A few weeks back, I was asked on a radio show what was wrong with GAR. After all, the Grenadiers are the two-time defending District 2 Class 2A champions. And they were state ranked in the preseason.
The answer was easy – inexperience at the skill positions. But after seeing the Grenadiers on Saturday night, that response doesn't carry much weight.
With me or coach Paul Wiedlich Jr. for that matter.
"You hear a lot of coaches saying ‘I have nine sophomores' or ‘I have seven sophomores,' " Wiedlich Jr. said after Saturday night's 35-26 victory over Lake-Lehman. "You know what, with two scrimmages and this being our sixth game, sophomores are no longer sophomores. They are seasoned players. That goes for first-year players. They are regular varsity football players and they are starting to play like that."
And they are playing like that at the right time as GAR begins a push to be the third team – and first from the Wyoming Valley Conference – to win three consecutive Class 2A district titles.
Senior receiver/running back Lucas Benton was the only veteran skill guy back. And he battled a hamstring injury to start the season when GAR opened with losses to Lakeland and Dunmore. (Ironically, those are the only other teams to win three D2-2A titles in a row).
But Saturday night Benton proved he was back as he showed off his catching ability and tremendous balance after the catch. Others demonstrated they come a long way as well.
First-year starting quarterback Corey Moore, a senior, ran the short-pass offense smoothly. Underclassmen Rashaun Jackson, Rashaun Mathis, Rich Sickler and Jamaar Taylor all came up big by grabbing passes. And while sophomore running back A.J. Mouzone had just 3 yards on two carries, he showed an excellent burst on one run negated by a penalty.
The maturation couldn't come at a better time. After playing winless Hanover Area on Friday, the Grenadiers head to Wyoming Area for a game that could have a domino effect in the district standings.
Hanover Area will name the road leading down to the stadium Mike Lewis Drive during a ceremony prior to the home game on Oct. 19 against Holy Redeemer.
Lewis is the team's long-time manager, handling at the position since 1977. He has been manager under six head coaches. During his 35 years, Lewis missed three games during the 1987 season due to ear surgery and eight games during the 2006 season while he recovered from neck surgery.
All former players are urged to attend.
Wyoming Area senior lineman Joe Erzar is raising money for Lauren's First and Goal Foundation, which supports the fight against pediatric brain cancer. The pledge drive is based on the number of points the Warriors score this season. If someone pledges one cent and the team scores 400 points, that pledge would be $4. A nickel pledge would equal $20.
At the end of the season, drop-off points will be set up for the collection of pledges or other arrangements can be made.
Donation will also be accepted at halftime of Friday's home game at the spirit stand just inside the main entrance on the home side of the stadium. Pledges can also be made by emailing the amount along with your name and phone number to email@example.com or calling 693-3163 after 5 p.m.
For the record, Joe is my nephew and I have made a pledge.
Lake-Lehman's Pete Borum got one Saturday night against GAR.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound junior tipped a pass and intercepted it, setting up a Black Knight touchdown.
Borum nearly got another score when he split out wide on a two-point conversion try, but he was unable to haul in the pass. Before people question coach Jerry Gilsky for calling for a pass to a huge lineman, it must be noted that Borum also plays basketball, where he has demonstrated good hands and athletic ability.
Northwest's Tony Politz became the first WVC back to rush for 1,000 yards this season when he gained 225 yards in Friday's 45-7 victory over Nanticoke.
The senior has rushed for 1,038 so far. He also topped 1,000 last year.
Also on pace for 1,000 yards are Berwick's Matt Cashman (874), Lake-Lehman's Dustin Jones (770), Williamsport's Devin Miller (603) and Wyoming Area's Nick O'Brien (827).
Miller is going for his third consecutive 1,000-yard regular season. O'Brien became the school's all-time rushing leader in Saturday afternoon's 69-28 victory over Holy Redeemer.
Eleven players rushed for over 1,000 yards during the regular season in 2011.
Dunmore picked up a forfeit victory over Holy Cross two weeks ago when Holy Cross didn't have enough healthy players. It was the first forfeit in District 2 in five years.
The previous forfeits involved Mid Valley in 2007. The Spartans had to surrender victories over Holy Cross, Montrose and Susquehanna for using an ineligible player in those games.
The last time a WVC team forfeited was 1999. Bishop Hoban did it twice, to Nanticoke and Lake-Lehman on consecutive weeks, because of the lack of healthy players. Hoban had just 13 players ready to go against Nanticoke in week two and not enough a week later.
WR/RB – GAR
Benton scored on offense, defense and special teams in GAR's 35-26 victory against Lake-Lehman last Saturday night.
Benton started his night with a 33-yard dash to the end zone. He added a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, Then he caught an 11-yard TD pass in the third quarter as part of a night where he hauled in nine passes for 108 yards. He sealed the win with a 50-yard interception return for a score with 9.5 seconds to play.
On defense, he finished with six tackles.
Pete Borum – OL/DL – Lake-Lehman
Dean Gregory – OL/DL – Crestwood
Tony Politz – RB – Northwest
Mike Baur – QB – Valley West
Jay Popson – QB – Crestwood
Dustin Jones – RB – Lake-Lehman
Derrick Simms – RB – Valley West
Nick O'Brien – QB/RB – Wyoming Area