The Aqua Bowl has been nixed thanks to Pen Argyl.
Green is now the color de jour.
Despite winning the District 11 Class 2A championship last season, the Green Knights didn't enter this year's tournament as the favorites. They wouldn't get past one undefeated team let alone two was the popular thinking.
No, Tamaqua or Catasauqua were going to meet in the title game – aka the Aqua Bowl.
Those two teams have the equipment packed away while Pen Argyl (10-2) plays District 2 champion Wyoming Area (10-2) at 1 p.m. today at Northern Lehigh High School in the first round of the PIAA 2A playoffs.
First of all, no one was giving us the opportunity because all we heard about was the ‘Aqua Bowl.' How those two teams were going to battle unbeaten, Pen Argyl coach Paul Reduzzi said. The kids bought into that and were excited we got the opportunity and they raised their level of play.
Reduzzi cited the 22-6 victory over rival Bangor to close the regular season as the impetus needed to knock off two unbeatens in the District 11 playoffs.
Tamaqua fell first 30-14 as the Green Knights held the Blue Raiders to their second-worst scoring output of the season. They then avenged a 27-point loss to Catasauqua in the D11 title game with a 26-20 victory.
Pen Argyl dominated D2 champion GAR in the first round last year 50-20. The Green Knights rushed for 320 yards in that game and led 50-6 before the midway point of the third quarter.
The Green Knights use the same run-first philosophy.
Senior running back Mike Racciato has over 1,400 yards and 19 TDs on the ground. He is a two-time PIAA Class 2A state wrestling champion and has verbally committed to wrestle at the University of Pittsburgh. Junior running back Mike Depaolo will be one of the biggest backs the Warriors have faced this season at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He would likely be near or over 1,000 yards if not for missing three games due to an injury.
However, this version of Pen Argyl isn't quite like last year's team that lost eight starters on each side of the ball to graduation.
It's a lot different, Reduzzi said. We don't quite have the size up front. Last year we expected to be where we were. We expected that from day one. But these kids have come together and made a really good run.
Pen Argyl shut down elusive GAR quarterback Darrell Crawford in last year's game. He was limited to 77 yards on 10 carries, with 47 yards coming on one rush. The Green Knights' scheme was to have the first defender square up and make contact rather than go for a knockout hit and let the pursuit take care of the rest.
A similar plan might be utilized against Wyoming Area quarterback Nick O'Brien, the school's all-time leading rusher.
In our league this year, we didn't see a quarterback that does the things he's done, Reduzzi said.