Everything is going to go up a notch. It always does when a District 2 team plays a District 11 team in the PIAA football playoffs.
Starting at 7 p.m. Friday, D2 champion Wyoming Valley West (6-6) will see that for itself when the Spartans play at D11 champion Whitehall (9-3) in the D2/11-5A subregional championship game, which is also a PIAA 5A state first-round contest.
Since being grouped with District 11 in a subregional in 2004, District 2 has lost 23 of 30 games against those Lehigh Valley area teams. Many of those years it was a case of being outnumbered as Valley West and other small D2-4A schools had to play behemoths like Easton and Parkland, which often had enrollments nearly twice that of their D2 opponents.
The PIAA tried to straighten out the disparity in enrollment figures by going to six classifications for football in 2016, kicking the Eastons and Parklands of the world upstairs to Class 6A.
Still, no luck as D2-5A champion Abington Heights lost 35-14 to D11-5A champ Whitehall last season. Valley West, though, picked up the last two victories over D11 teams — both in 2015 before falling hard to Parkland 63-21 in the subregional title game.
So the Spartans will have some familiarity of how the game is played in District 11.
“One thing I can say is we’re kind of used to it playing teams from Lehigh Valley,” Valley west coach Pat Keating said. “They do some things a little different schematically, number one. And number two, I think at least some of the guys are used to knowing the speed of the game is going to be up a little bit once we get on the field with (Whitehall). It’s just a tremendous conference down there top to bottom.”
Whitehall — the alma mater of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley — was ousted from the 2016 5A state quarterfinals by D12 and eventually state champion Archbishop Wood 56-13. The Zephyrs had to replace their top passer and rusher from last season, but returned big-play wideout Dez Boykin.
Boykin finished his junior year with 76 catches for 1,336 yards and 15 TDs. This season, he has 58 receptions for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound speedster has offers from Army, Buffalo and UConn among others.
Junior Ethan Parvel took the reins at quarterback and has 29 TDs passes and is closing in on a 2,000-yard passing season. He is also close to 1,000 yards rushing. Parvel and senior running back Braxton Marrero, a 1,000-yard rusher, each averaged 6.8 yards per carry.
Whitehall packs firepower akin to Williamsport, but its offense doesn’t resemble that of the Millionaires. Nor of any other Wyoming Valley Conference teams for that matter.
“Not necessarily,” Keating said. “They are a little different schematically than anyone we’ve played. They are predominantly all spread (formation). They do some things in the run game where they’re reading guys on the first level in the run game. They are also doing some RPO (run-pass option) stuff with second-level guys, too.”
Valley West has won five of six since a 1-5 start. Keating gave a good chunk of the credit to better play along the line of scrimmage.
The run defense — which features a line of UCLA verbal commitment Chris Bleich, Cortes Adams, Carson Canavan and Sammy Solomon — has been outstanding in two postseason games. Opponents have rushed 58 times for 121 yards, an average of 2.1 yards per carry. Take away a 72-yard TD run by Abington Heights and that yards-per-carry drops to 0.9.