By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
Whether you come into high school football season as a player, coach, booster of a specific team, fan of the sport in general or even reporter, the passion many of us bring to the sport means there have been weeks – in some cases, months – of wondering or speculating on the relative strengths of teams going into the upcoming season.
The truth, in many cases, is we can’t know for sure.
There are signs, including well-deserved reputations, that give us some pretty good hints.
But, as I wrote in this space a year ago, the nature of Opening Night of a high school football season is such that at least one team will make the process of predicting games seem absolutely silly by the time Friday night is over.
That won’t stop us from trying and by the time we reassess early-season outcomes and the season as a whole plays out, we hope to provide you accurate predictions on who to expect to win in more than 80 percent of the season’s games.
A year ago, the predictions here wound up at 81.9 percent (181-40) for the season in its entirety and 84.0 percent (42-8) for the playoffs.
We’ll be predicting the outcome of all games involving teams from the Lackawanna Football Conference and Wyoming Valley Conference. With a certain enticement (more on that below), we ventured well beyond District 2 territory when it came to the playoffs.
The predictions do not end at week-to-week winners.
It may not be easy to match last year’s marks when it came to predicting season winners.
In the first predictions column of the year, we correctly told you the winners of all six District 2 or subregional classifications and four of the six teams they beat in the final.
As for divisional races, four of the seven were won by teams predicted here and two others were won by teams predicted to come in second.
We’ll do our best to try to repeat those results, all the while knowing surprise developments can be fun, too.
That 80-percent mark on games and correctly identifying championship favorites are just two of the goals.
For the second straight season, we’ll square off in a friendly rivalry with our partners at NEPAFootball.com, matching the predictions here against The Rick’s Picks by Rick Notari.
Matching up against Rick helped encourage those season predictions and the extra playoff attempts. If he can do it, we have to try it, too.
For the record, Rick finished at 76.6 percent (170-52), including 74.0 (37-13) in the playoffs, while also keeping the process entertaining with his unique spin on prognosticating.
On to the predictions, with home teams in bold italics …
Scranton Prep, the No. 1 Small School team in the Super Six Power Rankings, presented by Gaughan Auto Store on NEPAFootball.com, is at No. 2 Lakeland in one of the 18 opening games. Even with this week’s disappointing news that Penn State-bound running back London Montgomery is likely to miss his senior season after suffering a serious knee injury in last weekend’s scrimmage, this game between teams that are also state-ranked should still be special. In Montgomery’s absence, expect Scranton Prep to show some of the other reasons it was District 2’s top team in 2021. Lakeland has its own NCAA Division I commit in all-state tight end Lacota Dippre, who is headed to Holy Cross, and a dynamic quarterback in Dominico Spataro. Even when it didn’t have a major college prospect and state medalist sprinter carrying the ball in 2021, Scranton Prep showed it had the elements in place to pick up yards on the ground.
Lakeland 28, Scranton Prep 27
Lakeland and Scranton Prep are not the only District 2 teams to begin the season in the PennLive.com state rankings. Delaware Valley, Valley View and Old Forge are also listed in the top 10 in their classifications. Delaware Valley won’t be compared to Pennsylvania teams on the field until next week. The Warriors are in Florida for openers. Leaving there with a victory will be very difficult, but the Warriors have benefitted in the past from being willing to start with this challenge.
Mosley (Fla.) 32, Delaware Valley 14
Valley View 32, Crestwood 12
Old Forge 26, Dunmore 16
If rivalries can’t be saved for the season finale, an argument could be made for Opening Night being the next-best option. Three games on the schedule match neighboring school districts. In all three cases, the home team was the stronger team a year ago, but the visitors have reason to think they have closed the gap. An upset is possible in one of these.
Wallenpaupack 27, Honesdale 19
Riverside 23, West Scranton 20
Wyoming Area 17, Tunkhannock 14
Perhaps it is just the false hope of Opening Night, but in making the predictions for the weekend, it was interesting just how many games felt like they might be able to go either way. There was a temptation to take Lake-Lehman and/or Nanticoke in road trips into Lackawanna Football Conference territory, but in the end, I stuck with Western Wayne and Carbondale. Those are just two examples of why one prediction will be that the net result of opening night will be a closer average margin than the 27.2 points per game seen in the 2021 openers. A year ago, Riverside edged Susquehanna, 21-20, but there were also five shutouts and margins stretching as high as 64 points. We anticipate quite a bit more suspense in this year’s set of openers.
Carbondale 30, Nanticoke 24
Western Wayne 19, Lake-Lehman 16
Holy Cross 23, Hanover Area 19
Dallas 24, Abington Heights 6
Wilkes-Barre Area 27, Scranton 20
State College 30, Williamsport 14
North Pocono 21, Wyoming Valley 10
Lackawanna Trail 21, Mid Valley 7
Hazleton Area 38, Pittston Area 17
Southern Columbia 42, Berwick 16
Susquehanna 29, Holy Redeemer 27
OUR OWN COMPETITION
Rick Notari and I also see many of the favorites for division and district titles the same while differing a bit on who are the top threats to potential disrupt those races. At one point, we thought we differed on three games the first week, but that wound up being just two. To find out which two games, why not the third and what Rick has to say about the upcoming season, see The Rick’s Picks at 2022 The Rick’s Picks – Week 1 | NEPA Football.
As with the game predictions, my season predictions will be in a slightly different format than Rick’s, but we do cover most of the same information.
Division champions and top challengers:
LFC Division 1: Valley View over Delaware Valley.
LFC Division 2: Lakeland over Dunmore.
LFC Division 3: Old Forge over Lackawanna Trail.
WVC Division 1: Hazleton Area over Dallas.
WVC Division 2: Wyoming Area over Lake-Lehman.
Conference dark horses: Carbondale in the LFC and Pittston Area in the WVC.
The district and subregional championships and finals matchups:
District 2-4-11 Class 6A Subregional: Bethlehem Freedom over Emmaus (with Hazleton Area named District 2 champion).
District 2 Class 5A: Delaware Valley over Scranton.
District 2 Class 4A: Valley View over Dallas.
District 2 Class 3A: Scranton Prep over Lake-Lehman.
District 2 Class 2A: Lakeland over Dunmore.
District 2 Class A: Old Forge over Lackawanna Trail.
And, the top teams when it’s over and done with:
Big Schools – 1, Valley View; 2, Delaware Valley; 3, Hazleton Area; 4, Dallas; 5, North Pocono; 6, Berwick.
Small Schools – 1, Lakeland; 2, Old Forge; 3, Scranton Prep; 4, Lackawanna Trail; 5, Dunmore; 6, Western Wayne.