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Issue Home September 2, 2003 Site Home

Local Sports Scene

Improved Sabers Fall In Opener, 26-13

Step one was getting into the second half with an outcome still to be decided.

Once they reached the second half, the Susquehanna Sabers took step two - showing they had something left.

A beefed-up roster, boosted by the addition of Blue Ridge students in a cooperative sponsorship, appeared to pay off early in a strong second-half effort that allowed the Sabers to compete with Carbondale before falling, 26-13, in their high school football opener.

The Sabers saw their losing streak, which dates back to a 27-14 win over Bishop Hoban on Oct. 13, 2001, reach 14 games. Unlike seven games in the winless 2002 season, the Mercy Rule was never a factor Saturday.

Susquehanna closed within, 13-7, midway through the third quarter and matched Carbondale's 13-point output in the second half.

"It's a step forward," second-year Sabers coach Joe Zabielski said. "You can see where we've turned the corner a little bit, but there are still some things to fix."

Carbondale, which won last year's meeting, 43-6, to start a 4-6 season, controlled the first half.

The Chargers outgained the Sabers, 204-48, and took a 13-0 lead. Carbondale had a 9-2 edge in first downs with the second by Susquehanna coming on the final play of the half.

The second half was played on much more even terms.

Susquehanna went 51 yards in seven plays for a touchdown on its first possession. Carbondale's second-half advantage in total yardage was just, 161-119.

"We have some drive," Zabielski said. "We came out and wanted it.

"Eventually things started clicking."

Tristan Tarbox carried 11 times for a team-high 55 yards and scored both touchdowns.

Erik Hines gained all 40 of his yards in the second half. Quarterback Ryan Dubas added 31 yards and Ernie Taylor picked up 19 on just four carries as the Sabers rushed for a total of 145 in the game.

Hines converted a third-and-four situation and Dubas passed 16 yards to Louis Villella in the first scoring drive.

Tarbox went around the left side for a 12-yard score and Taylor added the kick to bring the Sabers within six with 7:10 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers made sure the Sabers did not seize the momentum.

Logan Gabriel's two-yard quarterback sneak converted a fourth-down situation and the Sabers missed several tackles on Zach Lasavage's 24-yard touchdown run with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

Lasavage and Gabriel teamed on the winning drive.

Lasavage carried six times for 40 yards and passed 19 yards to Gabriel on a fake punt with the Sabers sending 10 men on an attempted block.

Gabriel then passed four yards to Kyle Atkinson for a touchdown with 2:53 left in the game.

Lasavage led Carbondale with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

Robert Reddon, a 6-foot-6, 273-pound sophomore tackle, was one of the leaders of the Sabers defense. Reddon had a sack for a six-yard loss and another tackle for a five-yard loss.

Shaw, a freshman, led the contributions from Blue Ridge students. He recovered a fumble and made a dive to break up what could have been a long Carbondale pass play. Shaw also returned a kickoff 53 yards to set up Tarbox's second touchdown.

Blue Ridge students were on a varsity football field for the first time since the school dropped the sport nearly 20 years ago. It was incorrectly reported in this space two weeks ago that Blue Ridge last played in the late 1970s, but the program actually was active into the 1980s.


Montrose also lost its football opener.

The Meteors were beaten, 27-12, at Lackawanna Trail Friday night.

Tom Burgh gave Montrose a 6-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Trail bounced back to take a 21-6 lead at half-time. That lead held up into the fourth quarter until Kyle Stoddard returned an interception 18 yards to bring the Meteors within, 21-12.

The Lions, the defending District 2 Class A champions, put the game away with a late touchdown.

Justin Marbaker led Montrose with 96 yards on 16 carries.

Jon Rounds hit six of 12 passes for 96 yards and also carried 15 times for 46 yards.

Stoddard was the team's leading receiver with three catches for 66 yards.

In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons had their streak of four straight International League playoff appearances come to an end.

The Red Barons went 19-6 from July 20 to August 13 to briefly take control of the wild-card race. The team then went 5-10 while the Ottawa Lynx and Columbus Clippers got hot. In the process, they lost the wild-card edge and were eliminated.


Forest City is at Blue Ridge and Mountain View is at Montrose Wednesday when Lackawanna League girls' soccer play opens. The four county schools are in the five-team Northern Division along with Lakeland.

The county's only two football teams will meet for the first time since the changes to the Susquehanna program. Zabielski does not expect to have to explain the Montrose-Susquehanna rivalry to his team's new additions.

"Montrose is their rival, too," he said.

After going 11-3 (78.6 percent) on the predictions in the first week of high school football, here are this week's predictions, with winners in CAPS:

MONTROSE 32, Susquehanna 19; WYOMING VALLEY WEST 14, Abington Heights 10; OLD FORGE 27, Bishop Hoban 16; HONESDALE 30, Carbondale 21; DELAWARE VALLEY 26, East Stroudsburg North 15; WILKES-BARRE MEYERS 24, Scranton Prep 13; INDIAN VALLEY 30, North Pocono 12; WESTERN WAYNE 20, Wallenpaupack 19; DUNMORE 13, West Scranton 6; LAKELAND 32, Riverside 12; VALLEY VIEW 35, Mid Valley 6; SCRANTON 7, Pittston Area 6; LACKAWANNA TRAIL 48, Bishop Hafey 6; BISHOP O'HARA 18, Bishop O'Reilly 7.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at

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Darlington, SC – Sunday’s sun had gone down on the last Winston Cup Mountain Dew Southern 500 as Terry Labonte received the checkered flag in the oldest race in NASCAR history.

Terry Labonte

Almost all of the thousands of fans stood and gave the 46-year-old Texan a standing ovation as he circled the track one last time holding the checkered flag out the window of his No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet.

Labonte had gone full circle in 23 years, since his first Winston Cup victory came in his 59th start at the 1980 Southern 500.

It was Labonte’s first win since Texas in 1999. He was third when he came into the pits for tires on lap 334 of the 367 lap race. When he left pit road, he was first. Kevin Harvick was second, but Labonte’s margin of victory over Harvick increased to 1.6-seconds.

"I don’t know where to start," said Labonte. "We were on a losing streak, but I think that’s behind us now.

"They worked on the tires there at the end and it paid off. We felt like we were a better team than what showed.

"It’s great to win the last Southern 500."

Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, and Bill Elliott rounded out the top-5.

"We didn’t win," said Harvick. "But what better guy to win than Terry? He helped bring the sport to where it is today."

Polesitter Ryan Newman, who led the most laps killed the engine of his No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge in the pits and wound up 8-laps down in 23rd spot.

Next year’s Labor Day race will be held at California Speedway.

Top ten finishing order: 1. Terry Labonte, 2. Kevin Harvick, 3. Jimmie Johnson, 4. Jamie McMurray, 5. Bill Elliott, 6. Jeremy Mayfield, 7. Bobby Labonte, 8. Ricky Craven, 9. Elliott Sadler, 10. Greg Biffle.

Top-10 drivers after 25 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-3718, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-3329, 3. Harvick-3303, 4. Johnson-3233, 5. J. Gordon-3127, 6. Busch-3114, 7. Newman-3075, 8. B. Labonte-3053, 9. Waltrip-3012, 10. Stewart-2936.

On The Road With NASCAR Fans – In last week’s column we asked fans to contact us and give their opinions about where they think NASCAR is taking the current sport of stock car racing. During the Darlington racing weekend, we talked with many fans that wanted to share their views.

L.C., Tabor City, NC: "I’ve been a NASCAR fan since 1962. My first race was the Rebel 300 when I was about nine years old. After the race was over, my dad took me down and I got to meet Joe Weatherly.

"I can’t believe what NASCAR is doing by moving the Labor Day race. Darlington was the first superspeedway and it put NASCAR on the map.

"When you forget where you come from, in most cases you’re going to get in trouble."

D. A., Potosi, MO: "It’s a new age of stock car racing. NASCAR was really over when Dale Earnhardt died. There are a few good drivers left in the sport, but the real racing days of Winston Cup are over.

"I think Jimmy Spencer did the right thing at Michigan. He should have given that punk kid more than he did."

J. S., Edmonton, KY: "I think racing died when Earnhardt died. It has been going downhill ever since his death. My husband and I talked about going to Bristol, but with NASCAR being the way it is, and drivers having to watch their P’s & Q’s, I doubt if we will go."

J. C., Eutawville, SC: "Fire Mike Helton. I’m 55-years-old and have been a NASCAR fan long before most of today’s drivers were ever born. In my opinion, NASCAR has gone downhill since he took over.

"Stop allowing NBC to provide coverage of races. I timed three races, and the commercial ratio was 1-minute of commercial to 2.3-minutes of racing. Fans at home are being cheated out of viewing the race, but I’ll be the first to admit, some of the commercials are better than most of the races.

"This common template thing is killing real racing. Why can’t NASCAR allow all body styles to be run as they are built by the manufacturer, like in the past?"

J. P., Susquehanna, PA: "The races are getting boring. Bristol was the first one I haven’t fallen asleep in the middle of."

We received over 200 e-mails, letters and telephone calls. Everyone said major commercial sponsors and television will prompt NASCAR’s future decision-making, and those decisions will favor commercial interests, not racing fans and drivers.

I personally was surprised at the backlash towards the NASCAR organization. Not one fan agreed with NASCAR’s decision to move the Labor Day race from Darlington.

Most of the fans that responded said they had been NASCAR supporters for many years. It’s hard to say how the younger generation feels, because I didn’t get any responses from them.

The one thing almost everyone mentioned is that Winston Cup and Busch racing has developed into a form of mechanized gaming, where driver skills and ingenuity have been replaced by mechanical and computer-generated technology, controlled by corporations.

It’s sad for some, but the changes are here---with more are on the way. As one fan said, "It’s gotten to be just like IROC racing, where all the cars are the same."

I have drawn the following conclusions from this past week’s conversations, letters and e-mails:

NASCAR is losing a lot of old time racing fans and will lose thousands more in the future, but they will pick up many new ones. Long-time fans will stop going to the tracks to see the races, but will continue to watch it on television.

I think that within five years, many of the existing tracks in the eastern half of the country will be in trouble because fan attendance will drop. The new tracks and especially those in the west will continue to prosper, because they have a new, fresh fan base.

NASCAR is a very strong organization, and one of the most powerful private companies in the country. They are not about to go under, because they are much stronger now than a decade ago.

There is a new breed of racing fan being catered to by NASCAR that is able to accept the new racing formats. Accept it or leave it, seems to be the theme. The new fans love it---the traditional ones aren’t buying it.


The top-10 Busch Series points leaders after 25 of 34 races: 1. Riggs-3442, 2. D. Green-3423, 3. Vickers-3375, 4. Keller-3372, 5. Hornaday-3363, 6. Hamilton Jr.-3121, 7. Hmiel-3026, 8. J. Sauter-2993, 9. Wimmer-2964, 10. Kahne-2962.


All three of NASCAR’s major series‚ are at Richmond, VA for three consecutive night races.

Thursday, September 4, Craftsman Trucks Virginia is For Lovers 200, race 17 of 25, 200 laps/150 miles, 8 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.

Friday, September 5, Busch Series Funai 250, race 26 of 34, 250 laps/187.5 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.

Saturday, September 6, Winston Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400, race 26 of 36, 400 laps/300 miles, 7 p.m. TV: TNT.

Racing Trivia Question: Who is the driver of the No. 21 Woods Brothers Ford?

Last Week’s Question: Which former Winston Cup driver helped popularize the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline-sponsored Ford among NASCAR fans? Answer: Davey Allison.

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:

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