NEPA Sports Nation

Today in NEPA Sports Nation, 9/30

Pictured above: Hazleton Area’s Tyler Wolfe (Tim Drewes photo)

By Tom Robinson,

The most intriguing football matchup of the season to date is set for 7 p.m., but football is not the only sport within District 2 to have important events on the Friday schedule.

By the time District 2’s top two Big Schools square off when Dallas plays at Hazleton Area, and 14 other football games kick off, there will already have been key developments in other sports.

Lackawanna League team golf playoffs continue with a single match, top runners from around District 2 will head to the Lehigh Valley for a major invitational and the Lackawanna’s top two girls volleyball teams will go head-to-head at various starting times throughout the afternoon.

It all leads up to the No. 1 and No. 2 Big Schools, according to the Gaughan Auto Store Super Six Power Rankings by our partners at – and any other logical interpretation that can be gleaned from the first half of the regular season – meeting in one of three football games matching ranked teams. The top-ranked Cougars host the second-ranked Mountaineers in a game between two Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 teams that have collectively been seriously tested just once this season.

The Dallas-Hazleton Area winner takes control of the WVC Division 1 race with the loser and one other team remaining in contention. That team will be determined by No. 3 Big School Crestwood playing at No. 6 Wilkes-Barre Area.

The other ranked football game is a Small School battle in which No. 6 Lackawanna Trail goes to No. 5 Old Forge to open the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 season with a game that, pre-realignment, essentially closed the LFC Division 4 race in most recent seasons.

It’s likely that fewer people were paying attention a year ago when Hazleton Area and Dallas battled into overtime. Running back Matthew Buchman and quarterback Tyler Wolfe, two of the current team leaders, rallied the Cougars late for a 28-21 victory.

Buchman scored two touchdowns and Wolfe passed for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the final 6:33 of regulation and the one overtime series the Cougars needed to complete a comeback from 15 points down on the road.

Two good teams from a year ago have developed into two powerhouses in the first half of this season.

Wolfe has passed for more than 1,000 yards while Dallas running back Parker Bolesta has already rushed for more than 1,000.

Both teams are 5-0 overall. Dallas has already completed half of its six-game division schedule and therefore sits in first place in the division. Hazleton Area has only played a single division game – the closest call to date when it won, 20-7, at Wilkes-Barre Area – and is beginning a stretch of division games in every week of the second half of the season.

Hazleton Area ranks second among District 2’s 33 teams in points scored with 41.6 per game after scoring one more point than Dallas, which is third at 41.4. Hazleton Area has allowed the fewest points in the district at 8.6 points per game and Dallas is sixth-best in points allowed, giving up 14.8.

Crestwood (2-1 in division, 4-1 overall) and Wilkes-Barre Area (1-1, 3-2) also went overtime the last time they met. It was also the only time the teams have met when Crestwood spoiled the 2019 Wolfpack debut, 28-27.

The Comets have scored at least 49 points in each of the past three games.

Noah Schultz has run for 619 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead a deep Crestwood ground attack that is averaging 9.1 yards per carry and 349.2 yards per game.

Mekhi Nelson has handled a bigger share of the Wilkes-Barre Area running game. He has 775 yards and 9 touchdowns, but the rest of the Wolfpack manages just 3.3 yards per carry and 59.8 per game.

Both offenses are run by freshman quarterbacks. Jaden Shedlock is more of a running threat at Crestwood and Jake Howe is coming off an 11-for-14 passing game for 196 yards for Wilkes-Barre Area in a come-from-behind win at Berwick.

After two years in separate classifications, where they both won District 2 titles last season, Lackawanna Trail and Old Forge are back in the same class as well as remaining division rivals. The Lions and Blue Devils already know they will play for the District 2 Class A title in Week 11.

Lackawanna Trail (3-2) currently has the advantage over Old Forge (2-3) for title game home field advantage, but Friday’s winner will take a big step toward that accomplishment.

All 12 teams that make up LFC Division 2 and 3 are playing their division openers this weekend and will play five straight division games over the remainder of the season.

No. 1 Small School Lakeland (5-0) sends the highest-scoring offense in District 2 into an LFC Division 2 game with Honesdale, which has two shutouts in a 3-2 start.

The other LFC Division 2 openers are Mid Valley (2-3) at Dunmore (4-1) and West Scranton (1-4) at Western Wayne (4-1).

Carbondale is at Riverside in an LFC Division 3 opener between teams with 2-3 records.

Abington Heights (1-0, 1-4) is at Valley View (1-0, 4-1) in a game that will decide which of the two teams ties Scranton for first place in LFC Division 1.

The Cougars have won four straight. The Comets are coming off their first win.

Delaware Valley (1-1, 1-4) is at North Pocono (0-2, 2-3) in a game that decided the LFC Division 1 title in the final week a year ago.

Berwick (1-1, 2-3) is at Wyoming Valley West (0-2, 0-5) is another WVC Division 1 game.

Pittston Area (1-0, 2-3) is at Nanticoke (1-1, 2-3); Holy Redeemer (1-1, 2-3) is at Hanover Area (0-3, 1-4); and Tunkhannock (1-2, 1-4) is at Lake-Lehman (1-1, 1-4) in WVC Division 2.

Wyoming Area (3-2) is at Scranton (5-0) and Whitney Point, N.Y. (1-2) is at Montrose (1-2) in non-league games.

Thse Lackawanna League golf playoffs to determine league participants in the District 2 boys team championship matches continue with one match.

Third-seeded Lackawanna Trail is at second-seeded Riverside at 2:20 p.m. at Pine Hills in Taylor. The winner faces Saturday’s Scranton Prep-Montrose winner in the Lackawanna final.

The Paul Short Cross Country Invitational is scheduled at Lehigh University at 4:30 p.m.

Unbeaten Blue Ridge, the Division 1 leader, is at second-place North Pocono in a Lackawanna League Division 1 match at 5 p.m. The Lady Raiders have swept nine straight opponents in three sets and the Lady Trojans have swept seven straight.

Ranked teams try to bounce back from losses when Lackawanna Trail heads to Honesdale for a WVC Division 1 field hockey game.

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