Coach Ciro Cinti made prediction for Friday night’s game between his Coughlin Crusaders and Saucon Valley.
“The game will last about 30 minutes,” Cinti quipped.
Rest assured it won’t. After all, the two teams will play 48 minutes starting at 7 p.m. at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium to decide the Eastern Conference Class 3A championship.
Cinti’s analysis is based on how Coughlin (8-3) and Saucon Valley (8-3) are constructed. Both teams prefer running the ball much more than passing it. Coughlin runs the ball about 82 percent of the time; Saucon Valley about 80 percent.
“They are a very good, disciplined team. They are totally different than Fleetwood,” said Cinti, referencing last Friday’s semifinal opponent. “Fleetwood spread us out. This team is I-formation. They have a running back with over 1,000 yards this season. They have good skills kids, and their quarterback is a good athlete. They run the ball predominantly, but they can pass the ball, too.”
Hmm, Saucon Valley sounds quite a bit like … Coughlin.
“They are very similar to what we do,” Cinti said.
The difference, though, will be in the backfield. Saucon Valley has senior Nick Savant, who has rushed for 1,871 yards and 24 touchdowns. Coughlin had – as in the past tense – senior Paul Cole, who probably would have numbers close to Savant if not for a season-ending shoulder injury Week 9 against Berwick. Cole finished with 1,318 yards and 16 TDs.
It would have been an intriguing matchup because Cinti views Savant as a clone of Cole but with a bit more speed.
The Crusaders used the absence of their captain last Friday as a rallying cry in a 24-21 victory over Fleetwood. Senior quarterback Tim Pilch rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Tyler Layton had a TD and rushed for 128 yards. He had just 168 rushing yards during the regular season, with 51 coming in the regular-season finale while filling in for Cole.
Cinti credited the entire team, especially his seniors, for keeping things going.
“They are a great bunch of kids. They really committed to the game this year. I wish we had more of them,” Cinti said. “We have nine seniors and they’ve all contributed. They’ve worked hard in the offseason and during the season.”
Coughlin’s bid to make the District 2 Class 3A playoffs ended in the regular-season finale against Crestwood. In a winner-take-all game, Crestwood gained the final D2-3A spot with a 35-21 victory.
At least the Crusaders knew where they stood entering the final game. Saucon Valley had a different situation.
Saucon Valley rolled Palisades 40-14 in its last regular-season game. The Panthers finished the regular season 7-3, but Pottsville (5-5) made the District 11 playoffs because District 11 uses a mathematical formula instead of the PIAA state points system.
For Saucon Valley, the difference between making the district playoffs and Eastern Conference under the confounding formula was 0.16049 of a point. Using the state points, Saucon Valley would have had 780 points to Pottsville’s 630.