By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
Old Forge was District 2’s biggest state football threat a year ago and, in some views, maintained that status when this season began.
Lakeland has earned the right to widely be regarded as the district’s best chance to contend when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs roll around in November.
Old Forge was the only District 2 team to win a state tournament game last season and was also the most competitive of the three (Valley View and Scranton Prep were the others) that made their way into the PIAA quarterfinals. The Blue Devils probably don’t care to be reminded that they led by 14 in the fourth quarter before losing in overtime.
With a veteran team back from that experience, Old Forge opened the season ranked second in the state among Class A teams by PennLive.com. A 2-2 start has dropped the Blue Devils from the state rankings and they certainly would need to play better to be a contender again, but just as certainly, they should not be ruled out at this point.
Lakeland moved from Class 3A to 2A this season, just in time to enter play loaded with a potent senior class that produced a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 title in a 2021 season that ended in a District 2 Class 3A semifinal that came down to the closing seconds at Wyoming Area.
The Chiefs entered this season highly regarded and have earned even more respect with their play. They have both scored the most points in District 2 (190 or 47.5 per game) and allowed the least points (28, 7.0 per game) among the district’s 34 football teams.
The only reason Lakeland wasn’t mentioned more often among state contenders when the season started is that not so far outside District 2 looms two well-known powerhouse programs in Southern Columbia, with its dozen state championships, and Mount Carmel.
Four weeks in, however, the Chiefs are deservedly gaining more attention.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has Lakeland ranked third in the state – ahead of Mount Carmel and behind only Southern Columbia and Farrell – among Class 2A teams. PennLive.com puts the Chiefs fifth.
To remain a threat on the state Class 2A level, Lakeland needs to clearly be better than a team that is annually among the best in Class A.
To regain its status as a contender in Class A, Old Forge does not need to win Friday night, but it needs to perform better than it has through the season’s first four weeks.
Both statements could be true by the time Week Five of the season is over.
This week’s predictions, with home teams in bold italics:
Lakeland 43, Old Forge 20
Before the Chiefs and Blue Devils can chase state goals, they first have to prove to be the best of their size locally. Dunmore looms as Lakeland’s challenger in Division 2 of the newly aligned LFC and, more importantly, in District 2 Class 2A. Lackawanna Trail waits to challenge Old Forge in LFC Division 3 and District 2 Class A. First, the Bucks and Lions meet in the only other game of Week Five that pits teams in the Gaughan Auto Store Super Six Power Rankings against each other. In those rankings, compiled by our partners at NEPAFootball.com, Lakeland is No. 1, Dunmore No. 4, Old Forge No. 5 and Lackawanna Trail No. 6 among Small Schools (Class 3A, 2A and A) in District 2. Lackawanna Trail and Old Forge are one week away from the first of their two meetings. Dunmore is trying to build momentum before hosting Lakeland in two weeks.
Dunmore 31, Lackawanna Trail 10
Unbeatens Hazleton Area and Dallas, the top two Big School teams in District 2, according to the Super Six, are gaining attention with their dominant starts. Hazleton Area, in Class 6A, and Dallas, in Class 4A, have made their way on to the “Others to Watch” lists in their respective classes of PennLive.com’s rankings, placing each in the top 15 in the state. Dallas, the current, Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 leader, and Hazleton Area, the WVC Division 1 favorite, look to keep it going.
Dallas 50, Wyoming Valley West 0
Hazleton Area 51, West Scranton 16
Delaware Valley and North Pocono began the season in the Big School portion of the Super Six. Each has since dropped out. With games against Super Six opponents on this weekend’s schedule, each has a chance to make a move to regaining its status. Delaware Valley takes on a highly regarded Small School while North Pocono faces a team that has arguably taken its spot.
Delaware Valley 36, Scranton Prep 23
Scranton 30, North Pocono 19
District 2 teams occasionally travel outside the area to fill out their schedules. If teams are going to leave the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area in pursuit of games, they might as well find a good match. The three that hit the road this week – Riverside, Holy Cross and Montrose – appear to have done so. MaxPreps.com uses a formula to rank every team in the state and while that process may not be perfect, as someone who likes to crunch numbers, I’ll say those rankings at least offer a decent guideline when comparing teams in different regions. Of the 568 Pennsylvania high school football teams that MaxPreps.com ranks, Riverside is listed 430th and Mahanoy Area 431st. You can’t find a better match than that. Holy Cross heads to Bloomsburg to face Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech in a rarity, a game between teams that have each given up at least 70 points in a game this season. Unlike the Crusaders, the Rams have a win this season, but they have allowed 62 and 72 in back-to-back games after beating Shenandoah Valley. Montrose’s independent schedule calls for the Meteors to look across the border for half of their six remaining opponents. Although hitting the road to face a 3-0 team – the Schuyler Storm, formed by a cooperative sponsorship between Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour – may be a bit tough, expect the rural, small school, New York State additions to the Meteors schedule to be a good fit, at least from a competitive standpoint.
Mahanoy Area 19, Riverside 15
Schuyler (N.Y.) 37, Montrose 22
Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech 47, Holy Cross 40
Wilkes-Barre Area is at Berwick and Lake-Lehman is at Nanticoke in games where opponents have the same overall records. The other eight games remaining on the schedule all have teams that are one win apart. Some close battles could develop.
Berwick 26, Wilkes-Barre Area 14
Nanticoke 23, Lake-Lehman 17
Honesdale 41, Tunkhannock 27
Wyoming Area 40, Hanover Area 0
Crestwood 33, Williamsport 16
Valley View 28, Pittston Area 16
Western Wayne 27, Carbondale 9
Susquehanna 26, Mid Valley 14
Abington Heights 24, Wallenpaupack 19
Milton 34, Holy Redeemer 6
After holding the lead throughout the 2021 season, I find myself chasing Rick Notari of The Rick’s Picks on NEPAFootball.com for the second time this season in our friendly predictions competition. The last time Rick led by two games, I caught up the next week. Once again, I have fallen two games back and, once again, we disagree on two games, so the goal will be to get back to even at the midway point of the regular season. Rick was an impressive 15-2 (88.2 percent) last week while I was 13-4 (76.5 percent). That puts our season marks at 53-16 (78.9 percent) for Rick and 51-18 (73.9 percent for me). See where Rick and I differ and read what Rick has to say in this week’s predictions at: 2022 The Rick’s Picks – Week 5 | NEPA Football.