Big week for area teams
Athens visits Towanda in a big rivalry game in the NTL, while Tioga and Notre Dame begin their season a little late this week in New York.
In Pennsylvania, Wellsboro is the lone area team with a 2-0 mark on the year as they look to stay unbeaten, while a week after playing a Sunday game at the Carrier Dome, the Waverly Wolverines play another day game as they travel to Harpursville for a Saturday afternoon contest.
ATHENS AT TOWANDA, 7 P.M.
After a close loss at Lewisburg in week one, the Black Knights bounced back last week with a victory over St. Joseph's Catholic Academy.
"It was nice to see us start putting things together," Towanda coach Jamie Wecker said. "The kids really came together after the first week loss. The offense seemed to be on the same page and it was better than the first week. The kids are excited coming off of that win, with the way the offense played and the defense in the second half imposed their will, too. The kids have a little bit more confidence about themselves."
After the week one loss, Wecker knew how important last week's game was.
"It's definitely huge, you don't want to be 0-2," Wecker said. "We lost a close one down at Lewisburg. We probably did enough to win, but we did enough to lose too. For them to come back, to perform the way they did, it's huge for them. We don't want to be 0-2 going into a game like Athens."
After opening with a victory at Port Allegany, last week the Wildcats dropped a home game against North Penn.
"When you play this game, it's all part of it," Athens coach Jack Young said. "You have to take the ups and downs. Now it's time to see how the kids react to that. We just have got to show up and be better. If we are better, I think we will be competitive."
Athens knows they face a tough test going to Towanda.
"They are a solid football team," Young said. "I think we knew that. They played sloppy week one, but they did some things offensively effective. Last week I think offensively they were even better. Obviously, offensively their offense goes around the (Noah) Huff boy. We have got to be sound. We have got to be sound, we have got to be a fundamental defense and try and bottle him up."
Wecker knows that Athens will provide a challenge for Towanda.
"Athens defense is aggressive, they come at you, they are all over the place," Wecker said. "They have quick kids and good athletes there. We have to take care of the fundamentals. We have got to try and eliminate mistakes and hopefully that will be enough.
"They run the ball really effectively with two pretty hard nosed runners. They run the pro-style offense pretty well, once they start establishing that run they get to play action and that will hurt us to. Fundamentally, we have to play our defense, teach our kids to stay fundamental and not make mistakes."
One of the struggles the first two games for Athens has been giving up big plays and Young knows they have to improve on that.
"A lot of that relies on little breakdowns, a breakdown of responsibility or poor tackling," he said. "They have to get over that, they have to get through that. Hopefully we will come out and be fundamental."
Young knows that a game at Athens is always exciting one.
"It's always fun down here," Young said. "It really doesn't matter who you play, but Towanda has a great fan base. Until somebody knocks us off the league has gone through these teams the last 13 years. We have to battle the best we can. Maybe last week playing at home gave us a little jitters. Now we are going on the road, it's not that long of a road trip. We have to give it what we can for four quarters."
As Towanda opens NTL play this week, Wecker knows that there are a lot of teams in the mix for the large-school title.
"It's exciting," he said. "The one thing they talk about is getting back to the NTL championship and seeing what it is. Troy is a good team, they are right up there. Wellsboro has proven they are a solid football team. There is a lot of parity. Athens is Athens. North Penn looked impressive against them. Athens is a proud team, they will come back with a vengeance. We will see the best game Athens has played this year this Friday."
CHENANGO FORKS AT TIOGA, 7 P.M.
The Tioga Tigers quest for a state championship gets a little bit of a late start after they received a forfeit from Notre Dame last week, but now the Tigers get a chance to take on one of the elite programs in Section 4.
Tioga has been working to try and be ready for this week's game despite not playing last week.
"We really picked up the conditioning, we just try to not only get the kids conditioning up and imitate game like speed and game like conditioning they will need," Tioga coach Nick Aiello said. They are real anxious. They are excited. It's finally game week. They are tired of hitting each other. It's been quite a long preseason. We are not used to a month long preseason."
For the first game Tioga knows they need to do all the little things right.
"We really have to stick to the basics and do the basics real well," Aiello said. "We have to play fundamentally sound defense. We have to do our roles really, really well with tackling. Our guys understand it comes down to execution and wrapping up and tackling."
For a team that has reached the state final four two straight years, Aiello knows that this will be a good test to begin the year.
"I think it's going to be a game where we take what they give us," Aiello said. "They're strong up front with two stud linebackers, it's something we are going to have to get a feel of. We still have some question marks, things that we are looking for. I think that first half we really have to take a look at certain adjustments at halftime and make those adjustments to be successful.
"I think it's definitely a great measure of where we are at. I think it's a game that when you get a team the caliber of Forks, it's definitely you look at it afterwards to see the things you need to work on, the gaps in what you are trying to do and the holes. Obviously, we are looking to win this game whatever way we come out it will be a great indicator of where we are at and the work we need to put in for what we want to be."
SAYRE AT TROY, 7 P.M.
Both teams are coming off losses on the road last week and both are hoping to get back on track this week.
"They are real excited," Troy coach Jim Smith said of his team. "As with every week they are real excited to get back out there and do the best job they can do. After Friday night they realized it's not easy to win high school football games. They realized they have to work hard every day."
Sayre coach Larry Hanafin knows after last week's loss to Wellsboro they need to get back to work.
"Basically we have to just reinvest ourselves in getting ready to play," Hanafin said. "All the credit to Wyalusing. They came out, they wanted to play, they were a very determined group. In the beginning of the game we didn't match their level of intensity. It's the most basic thing there is, you have to be ready to play. We have to focus on the fundamentals, improve as individuals so we can improve as a team."
The Redskins know there are plenty of things they need to work on.
"Looking at the film, when we did get going we would either have a penalty or a turnover, we just weren't sharp," Hanafin said. "I just didn't do a good enough job preparing the team, we have to refocus on the small details. Making a block or missing a block, things of that nature, little things if you don't do them they look bad in a big way against you."
After a loss at Wellsboro last week the Trojans know it's important to rebound this week.
"It's important mentally for them to come out and have a little bit of success and get confident again," Smith said. "Wellsboro really had our number, they were well game planned, they were prepared, they made no mistakes. Take nothing away from them, they are a good ball team. Every week is a challenge, this challenge this week is really no different and we have to come and play the game clean and do all the little things right."
Both teams know this will be a tough test.
"Sayre is a physical football team," Smith said. "They are hard coached, they are hard nosed. There is nothing flashy about them, but they play the game the way it's supposed to be played.
"We have got to clean up our mistakes. We have to not turn the ball over, we have to come in with the premise that teams have got to earn everything they get. We can't give an opponent easy scores. We have to make them earn it, we have to be better at limiting mistakes."
The Redskins know the trip to Troy will be a tough one.
"We have to play assignment football, we have to keep a man on the quarterback and the pitch," Hanafin said. "They run it exceptionally well, they are well schooled in it. WE have to be disciplined and have to be tough. One of us will rebound. The biggest objective, I told the team today, be proud of how we performed. Just play the best we can. We'll let the results take care of themselves, every game in this league is a challenge for everybody."
CANTON AT NORTH PENN, 7 P.M.
After a tough start to the season with a loss against Loyalsock, the Panthers bounced back last week with a big victory at Athens.
"They were excited after last week," North Penn coach Tom Dickinson said. "It wasn't a good start to the season. They worked hard in practice last week and to see it pay off on Friday night was rewarding for them. If you keep working hard, good things can happen."
For Canton this is the third straight road game to begin the season, making things tough is that the record of the three teams (Muncy, South Williamsport and now North Penn) is 5-1 to start the year.
"It's very difficult when your first five games we have four road games," Canton coach Jay Perry said. "What makes it more difficult is when you have the competition you face in Muncy, South and North Penn."
After last week North Penn has some confidence going into this game.
"We have said it, you have to take it one game at a time," Dickinson said. "Canton is the next one. The way we played Friday night you never know what can happen. They know it's important again and we have been working hard."
With a lot of new faces this year Dickinson feels like his team is growing as they play.
"It's some new kids in new positions on offense," Dickinson said. "As we get more accustomed to it, they will get better to."
Canton knows that it's been hard with the tough road games, but Perry believes they will start to get comfortable.
"It's the approach we are taking right now," Perry said. "We are starting to figure out who we are. We have to settle down and play some football. Hopefully the wins will start coming."
While Canton is 0-2, North Penn knows they are a tough opponent.
"They played two good football teams to start the season," Dickinson said. "They aren't a bad football team at all. We have to come ready to play. Is it the Athens first half team that shows up or the Loyalsock first half team."
After facing some tough running backs against Muncy and South Williamsport, Perry knows the Warriors will face another one in Bryce Zaparzynski.
"North Penn is a very well coached team again," Perry said. "Zaparzynski is as elusive of a running back as we will see. He's his own type of runner and we have to stop that. The approaches are different from the last two backs we have faced, Zaparzynski has great speed that we have to be ready for."
Dickinson is happy with the way that Zaparzynski has stepped up this year.
"He has got some talent, our job is to get him the ball in space and let him make plays," Dickinson said. "He showed Friday night what he is able to do so that's what we've got to continue to do. He showed Friday night he can run away from people, that's our goal anyway to get the ball to our athletes in space and let them make plays."
Perry knows this stretch to start the season has been difficult and he hopes his team can get through it and start to come together.
"The middle of our schedule works well for us as we look down the road," Perry said. "Once we start getting some wins under our belt I think we will start to get on a roll a little bit. We are looking for when some good things happen either this week or next week and we will go from there."
WYALUSING AT BUCKTAIL, 7 P.M.
The season didn't start the way the Rams wanted with an opening week loss at Wellsboro, but last week the Wyalusing Rams got back on track with a 21-0 victory over Sayre.
"Wellsboro is a good team, matchup wise, we didn't match up well with them," Wyalusing coach James Buchman said. "Sayre, they're a good team too, they will win a lot of games this year. But, this week we did a better job firing off the ball, playing hard, playing low. Everything we worked on in practice we did in the game and I'm happy about that."
As the year goes on there are things the young rams are improving on and picking up.
"Offensively I came in with a good mount of packages and plays and every week I add a little bit more and our team grasps the offense more and more," Buchman said. "We really didn't change up our defense, we knew a couple things on Sayre. They have a lot o big players on their team and we took that strength away defensively."
Buchman knows that Bucktail will be another tough game.
"I know their offense is similar to ours," he said. "They kind of do the same things. They graduated a few kids from last year, but they're going to be tough."
It was nice for Buchman to see his team improve from that opening day loss.
"I preach to them, the coaching staff preached to them, the biggest improvement is from week one to week two," Buchman said. "Week one we were a young team, there are a lot of things we needed to work on and a lot of things we still need to work on, like the basics, the tackling, running with the ball properly, but we really improved from week one to week two."
And, now Buchman hopes to see that same improvement going into this game.
"I think we will, I really do," he said. "There are certain things we saw against Sayre we need to work on. We need to improve every week."
WELLSBORO AT COWANESQUE VALLEY, 7 P.M.
These two teams are coming off very different weeks.
The Green Hornets are riding high after beating Troy 26-17 while the Indians are trying to recover after losing to Muncy 43-13.
"We're definitely playing well right now," Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrandt said. "But we do have some things to clean. We're confident but we still have work to do."
Last year CV upset Wellsboro at the Hornet's Nest and the Hornets want revenge.
"It's definitely a motivating factor going into this week," Hildebrandt remarked. "They felt like they shouldn't have lost last year. They're going to come out this week to prove a point."
As for Cowanesque coach James Burns, he's hoping last year's win will help his kids focus on doing their tonight.
"Just come out and play their best game," he said. "That's the only thing I can ask for from the kids. Give everything you have and the scoreboard will take care of itself."
After the Muncy lost he knew they had work to do.
"We're going to have to focus on everything," Burns explained. "Muncy beat us in all three aspects of the game: offense, defense and special teams. It seemed like we were two steps behind the whole night."
He's especially focused on getting their running game going. Even in their win against Montgomery Burns believes they still have room to grow on the ground.
"We have yet to get the running game on track with the way we like it," he said. "We're kind of spinning our wheels, we just need to get back to the basics."
As for the Green Hornets, they want to continue running on all cylinders.
"We just want to keep doing what we've been doing," Hildebrandt said. "We want to continue to spread the ball around to multiple receivers, that's pretty hard to defend. Spread the ball around in the passing game and then establish more of a running game this week."
Burns knows that Wellsboro's offense goes where their quarterback Michael Pietropola goes.
"I think the biggest thing a lot of teams look at are the stats by the receivers but everything comes down to Pietropola," he said. "We need to keep him in contact and hopefully get some pressure on him."
As for stopping the Indians, Hildebrandt believes they have the tools to do that.
"They run similar looks offensively as we do," he said. "Our guys have gotten looks at that, we just have to kind of stick to our game plan. I think we can match up well with them."
While most fans have been looking at their eye popping numbers Wellsboro's defense has been just as good as their offense.
"Our defense has set the tone," Hildebrandt explained. "There were times this last week where things didn't go our way but our defense hasn't broke yet. All the same guys on offense play defense and they are very confident."
As for CV, Burns believes the key to their success lies above their shoulders.
"I think with our kids so much if it doesn't depend on the neck down, it's from the neck up," he explained. "Muncy is the better team but not that much better than us. Winning against Wellsboro last year will hopefully give them the extra boost, make them think that maybe we can compete."
NOTRE DAME AT TRUMANSBURG, 7 P.M.
After being forced to forfeit against Tioga last week the Crusaders will be taking the field for the first time tonight.
"We're going to have 19-20 guys going into the game," Notre Dame coach Mike D'Aloisio said. "We're fairly healthy right now going into the game with Trumansburg."
Notre Dame didn't scrimmage this pre-season so they are prepared for anything.
"It's a mystery right now for us," D'Aloisio explained.
But they know what they have to do to be successful.
"We have to spread the ball out," he said. "We're probably more of a finesse team. I don't think we can bang with a lot of people. We need to get the ball to our playmakers and see what they can do in space."
He's hoping that their upperclassmen will step up.
"We have to rely on the seniors to provide leadership and have a calming effect for the kids playing at the varsity level for the first time," D'Aloisio remarked. "Over half the roster has never played above a modified level in football, there is a great deal of inexperience there."
Last week Trumansburg fell to Spencer Van-Etten 28-26 and will be looking to rebound against the Crusaders.
"They have some talented kids," D'Aloisio said. "They run the option well, they throw the ball well. They have a pretty solid core group of receivers and they're pretty aggressive defensively. We'll have our hands full, both trying to stop them and to score on them but right now, with our kids, I really don't know what to expect."
However, even though many of them will be suiting up for a varsity game for the first time, D'Aloisio believes they have what they need to be successful.
"I think our kids feel good about some of the things we're doing," he said. "They're starting to gain confidence in their assignments and a lot of times that translates into positive things. Hopefully they carry what they learned in to the game and execute."
WAVERLY AT HARPURSVILLE, 1 P.M.
After a big win over Cortland at the Carrier Dome last week the Wolverines are looking to improve to 2-0 on Saturday.
"We have a good attitude," Waverly coach Jason Miller said. "I am concerned about a letdown to be honest with you. We put so much into that game. We have to work hard this week, we will see a different offense that Harpursville is running."
The Wolverines know they will face another test this week.
"They are a relatively experienced team with a lot of seniors," Miller said. "They have a big fullback, a big tight end, a good line, a three-year starter at quarterback."
After playing their last game on Sunday, having a Saturday game this week gave the kids a little more time to recover.
"We actually gave them off yesterday," Miller said. "I think everybody was still a bit tired from the game. Today we probably had our worst practice of the year. It was hot, we are just getting back in the swing of school. It's demanding like it is for every other high school football player in the country. We want to try and use our depth. It's something we hope will give us an advantage especially this week. They don't play a lot of guys, a lot of their guys are two-way players, so we are going to try and rotate in as many guys as we can."
After starting with a win against a tough Cortland team last week Miller is feeling pretty good about his squad.
"I'm really excited about the potential for this team," he said. "I don't think people expect a lot of us. The kids worked hard and we are gearing up toward our divisional play. I think after that performance I think we know that we have the potential to be a quick strike offense. We are a team that has the potential to put points on the board, at times we played great defense. We have to focus on helping ourselves even more with creating turnovers. There were a lot of things that were positive, but the reality is a lot of things went our way and we had pretty good fortune on our behalf that worked in our favor. We aren't good enough to make mistakes and that has to be the focus."