the line) returning, while the Eagles were 4-7 in 2022.
Throw virtually no varsity experience at the skill-positions, first-game jitters, a two-hour bus ride, and a new coaching staff into the cauldron, and what you get is not likely to be a positive experience for the Wildcats.Prediction:
If Athens pulls this game out, or keeps it really close, it could be a harbinger of very good things to come. … LINE MOUNTAIN 26, ATHENS 13.
Line Mountain 35, Athens 13. … Little Red:
Line Mountain 35, Athens 6. … Country Bob:
Line Mountain 38, Athens 6.North Penn-Mansfield at Towanda:
The Tigers are coming off a 3-8 season, while the Black Knights were 4-7 in 2022. Towanda won the Week 1 match-up last season, 34-13.Prediction:
Riley Vanderpool was the difference in the game last year, and will likely be again tonight. Plus, Towanda simply has more athletes than NP-M, although the Karson Dominick-to-Cooper Shaw combo could provide some big plays for the Tigers. … TOWANDA 34, NP-M 20.The Mick:
Towanda 14, NP-M 13. … Little Red: Towanda 21, NP-M 13. … Country Bob:
NP-M 18, Towanda 12.Juniata at Troy:
The Trojans are coming off a 9-3 season, and return its most dangerous weapons, while the Indians were 8-4, but graduated its QB and leading rusher.Prediction:
Troy is likely the best team in the NTL and has lofty goals this season. I don’t see them getting derailed in Week 1. … TROY 41, JUNIATA 13.
Troy 44, Juniata 7. … Little Red:
Troy 28, Juniata 14. … Country Bob:
Troy 42, Juniata 13.
Montoursville at Wellsboro:
The Hornets are coming off a 1-9 season, while the Warriors were 4-7, including a 21-14 win over Wellsboro in Week 1.Prediction:
I have no read on this game whatsoever. So, here goes the proverbial dart. … MONTOURSVILLE 21, WELLSBORO 20.
Montoursville 38, Wellsboro 12. … Little Red:
Montoursville 22, Wellsboro 7. … Country Bob:
Montoursville 31, Wellsboro 6.Montgomery at Hughesville:
The Red Raiders are coming off a 1-9 season, while the Spartans were 5-7 in 2022, including a 36-0 Week 1 win over Montgomery.Prediction:
Hughesville graduated some key seniors, but returns quite a bit. … HUGHESVILLE 33, MONTGOMERY 6.
Hughesville 24, Montgomery 7. … Little Red:
Hughesville 36, Montgomery 0. … Country Bob:
Hughesville 28, Montgomery 7.
Northwest Area at Cowanesque Valley:
The Indians are coming off an 0-9 campaign in 2022, while the Rangers were 5-6, including a 51-19 season-opening win over Cowanesque Valley.Prediction:
I have a feeling Cowanesque Valley is going to be a much better team this season, and I think that shows tonight, but I don’t think it translates into a win. … NORTHWEST AREA 22, COWANESQUE VALLEY 16.
Northwest Area 21, CV 16. … Little Red:
Northwest Area 42, CV 20. … Country Bob:
Northwest Area 35, CV 10.Saturday
Nativity BVM at Wyalusing:
The Rams are coming off a 2-8 season, which included a 43-16 loss to Nativity BVM, which went on to post a 3-8 record.Prediction:
Nativity BVM brings back nearly everyone. … NATIVITY BVM 34, WYALUSING 6.The Mick:
Nativity BVM 18, Wyalusing 12. … Little Red:
Nativity BVM 42, Wyalusing 6. … Country Bob:
Nativity BVM 36, Wyalusing 0.
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