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In an ideal situation, the Susquehanna Sabers would not need help from anyone else on the football field.
As seen in the 2002 season, the Sabers football program is no longer operating in an ideal scenario.
A dwindling roster and the program's first winless season were clear warning signs that a significant turnaround is needed.
There is no shame in a small school program having a down year, but the Susquehanna administration is left with the difficult task of trying to determine whether last season's struggles are a down year or the start of a trend.
The addition of athletes from Blue Ridge is a logical solution to the belief that the small roster is a byproduct of a small enrollment and a problem that may not go away in the near future.
The Sabers have defied the odds before, including a 1994 run to the state Class A semifinals. To have the truest chance of turning the program back in the right direction, however, it would be a major first step to have more bodies at practice, more on the sidelines during games and enough to get ninth-grade players experience as part of a junior high program.
Adding athletes from Blue Ridge could fortify the program.
There are different reasons for those who oppose the plan, creating the extended debate that has delayed final decisions on the issue past earlier target dates and into this week. But, the idea that Blue Ridge athletes will take playing time that rightfully belongs to Susquehanna athletes is a selfish and short-sighted concern.
Sure, five or six Susquehanna athletes could lose "their" playing time to a Blue Ridge athlete under the plan. But, isn't that better than risking having all 15 or 20 remaining players lose their spots if the program is no longer able to function?
Is keeping all of the spots in the football program so valuable that it is worth sending out a small, overmatched roster desperately trying to compete?
A lineup that includes too many underclassmen and undersized players can't be hidden. Mismatches in football create more than hurt feelings.
Overmatched wrestlers get pinned quickly. Noncompetitive basketball teams lose dozens of points.
An overmatched football team takes a beating that can knock players out of the lineup, putting further stress on the roster and weakening the team even more. Players once not qualified to perform for a losing team are now asked to hold down positions against strong opponents. The cycle can be tough to reverse.
be wonderful if Susquehanna did not need any help on the football field. Ignoring the strong possibility that the help is a necessity, however, can do far more damage to the program than has already been done.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Blue Ridge, a state Class A softball finalist a year ago, got off to a fast start by avenging its only league loss from a year ago when it beat Susquehanna, 10-0, in five innings Thursday.
Blue Ridge got a one-hitter from sophomore pitcher Brittany Pavelski.
Brittany Welch, Heather Franks and Pavelski led the offense. Welch had two doubles and a single and drove in two runs. Franks had a triple and double and two RBI. Pavelski had a triple and single.
Pavelski is one of five returning starters from the state finalists. Franks, a shortstop, is also back along with right-fielder Amanda Mills, catcher Devin Glezen and first baseman Brooke Hinkley. Third baseman Kelly Drake, second baseman Annette Conigliaro and left fielder Jenn Mills also got some playing time last season.
The Lady Raiders are playing some larger schools in league competition this season because of a new format.
"I think we will do very well," coach Bob Pavelski said. "There are still only nine at one time on the field."
essional hockey, both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Binghamton Senators opened the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs with a pair of wins.
The Penguins swept the Utah Grizzlies in a best-of-three, first-round miniseries, 5-2 and 2-1.
The Penguins opened the playoffs with four first-period goals on a team record 26 shots.
"That's the best period I've seen our team play, by far," Penguins coach Glenn Patrick said.
The Penguins trailed, 1-0, Saturday before rallying with power-play goals by Micki DuPont and Kris Beech.
Binghamton used third-period rallies in both of its wins to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five, second-round series with Worcester. The Senators had a first-round bye after winning the East Division.
Brad Smyth scored with just 16 seconds left in regulation in Thursday's opener, then Josh Langfield scored 1:10 into overtime to give Binghamton a 3-2 win.
Smyth scored two goals in Friday's 4-2 win. The Senators trailed, 2-0, late in the second period and were still down, 2-1, entering the third.
In professional baseball, the Binghamton Mets lost their Eastern League home opener, 2-0, to the Norwich Navigators Thursday before a paid crowd of 2,604 at NYSEG Stadium.
Phil Seibel, who won 10 games last year, started and worked five innings.
In arena football, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers rallied from behind four times only to lose the home opener of their second season, 41-38, on a Mohegan Wolves touchdown pass on the game's final play.
Cosmo DeMatteo caught five touchdown passes from Chris Boden, including four to erase the Mohegan leads. It was DeMatteo's first game with the team since being cut by Barcelona of NFL Europe.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins return home for Game Three of their second-round series against Grand Rapids Saturday. After playing on the road Wednesday and Friday, the Penguins are home Saturday and Monday for the third and fourth games of a five-game series.
The Binghamton Senators may not need to return home to get through their first series. The Senators can eliminate Worcester with a win in Massachusetts either Friday or Saturday. If they lose both, the Senators will be back at the Broome County Arena for the deciding game April 22.
If the weather eventually clears, there is a full schedule of high school events waiting plus a growing list of postponed games that will have to be added to the mix.
Jamie Atkinson, a sophomore from Montrose, is an outfielder and pitcher for the Keystone College softball team.
Atkinson has appeared in all four games in the Lady Giants' 0-4 start. She is hitless in seven at-bats, but has driven in a run and drawn two walks. On the mound, Atkinson has given up 15 hits, 15 earned runs and six walks while striking out two in five innings.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JEFF GORDON Wins The Virginia 500, Martinsville, VA Jeff Gordon won Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Virginia 500 after six hard laps of dueling with Bobby Labonte.
Gordon, who started on the pole, took on four fresh tires on the last pit stop, while Bobby Labonte's team only put two right side tires on.
The move by Labonte's crew chief, Michael McSwain was to allow his driver track position.
The strategy worked for over 15 laps as Labonte made his way to the head of the field, but with about 18 laps to go in the 500-lap race, Gordon caught up with Labonte and for the next six times around the .521-mile oval, they raced side-by-side or bumper-to-bumper for the lead.
Finally, Gordon gave Labonte's No. 18 Chevrolet a little tap on the left rear bumper with 12 laps to go. This caused Labonte's car to wiggle ever so slightly, but it was enough to allow Gordon to pass underneath.
One lap later, Terry Labonte spun, bringing out a caution flag. When green flag racing resumed, it was Gordon, Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Tony Stewart.
Gordon got a good jump on Labonte and the rest of the field and had pulled away by six or eight car-lengths when Kurt Busch spun on the front straightaway on lap 496.
NASCAR did not have enough time to clean up the track, and the race ended under caution.
"They made a heck of a call in the pits," said Gordon. "I saw Bobby back there before the last stop and it looked like he had a pretty decent car. Then he got track position. I would have liked to get by him earlier, but my car was just a little too tight on the bottom.
"We bumped. We rubbed a little bit and I tapped him going into one, but I had a much faster car, and I'm sure he knew that. I felt good about today. Something just told me today was going to be a good day."
The win was Gordon's 62nd career victory and the first since September, 2002. It was also his fourth Martinsville win.
"The two tires didn't get us the win, but it got us up front," said Labonte. "We were a fifth-place car, but the good pit call gave us a second. It was really a great day for us because we started 39th."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wound up third.
"We were racing against the best cars in the field there at the end, so you know you're going to wear your car out trying to get to them," said Earnhardt. "I did what I could."
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jeff Gordon, 2. Bobby Labonte, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Jeff Burton, 5. Elliott Sadler, 6. Tony Stewart, 7. Sterling Marlin, 8. Rusty Wallace, 9. Jimmie Johnson, 10. Ken Schrader.
Top-10 points leaders after 9 of 36 races: Kenseth-1330, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-1279, 3. J. Gordon-1191, 4. Johnson-1151, 5. Busch-1125, 6. Harvick-1097, 7. Stewart-1092, 8. Waltrip-1088, 9. Craven-1082, 10. Sadler-1055.
Is NASCARs Gentlemen's Agreement Necessary Does it work, or should it be scrapped?
The "Gentlemen's Agreement" in Winston Cup and Busch racing has been in place since the late 1980s. Essentially though not part of the rule book, the agreement calls for all cars to slow down immediately when a caution flag is displayed.
The original thinking behind the agreement was slowing down the cars in order to be able to move safety equipment quicker.
Lately, the agreement has come under fire as more and more leaders are slowing drastically to allow cars, usually members of their own team or car make, to get laps back.
"I think the Gentlemen's Agreement is a good thing," said Kyle Petty. "It's always been a good thing and we've always done it. We might have formalized it a little bit more in the late 80's, I guess, but everyone used to race that way. If a caution came out and it wasn't right at the end of the race, everybody just slowed down. If there was a car a lap down, then the leader was the one who raced that car back.
"I think it's still the best way to go. Can you freeze 43 cars at one time in one instance? Maybe at Sears Point or Watkins Glen, but how do you freeze a 30-car pack at Talladega? If you revert back to the previous lap, then you might take away a lot of work and effort that took place between the start-finish line and the caution flag. I just can't come up with a perfect way of freezing 43 cars at every track for every caution flag. The Gentlemen's Agreement isn't perfect but if everyone would go with it, I think it would work pretty well."
Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 49 1-800-CALL ATT Dodge gives his views.
"I understand why the Gentleman's Agreement is in place but I wonder if it hasn't outlived itself," he says. "Do we really need something like that or is it not time to take it one step further? Every other rule we have is in black and white in the rule book, so why not this one? I just think we need to take this to that point. If it's anything else, the rule is there. If something is supposed to be 33 inches, you pick up a rule books and see, '33 inches.' That way, if it's 34 inches, then you know it's wrong and there's not a lot of question about it.
"These teams, these drivers can adjust to just about anything. A lot of times it's just knowing what the rule is. Lay it out and we'll abide by it. The Gentlemen's Agreement, well, it's not an absolute so what do you do?"
John Andretti is the driver of the No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge.
"We can be reasonable people. We act like we are, and we ought to be on the race track. I think anytime you steal something from someone, that's wrong. If it's the end of the race, and it's for position, yeah, you have to race back. Everyone understands that too. Do you do it at the risk of hurting someone else? That's a judgment call and one that NASCAR has to make."
OTHER RACE RESULTS
The top ten results of the NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300 run Saturday, April 12 at Nashville Superspeedway, Gladeville, TN: 1. David Green, 2. Johnny Sauter, 3. Ashton Lewis, 4. Mike Bliss, 5. David Reutimann, 6. Stanton Barrett, 7. David Stremme, 8. Chad Blount, 9. Brian Vickers, 10. Bobby Hamilton, Jr.
Top-10 points leaders after 8 of 34 races: 1. T. Bodine-1120, 2. Hornaday-1042, 3. D. Green-1035, 4. Hmiel-1018, 5. Bliss-1018, 6. Keller-971, 7. McMurray-957, 8. J. Sauter-952, 9. Riggs-950, 10. Vickers-910.
The top ten results of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Advance Auto Parts 250 run Saturday April 12 at Martinsville, VA: 1. Dennis Setzer, 2. Ted Musgrave, 3. Kevin Harvick, 4. Carl Edwards, 5. Bobby Hamilton, 6. Rick Crawford, 7. Darrel Waltrip, 8. Rich Bickle, 9. Terry Cook, 10. Andy Petree.
Top-10 points leaders after 4 of 25 races: 1. Hamilton-670, 2. Crawford-631, 3. Gaughan-594, 4. Musgrave-591, 5. Setzer-590, 6. Kvapil-569, 7. Cook-557, 8. Pressley-551, 9. J. Wood-520, 10. Leffler-514.
No racing next weekend. All of NASCAR's series take the Easter weekend off.
Racing Trivia Question: How many Daytona 500 wins does Dale Jarrett have?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Winston Cup driver Kurt Busch is from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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