WVC football Week 5 preview: Miscues could decide Dallas, WVW

By John Erzar - jerzar@timesleader.com
Dallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Wyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

Upon entering the Dallas football stadium, concessions and restrooms are to the right.

To the left is what Dallas coach Rich Mannello referred to a few weeks ago as “the room on the left.” (He was actually referring to the left side of the fieldhouse, not the stadium entrance, but it works either way).

Inside “the room on the left” is an array of weightlifting equipment designed to make the Mountaineers as strong as possible. The Wyoming Valley West Spartans have a similar setup a short walk from their high school.

But when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Dallas in a Wyoming Valley Conference interdivisional game, sheer brawn will be just one avenue to victory. Brains will play a huge part as well.

Because the team which makes the fewer mistakes could end up the team with the most points.

Valley West (3-1) has developed a reputation in Pat Keating’s 10 years as coach as a very tough offense to defend. It’s not a smoke-and-mirrors scheme loaded with gimmick plays. It’s crafted to continually challenge the defense to recognize and react differently on nearly every down.

“You’ve got to get aligned,” said Mannello, whose team brings a 4-0 record into the game. “I know it sounds like an over-simplification, but it isn’t. They’ll get you outflanked quickly. Once they figure it out, you got to get that cork back in the bottle or you have an issue. They just keep coming at it.

“It’s something we have to handle and that’s a whole process. It takes a full right through Thursday night of preparation for all the sets they throw at you.”

Berwick found that out last Friday. Valley West controlled the ball in the first half, running 40 plays to Berwick’s 16. The Spartans also scored 17 points in the first two quarters, the same Berwick surrendered in its first three games combined.

“They’re a tough team to defend,” Berwick coach Frank Sheptock said. “They give you so many shifts and motions and they’re unbalanced. You have to recognize all of those things.”

Dallas does a lot of things nicely on offense as well. The play-action was very effective in a 44-21 win against Hazleton Area in Week 3. Receivers Matt Maransky and Luke Delgaudio turned short passes into touchdowns of 46 and 56 yards, respectively.

Despite the play-ratio disparity against Berwick, Valley West trailed 27-17 at halftime. A key turning point came late in the second quarter when the Spartans had a second-and-goal at the Berwick 10-yard line and were behind 20-14. Quarterback Jake Shusta was injured and left the game. A third-down pass failed and the Spartans had to settle for a field goal.

“We were executing. We were able to make some plays and execute our schemes,” Keating said. “I think that couple injuries at the end of the first half really stalled our drive. We had three plays in a row in the red zone where we had to replace a guy. One time it was our quarterback on third-and-goal.

“It’s hard to do that stuff and it kind of screws up your rhythm of calling (plays) and what you want to do.”

Berwick went on to win 40-24 as horrible field positions hampered the Spartans in the second half. Prior to the game being handed over to the reserves, they started drive at their 5-yard line twice, their 13, 18 and 20.

Dallas defeated Pittston Area 41-21 last Friday and will now try to win five in a row for the first time since 2012. However, there is a concern defensively, one Mannello acknowledged and is working hard to repair.

The Mountaineers defense has been susceptible to the pass. Opponents have completed 55 percent of their passes for 751 yards. Meanwhile, the run defense has allowed 328 yards and 2.8 per carry.

Berwick (4-0) at Selinsgrove (2-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Berwick’s Frank Sheptock (22-8, 3rd year); Selinsgrove’s Derek Hicks (33-11, 4th year)

Last Meeting: Selinsgrove 17-6 in 2017

All-Time Series: Berwick leads 19-12

Scouting Berwick: Berwick dominated Wyoming Valley West in the second half, keeping the Spartans from crossing midfield until the reserves took over. The defense swarms like bees. However, there were flaws in the 40-24 win as the offense still hasn’t found a groove.

Scouting Selinsgrove: Selinsgrove enters off a 35-0 win against rival Shikellamy. However, the Seals don’t appear as strong as the past seasons. The running game has been pedestrian, but the pitch-catch combo of QB Danny Shoch and WR Ben Swineford has been consistent.

What To Expect: Berwick to rout its former Susquehanna Valley Conference rival.

Hazleton Area (1-3) at Wallenpaupack (2-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Hazleton Area’s Mike Brennan (129-93, 17th year); Wallenpaupack’s Mark Watson (58-70, 13th season)

Last Meeting: Hazleton Area 34-13 in 2017

All-Time Series: Tied 1-1

Scouting Hazleton Area: It’s hard to lose a game after scoring 63 points, but the Cougars did in a 64-63 loss to Williamsport. RB Damon Horton ran wild, scoring seven TDs. But the defense had no answers. Second one-point loss of the season.

Scouting Wallenpaupack: The Buckhorns play their third consecutive 6A opponent. They handled the last two, including 30-14 vs. Scranton last Friday. RB Joe Ingulli makes things go. The passing game has been mundane. Also lost a game by a point.

What To Expect: Hazleton Area seems to have more playmakers and that could be the difference.

Holy Redeemer (0-4) at Tunkhannock (1-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Redeemer’s Dwayne Downing (27-47, 8th year); Tunkhannock’s Mike Marabell (1-3, 1st year)

Last Meeting: Tunkhannock 33-22 in 2011

All-Time Series: Tunkhannock leads 3-0

Scouting Redeemer: QB Colin Conway is out for the year. Ryan Williams is starting now, but he was the starting RB. You get the idea. When a team has limited resources, it usually fills one hole but creates another. The Royals haven’t scored since Week 1.

Scouting Tunkhannock: The Tigers ended their nine-game losing streak by gutting out a 21-19 victory over winless Coughlin. A lot of guys touched the ball and that will give Redeemer problems. The program hasn’t won consecutive games since the 2015 season.

What To Expect: Tunkhannock to eventually overwhelm an undermanned Redeemer team.

Lake-Lehman (3-1) at Northwest (1-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Lake-Lehman’s Jerry Gilsky (60-35, 9th year); Northwest’s Lon Hazlet (106-102, 20th year)

Last Meeting: Northwest 25-7 in 2017

All-Time Series: Lehman leads 26-14-3

Scouting Lehman: As predicted, Lehman had few issues in wiping out winless Carbondale 40-0. The defense has been impressive in the last three games, albeit against opponents a combined 3-9. Not only a win but a sharp performance is needed with Wyoming Area up next.

Scouting Northwest: The Rangers broke in the win column by defeating undermanned Holy Cross 48-6. QB David Piestrak had a big game as did WR Connor Hazlet. The running game got back on track after a minus-10 yard performance against Wyoming Area a week earlier.

What To Expect: Lehman should head home with a win.

Meyers (2-2) at Hanover Area (1-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Meyers’ Jeff Labatch (21-17, 4th year); Hanover Area’s Mike McCree (7-27, 4th year)

Last Meeting: Meyers 21-12 in 2017

All-Time Series: Meyers leads 45-30-3

Scouting Meyers: The Mohawks posted a 60-0 victory over Montrose, a team that’s struggling mightily. It was 33-0 after the first quarter. Darrien Tyson returned a punt for a touchdown, but overall the starters didn’t get many touches.

Scouting Hanover Area: After breaking a 16-game losing streak, the Hawkeyes were overwhelmed by Riverside 42-0. They’ve been shut out twice, also losing 42-0 to Lake-Lehman. The running game that showed life a week prior went silent.

What To Expect: Meyers by a few touchdowns.

Western Wayne (3-1) at Nanticoke Area (2-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Western Wayne’s Randy Wolff (16-10, 3rd year); Nanticoke Area’s Ron Bruza (35-51, 9th year)

Last Meeting: Western Wayne 41-35 in 2001

All-Time Series: Western Wayne leads 2-1

Scouting Western Wayne: Western Wayne could be the sleeper team in the D2-3A playoffs. Except for a hiccup against North Pocono, the Wildcats have played well. Senior RB Kobe Suater is the main threat, although sophomore RB Zane Janiszewski is coming along nicely.

Scouting Nanticoke Area: The Trojans were down 7-0 at halftime against Wyoming Area, but couldn’t get anything going in a 35-7 loss. After two solid games, the offense has managed just 14 points and 223 yards in the past two games. The defense got worn down via the run vs. Wyoming Area.

What To Expect: Western Wayne is playing better at this point and is a slight favorite.

Williamsport (2-2) at Crestwood (1-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Williamsport’s Chuck Crews (38-42, 8th year); Crestwood’s Greg Myers (81-75, 14th year)

Last Meeting: Williamsport 47-13 in 2015

All-Time Series: Crestwood leads 4-3

Scouting Williamsport: Williamsport’s offense finally perked up in a 64-63 win vs. Hazleton Area, with Minnesota-bound RB Treyson Potts running for 257 yards and four TDs. Umm, about the defense. Crews had concerns about it in the preseason and still has them.

Scouting Crestwood: The Comets struck first in a 33-6 loss to Pottsville. QB Chase Passman has thrown 77 times in the last two games, not a good sign. The running game has gone dormant and is missing injured RB Pat Rother, while the defense surrendered 450 yards last Friday.

What To Expect: Crestwood’s offense hasn’t been playing well enough to keep up with teams like Williamsport.

Wyoming Area (4-0) at GAR (1-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Wyoming Area’s Randy Spencer (53-49, 10th year); GAR’s Paul Wiedlich Jr. (53-41, 9th year)

Last Meeting: Wyoming Area 44-7 in 2017

All-Time Series: Wyoming Area leads 18-12-1

Scouting Wyoming Area: The Warriors topped Nanticoke Area 35-7, but it probably won’t go down in school history as one of the more impressive 28-point wins. Penalties – 12 of them – hurt continuity. The defense, though, allowed the offense time to get the engine fired up.

Scouting GAR: GAR fell behind 28-0 in the first quarter to Western Wayne and never recovered. The 42-7 loss was punctuated by a lack of offense, something that’s been a problem the past two weeks. Not a good way to enter a game against a very good defense.

What To Expect: Wyoming Area to win big once again.

Wyo. Valley West (3-1) at Dallas (4-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: WVW’s Pat Keating (79-31, 10th year); Dallas’ Rich Mannello (19-18, 4th year)

Last Meeting: Dallas 31-18 in 2017

All-Time Series: Valley West leads 17-10

Scouting WVW: The Spartans couldn’t get anything going in the second half of last Friday’s 40-24 loss to Berwick. RB Carson Canavan was held under 100 yards for the first time, and field position was horrendous in the final two quarters.

Scouting Dallas: The Mountaineers have won nine of their last 11 games dating back to last year. However, the program hasn’t won five straight since 2012. As expected, RB Lenny Kelley and QB Mike Starbuck stood out in the 41-21 win vs. Pittston Area.

What To Expect: A game that could go either way.

Pittston Area (2-2) at Coughlin (0-4)

7 p.m. Saturday

The Coaches: Pittston Area’s Nick Barbieri (8-7, 2nd year); Coughlin’s Ciro Cinti (71-65, 13th year)

Last Meeting: Pittston Area 21-14 in 2017

All-Time Series: Coughlin leads 29-20

Scouting Pittston Area: Pittston Area’s defense gave up 265 yards and six TDs on the ground against Dallas. Stopping the run has been troublesome thus far. On the offensive side, the running game remains below average. However, QB Mike Nocito and WR Bryan Giambra have done some nice things via the air.

Scouting Coughlin: The Crusaders’ offense was mediocre early in 2017, but they moved some pieces around and found success. Not sure that’s possible this season. WR Rafael McCoy has scored six of the team’s eight touchdowns this season where Coughlin has lost games by one and two points.

What To Expect: Pittston Area is a game that might be closer than assumed.

Dallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL091518PAvDAHS6-1.jpgDallas’ Michael Starbuck leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with nine touchdown passes through four games. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Wyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL091518WVWBerwickFB1.jpgWyoming Valley West and quarterback Jake Shusta face another tough challenge tonight against undefeated Dallas. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

By John Erzar



District 4’s Williamsport is included in the rankings since it plays in the Wyoming Valley Conference and qualifies for the district playoffs through District 2. Last week’s ranking in parentheses.

1. (2) Berwick (4-0)`Defense remains ahead of the offense

2. (3) Dallas (4-0)`Big test comes Friday vs. Wyoming Valley West

3. (4) Valley View (4-0)`Knocked off Prep 21-15, but has deceiving Honesdale

4. (6) Wyoming Area (4-0)`Should head to Lake-Lehman next week undefeated

5. (1) Scranton Prep (3-1)`Gave up first points of the season in loss to Valley View

6. (5) Wyo. Valley West (3-1)`Sputtered in second half vs. Berwick

7. (8) Lackawanna Trail (4-0)`Coming off big victory vs. Dunmore

8. (7) Lakeland (3-1)`Suffered first loss, 28-20 to West Scranton

9. (10) Western Wayne (3-1)`Nanticoke Area will present a challenge

10. (NR) Lake-Lehman (3-1)`Showdown with Wyoming Area next week

Dropped out: Dunmore (2-2)

Given Consideration: Dunmore (2-2); Hazleton Area (1-3); North Pocono (3-1); Old Forge (3-1); Riverside (3-1); Wallenpaupack (2-2); West Scranton (2-2); Williamsport (2-2)

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar