Wyoming Valley West fans might be thinking about the straight trip down Route 11 South in two weeks. The Spartans, though, are concentrating completely on what would be a very crooked journey on Route 11 North tonight.
Rival Berwick can wait, Valley West coach Pat Keating said, because the 7 p.m. game at Scranton is pivotal to the playoff chase.
“Absolutely because from the (District) 2/4 part of the subregional this will be our second game,” Keating said. “We play every 4A school here in District 2. We had one last week and we knew it was important then. And it’s even more important now with Scranton being 2-0 and us being 2-0. It kind of puts the winning team in the driver’s seat as far as heading through the rest of the season for a 4A position.”
Eight teams qualify for the D2/4-11 Class 4A playoffs — six from District 11 and two of the five from the D2/4 bracket. Two of the D2/4 teams — Delaware Valley and Hazleton Area — are winless and struggling. Williamsport is 1-1, but backslid with a poor performance in a 25-0 loss last Friday to Mifflin County.
That means tonight’s winner will be alone atop the D2/4 standings.
It also means the first thought of Berwick shouldn’t come until around 10 p.m. today.
“There’s no way you can because this is more important because of playoff implications,” Keating said.
To get the upper hand, the Spartans need to stop Scranton running back Jake McCarthy, a junior who has already verbally committed to Virginia to play baseball. McCarthy is a home run hitter on the football field as well. He has stampeded two Wyoming Valley Conference opponents this season for 448 yards and six touchdowns.
Once McCarthy gets past the first wave of tacklers, his next stop is usually the end zone. Rarely has he been caught from behind. The Spartans lived that last year in a 34-14 loss to Scranton. McCarthy rushed just 18 times but gained 276 yards and scored five touchdowns, including TD runs of 80, 63 and 56 yards.
The question about Scranton coming into the season was whether it would be a one-trick pony on offense. The Knights graduated one of District 2’s top passing combination, leaving McCarthy as their lone weapon on paper.
Problem solved — quarterback Kyle Pieczynski and receiver Joshua Gonzalez have connected three times for touchdowns. Pieczynski is on pace to toss 20 touchdown passes; Gonzalez is averaging 32 yards per reception.
“This year, they have another threat on the perimeter,” Keating said. “He had two touchdown catches against Hazleton in Week 1. He is definitely someone now you have to keep an eye on on the perimeter because you not only have to worry about McCarthy now, but that deep threat on the perimeter.
“It’s kind of like a 1-2 punch now. The quarterback throws the ball well and they are a headache offensively.”
The Spartans can be the same. Quarterback Mike Baur is a dual threat. He has passed for 337 yards and rushed for 145 more. He’s even added a TD reception to his resume this year. New starting running back Eric Acosta had 228 yards and four TDs, averaging 8.8 yards per carry.
Eight different players have caught passes, led by Mike Sands with eight grabs. He is coming off a career game in the 35-12 victory over DelVal last Friday.