Berwick coach George Curry sat in the weight room Friday night, pondering the possibility of his Dawgs becoming the first team since the 2000 squad to finish the regular season undefeated.
“It would feel good if we can go 10-0 because I think there are 16 undefeated teams in Berwick history (in the regular season),” Curry said. “We’re going to hang that up. We have a shot to do that. That was step one.”
Step two is a very long way off — joining six other Berwick teams as state champions. Curry wasn’t about to proclaim this group capable of a place in the PIAA Class 3A championship game. He’s been around too long to disregard rival Hazleton Area on Friday or what is going to be a very strong District 2 Class 3A field or what lies beyond districts if Berwick gets that far.
But he also didn’t win a Pennsylvania-record 432 games as a coach by thinking small.
“Then we’re going to show them the other ones — six teams that went all the way,” Curry continued. “It’s going to be a tough thing, but you never know. They’re high school kids.”
The biggest unknown was how the players would respond when Curry was named the temporary coach in June 2012 after Gary Campbell Jr., who coached the Dawgs for six years in Curry’s absence, abruptly resigned to return to Wahconah Regional High School in Massachusetts.
Curry hadn’t coached since 2008 at Wyoming Valley West. He had one definite ally in the locker room — grandson and quarterback C.J. Curry — but it was uncertain if the others would jump aboard. Campbell brought success to the program, including a district title in 2008, but also a different approach.
When Campbell talked about football, he had a Jerry Seinfeld quality about him. He knew his stuff, but presented it on occasion with a tinge of comic relief. Curry is more like those generals in old World War II movies who plot strategy by moving pieces with a big stick across a large map.
Old school has won new respect.
“We told our kids, ‘We got our crowd back,’” Curry said. “Look at our side, they’re all here (and) around the gate. We saw a good crowds here the last couple games. Valley West was packed. I said, ‘You have the town excited.’ We’re bringing it back.
“We’re getting stronger in the weight room. It’s the second year and we’re trying to gain the respect we had in the ’90s. And I think the kids are getting that confidence.”
It appears the WVC will have two teams at most in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In Class 3A, the loser of Saturday night’s Crestwood at Coughlin game is guaranteed to make the Eastern Conference playoffs at the very least. If Coughlin loses, it can’t make the District 2 Class 3A tournament and will be in the Eastern Conference as the top seed. If Crestwood loses, it still might make the D2-3A tournament depending on what happens in games Friday night. If the Comets fail to make the D2-3A playoffs they will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
In Class 2A, the winner of Friday’s Nanticoke at Hanover Area game is certain of a postseason berth according to the scribbling at the bottom of the hand-written Eastern Conference standings. The winner could make the D2-2A tournament if at least two of the following lose — Lakeland, Susquehanna and Mid Valley. If that doesn’t happen, then the Nanticoke at Hanover Area winner is in the Eastern Conference.
Dallas (1-8) plays at Lake-Lehman (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Old Shoe Game. But rubber-stamping a Lehman victory isn’t a good idea.
Back in 2000, Lehman entered the game 2-6 and fresh off a 42-0 pasting at the hands of Wyoming Valley West. Dallas was 6-2 and in position for a D2-3A playoff spot. Final score — Lehman 12, Dallas 7 as the Black Knights held the Mountaineers to a season-low 151 yards on offense.
“They’re going to know this is our championship game coming up,” Dallas coach Bob Zaruta said. “They’ll be ready for us, I’m sure.”
If Nanticoke does make the postseason it will be the Trojans’ first trip to the playoffs since 1999. They lost 28-17 to Dunmore that year in the District 2-1 Class 2A semifinals.
A victory would also give Nanticoke (4-5) its most victories since a 6-4 finish in 2002. That says a lot about the job done by fourth-year coach Ron Bruza, who inherited a program that had lost 30 of its previous 31 games including 0-10 seasons in 2007 and 2008.
The one game that has had significant impact on the D2-2A standings occurred Week 2. Lakeland lost 26-21 to Valley View but was later award a forfeit victory because Valley View used an ineligible player.
The reversal gave Lakeland 140 state points, placing it in third place in the D2-2A standings. Without those points, the Chiefs would be tied with Nanticoke for sixth in the race for four playoff spots.
Fortunately, another situation looks like it will have no impact. Holy Redeemer was scheduled to play Pottsville Nativity on Saturday afternoon. Nativity, though, backed out of the game in the summer and Redeemer couldn’t find a replacement on short notice.
Redeemer would have been heavily favored to defeat Nativity. That would have meant 10 more state points for Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke, Northwest and Old Forge.
END OF THE STREAK
Three WVC programs that have been perennial playoff participants will be packing up the equipment after Friday night.
Dallas (1-8) will see its streak of f0ur consecutive postseason appearances end. GAR (2-7) won’t be playing Week 11 for the first time since 2005. The Grenadiers have made seven consecutive postseason appearances. Wyoming Area (3-6) will have its streak end at three.
Over the past 10 seasons, not including this year, those three WVC teams have made the playoffs 23 out off a possible 30 times.
The WVC coaches met last week to select the players for the annual UNICO All-Star Football Classic. The game will be played at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Lake-Lehman High School. UNICO is also planning on holding a 5K run prior to the game starting at 2 p.m.
Hanover Area’s Ron Hummer and GAR’s Paul Wiedlich Jr. will coach the East team. Wyoming Valley West’s Pat Keating will coach the West unless his Spartans are still playing in the postseason. If that’s the case, then Holy Redeemer’s Pat Reece will be the coach.
The rosters for both teams will be released Sunday.
Wyoming Valley West has scored 390 points, the most in the WVC. The Spartans have also scored 56 touchdowns. But until last Friday, they didn’t have a two-point conversion until Sean Judge’s run late in the second quarter in the 54-6 victory over Pittston Area.
The reason is probably twofold. First, kicker Ian Ultsh is as reliable as they come at the high school level. He has connected on 49 extra points. And secondly, the Spartans haven’t been in many situation where they needed a two-point conversion instead of an extra point.