The District 2 Class 4A football championship has been decided different ways throughout the year.
At times, the champion was the team that advanced the farthest in a subregional tournament. At others, if the final two D2 teams met in the subregional, that was a quasi-championship game. Some times it was based on state points if everyone got wiped out at the same time in the subregional.
But for the first time ever, two teams that saw their state playoff hopes end with losses a week earlier will determine the title on the field.
Wyoming Valley West, which defeated every D2-4A team during the regular season, will have to crank it up one more time to gain the crown. The Spartans (9-2) host Scranton (7-4) at 7 p.m. today in the final game for both teams.
The teams enter the contest under very different circumstances.
Valley West trailed Easton 35-21 early in the fourth quarter of a D2/4-11 Class 4A quarterfinal game last Friday. The Spartans rallied with two touchdowns – the final one coming on a 2-yard run by quarterback Mike Baur with 20 seconds left to move within 35-34. They elected to go for a two-point conversion, but a mix-up in the backfield doomed the play.
“It’s something that definitely took us a couple days to get over the loss,” Valley West coach Pat Keating said. “But the bottom line is one of our goals this year was to win a district championship. We have the opportunity Friday night, so I expect our guys to be excited playing at home one last time for a championship. They should definitely be able to rebound.”
Considering the circumstances, the Spartans will probably have an easier time firing up the engines than Scranton.
The Knights were 2-2 at one point this season after consecutive losses of 28-14 to Valley West and 41-6 to Scranton Prep. They righted the ship with five consecutive victories and led Abington Heights 21-0 after one quarter in their regular-season finale.
Then the bottom fell out.
Abington Heights, which will play Berwick tomorrow for the D2-3A title, scored the game’s final 28 points for a 28-21 win. Things got worse last Friday for Scranton as it was pasted 49-0 by East Stroudsburg South in the D2/4-11 4A quarterfinals.
So in the last seven quarters, Scranton has been outscored 77-0. Last Friday’s loss marked the first time Scranton was shutout in its last 31 games. The last time was in a 21-0 setback to Valley View in Week 4 of the 2011 season.
Still, Keating isn’t anticipating Scranton coming in a downtrodden bunch.
“I’m not expecting that,” Keating said. “I know they had some players held out of (last Friday’s) game. Plus, they just came off an emotional loss to Abington. Bottom line is, this is the district championship game and both teams are playing for a district championship. No matter when we play Scranton, they always bring their A-game.”
If there was any solace last Friday for Scranton, at least running back Jake McCarthy eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark for the season. McCarthy, who has verbally committed to play baseball at Virginia, destroyed Valley West on its home field in a 34-14 victory in 2012. He had 124 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries when the teams played Week 3 this season, but the Spartans did an excellent job limiting his big plays.
“Obviously, we had some success with him and we’ll do some of the same stuff we did,” Keating said. “But we’ve grown and been able to add to our defensive package throughout the year. There are going to be some other things we’re going to be able to do.”
Valley West took control in the second half of the earlier meeting, using a 37-yard TD reception by receiver Mike Sands and an 8-yard TD run by Baur to snap a 14-14 halftime tie. The Spartans outgained the Knights 332-214. Baur paced the running game with 98 yards on 15 carries.