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Even the promise of opening weekend could not disguise the current discouraging status of Susquehanna County's two high school football programs.
Montrose opened its final season as a Lackawanna Football Conference member by playing well defensively for much of the game, but showing a lack of offensive punch in a 21-8 loss to Lackawanna Trail Friday night.
Susquehanna saw its school record losing streak extended to 24 Saturday afternoon in a 40-7 loss to Carbondale.
The two teams went a combined 2-18 last season. One of the two Montrose wins came in its match-up with Susquehanna.
Montrose's pre-season preparations for the 2004 season included a decision to move to independent status in football in order to find a schedule that would be more appropriate for the Meteors. This season's schedule - and the one Montrose would have faced next season if it remained in the LFC - includes games with quite possibly the top three teams in the conference, Scranton, Lakeland and Dunmore.
"We had a nice ride, but right now we're in a tailspin we can't get out of," Montrose coach Tom Lucenti said. "If we end up with eight games and take two weeks off, I wouldn't mind that."
The Meteors are keeping games with six of their opponents from this season's schedule, including the Sabers, and will seek to fill in some of the other dates.
"When I took over back in '86, we were down and we moved to the NTL (Northern Tier League)," Lucenti said. "We needed some rebuilding and we took two years to do it."
The Meteors returned to the Suburban Conference and soon embarked on the most successful stretch in the program's 33-year history.
Lucenti has said he would be comfortable with a return to the Suburban Conference days, but was not happy with the schedule that was mandated by the LFC, a combination of the old Suburban and Big 11 Conferences.
Montrose won two outright titles and went 104-106-6 in its history as a Suburban member after struggling in the program's formative years.
Susquehanna quickly became competitive as a Suburban member, going 2-8, 2-8, 4-5-1 and 6-4 in its first four seasons, from 1970-73. The Sabers lost just two games each of the next two seasons and went on to post a 155-94-2 record as a Suburban member, including two outright and two shared championships.
A total of 30 schools -- including Blue Ridge, which was 6-65 in seven seasons -- passed through the Suburban from 1953 to 1997. Lackawanna Trail was the only one to win more games than Susquehanna while only Blakely, Abington Heights and Lakeland won more championships.
Susquehanna had the seventh-best winning percentage of those 30 schools (Montrose was 17th) and the Sabers were fourth among the 17 teams that spent at least a decade in the conference.
Those Sabers successes, including a 1994 finish as the second-ranked Class A team in the state, are a fading memory. A second season of co-sponsorship of the sport with Blue Ridge has produced a slight improvement in competitiveness from the 2002 season, but not much more.
Montrose lost four fumbles, including three in the first quarter, in its loss to Lackawanna Trail, a state Class A semifinalist a year ago.
All three first-quarter fumbles, which were the result of mishandling the ball in the backfield rather than hits by the Trail defense, gave the Lions the ball in Meteors territory.
"Our defense played fairly well," Montrose coach Tom Lucenti said. "We gave up the ball too much.
"I feared that because we were not settled after our two scrimmages on where everyone was going to be. We were moving guys."
Taylor Smith broke up a second-down pass and Dominic Lucenti made the stop while nearly intercepting a third-down pass to stop one threat. Tom Burgh intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop the other.
In between, Trail scored on the first play after one of the turnovers. Colin Dwyer found a wide-open James Staffaroni for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Dwyer finished 11-for-21 for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Staffaroni had seven of the catches for 66 yards.
The Lions made the lead 14-0 when Dwyer rolled left and found John Sanders in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown with 2:46 left in the half.
The Meteors stopped four Trail trips into Montrose territory in the second half before another fumble in their own backfield led to the clinching touchdown.
Bill Clark took a pitch to the right and went 23 yards for the score with 2:12 remaining.
Justin Marbaker broke the shutout by heading left then cutting back across the field for a 36-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-two play with 59 seconds left. Burgh ran for the two-pointer.
Marbaker led the offense with 86 yards on 10 carries. Lucenti added 45 yards on nine carries as Montrose out-rushed Trail, 161-149.
Trail picked up 18 first downs and ran off 63 offensive plays, but was held to a modest 4.6 yards per play while compiling 290 yards total offense.
Smith, Marbaker, Larry Lundy and Jack Moyer led the defensive effort.
Smith came up from the secondary to finish with seven tackles and two assists while breaking up three passes.
Marbaker, a linebacker, had six tackles, three assists and a broken-up pass. One of the tackles was for a five-yard loss.
Lundy, a tackle, had six tackles, including three for losses, and two assists. He also batted down a pass.
Moyer rushed in from his end position to produce two sacks for 11-yard losses. He finished with three tackles and two assists.
Montrose returned four kickoffs for 122 yards in the game. Marbaker was 2-for-76, Burgh was 1-for-24 and Kyle Stoddard was 1-for-22.
Trail got 105 yards rushing from Lee Van Fleet on 22 carries.
Carbondale ran past Susquehanna the next day, building a 33-0 lead by half-time.
The Chargers pushed the advantage to 40-0 in the third quarter. Ernie Taylor, the nephew of Carbondale coach John Lasavage, then opened the fourth quarter by running 11 yards around right end for the Sabers' only touchdown.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Elk Lake's Jessica Squier finished fourth in a strong field Saturday at the 30th annual Cliff Robbins Memorial in Wilkes-Barre.
Squier ran the 3.1-mile course in 19:27 to finish one spot in front of defending District 2 Class AA champion Lisa Giacometti of Dallas.
Hazleton Area's Brenae Edwards, the defending District 2 Class AAA champion, was third. Hazleton Area's Maria Monks and Bethlehem Liberty's Erin Matyus finished 1-2.
In high school golf, Montrose and Forest City are off to 3-0 starts in the Lackawanna League Northern Division.
In field hockey, Montrose and Elk Lake each suffered shutout losses in their Wyoming Valley Conference openers.
In professional baseball, the Binghamton Mets and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons each stumbled to the finish of the regular season.
Binghamton matched its season-high losing streak at seven with a loss Saturday. The Mets, however, have locked up second place in the Eastern League Northern Division to clinch a playoff berth.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lost its sixth straight Saturday. The Red Barons are 19-44 since July 1 to fall from comfortably in first place all the way to fourth place in the International League Northern Division.
Junior defensive specialist Heather Bradley and freshman blocker Brooke Hinkley of Blue Ridge are members of the defending Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom League champion University of Scranton women's volleyball team.
Bradley had a team-high 14 digs Saturday in a 30-23, 32-30, 31-29 victory over Elizabethtown. Scranton (2-1) came from behind late in each of the last two games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Chris Snee is scheduled to make his National Football League regular-season debut as a guard for the New York Giants Sunday at 4:15 when they play in Philadelphia.
The second-round pick from Montrose and Boston College has seen plenty of action in the NFL exhibition season. Snee's run blocking appears to be ahead of his pass blocking as the season approaches.
In professional baseball, the Binghamton Mets are scheduled to host Games Three and Game Four of the best-of-five Eastern League Northern Division playoff series Friday and Saturday.
In high school football, Snee's alma mater will be playing at Susquehanna Saturday.
"They're going through the same things we are," Lucenti said of the Sabers.
Predictions for this week's games involving Lackawanna Football Conference teams, with the winners in CAPS, are: MONTROSE 22, Susquehanna 6; DELAWARE VALLEY 14, East Stroudsburg South 12; HONESDALE 34, Carbondale 20; RIVERSIDE 19, North Pocono 7; SCRANTON 20, Pittston Area 14; VALLEY VIEW 38, Mid Valley 12; WALLENPAUPACK 28, Western Wayne 12; DUNMORE 20, West Scranton 0; LAKELAND 21, Central Mountain 0; SCRANTON PREP 12, Lackawanna Trail 7; BISHOP HOBAN 17, Old Forge 13; BISHOP O'HARA 34, Bishop O'Reilly 14.
Our record for the opening weekend was 9-4 (69.2 percent).
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
SADLER Wins California Cup Race
Fontana, CA Elliott Sadler got a good jump on the final restart with 10 laps to go and pulled away from Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin to win Sundays NASCAR Nextel Cup Pop Secret 500 for his second win of the 2004 season.
The win moved Sadler into fifth-place in the points and assured him a spot in the Chase for the Championship, which begins Sept. 19 at Loudon, New Hampshire.
Elliott had run near the front for most of the race before taking the lead from Mark Martin after a restart on lap 222 of the 250 lap race. There were two more cautions for a record-total of 11, but each time Sadler was able to pull away from the rest of the field.
"The cautions were definitely helping me," said Sadler. "This was a bad car for about 15-20 laps, then it would get a little tight. We put four tires on there at the end and loosened it up, and it was unbelievable."
For the fifth time this season, Kasey Kahne finished second.
"I really think that last caution helped us," said Kahne. "I was really surprised that Elliott was as good as he was. We were doing all we could and just needed a few more laps."
Kahne is now ninth in the points.
Martins third-place finish moved him into the 10th spot in the points standings.
"Well, this is a great race team," said Martin. "The team is awesome and we had a killer race car today on long runs. We cant help it if the cautions came out when they did.
"If it had gone green all the way we were setting pretty. Im tickled to death to finish third and be in contention for the championship."
Polesitter Brian Vickers finished 13th.
Jeff Gordons No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet lost an engine and he wound up 37th, and lost the points lead to Jimmie Johnson, who finished 14th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who remains third in the points also had a bad day. After having a flat and getting penalized in the pits, and spinning during lap 233, he wound up 34th.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Elliott Sadler, 2. Kasey Kahne, 3. Mark Martin, 4. Jamie McMurray, 5. Ryan Newman, 6. Carl Edwards, 7. Scott Riggs, 8. Dale Jarrett, 9. Robby Gordon, 10. Rusty Wallace.
With only next weeks Richmond race left before the Chase for the Championship begins, six drivers are already locked in. They are: 1. Johnson-3482, 2. J. Gordon-3432, 3. Earnhardt Jr.-3366, 4. Stewart-3304, 5. Kenseth-3253, 6. Sadler-3204.
There are nine other drivers that have a mathematical possibility of filling the remaining four spots. They are: 7. Kurt Busch-3183, 8. Newman-3078, 9. Kahne-3067, 10. Martin-3058, 11. McMurray-3033, 12. B. Labonte-3022, 13. Jarrett-3015, 14. Mayfield-3003, 15. Harvick-3002.
How Is The Chase Affecting You? Most racing fans either love or hate NASCARs new playoff concept, called, The Chase for the Championship.
Those fans who dont have strong views one way or the other, still say they dont like the media focusing on only one segment of racing so much.
"We are bombarded with so much needless and constant news that it is irritating," said Martha B of High Point, NC. "The more news they give to the chase, then the less news we hear about other teams."
You are right Martha, fans can only handle so much news, and as the media gears up to write and talk more and more about the Chase for the Championship, they must neglect reporting other racing coverage.
The last 10-races to determine championship will certainly generate more news coverage, but whether it will prove to be an overall asset to the sport remains to be seen.
Brian France initiated the concept because he said the interest in NASCAR racing was slipping after Labor Day, and this 10-race playoff would give it a boost.
But what happens if a driver that is outside the top-10 has a strong run during the last 10-races of the season. Chances are his teams accomplishments will largely go unnoticed, and this might affect future sponsorship.
Beginning next year, some sponsors are only signing a 26-race deal. If a team doesnt make the last 10 races, then they will be sponsor less for the rest of the season.
There is no doubt that many sponsors, whose car makes the top-10, and NASCAR itself will benefit from the new championship plan. But several small teams have already felt the pinch and wont be around for some of the last 10-races.
The chase is creating more excitement as the season winds down, but the excitement is going to be centered on fewer teams and drivers.
Thats the bottom line.
Top-10 Busch Series Leaders 1. Truex-3789, 2. Busch-3694, 3. Leffler-3341, 4. Biffle-3306, 5. D. Green-3211, 6. Keller-3173, 7. Hornaday-3136, 8. Bliss-2944, 9. Hamilton Jr.-2896, 10. K. Wallace-2794.
HAMILTON Is Truck Leader The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 16 of 25 races: 1. Hamilton-2415, 2. Setzer-2319, 3. Edwards-2269, 4. Crafton-2240, 5. Kvapil-2180, 6. Chaffin-2168, 7. Musgrave-2125, 8. Starr-2031, 9. Crawford-2015, 10. Skinner-1990.
All three of NASCARs major series are at Richmond, VA.
Thursday, September 9, Craftsman Truck Series 200, race 17 of 25, Starting time: 8:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel; Distance: 200 laps/150 miles; Defending champion: Tony Stewart, Chevrolet.
Friday, September 10, Busch Series Emerson 250, race 26 of 34, 250 laps/187 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.
Saturday, September 11, Nextel Cup Chevy Rock & Roll, race 26 of 36, 400 laps/300 miles, 7 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Last week Rusty Wallace announced his retirement after the 2005 season. How many Winston Cup championships has Wallace won?
Last Weeks Question: Cup driver Ryan Newman had a great season last year, but how many races has he won this year? Answer. Newman only has one win this year, and that was the DHL 400 at Michigan.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
Mountain View Wrestler Gains All-American Status
Regardless of the format, Matt Panasevich proved this summer that he is one of the top high school-age wrestlers in the country.
Panasevich traveled around the country making that point in USA Wrestling events.
After helping Pennsylvania win the national freestyle team championship in Colorado, Panasevich continued his busy summer into August. He earned All-American honors by finishing third in his weight class during the Greco-Roman Nationals in Fargo, ND.
The All-American effort has made Panasevich, a junior at Mountain View, the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.
The lofty competition in the summer opens up the possibility of being able to continue his wrestling career.
"I'm trying to get ready for the high school season and for colleges," Panasevich said. "Colleges see a wrestler out there all summer long."
There are other reasons, however, including the simple excitement of competition.
"It's fun," Panasevich said. "My goal was to be a national champion."
Panasevich did not miss by much. He lost just one bout as a member of the Pennsylvania team, in dual meet tournaments, in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
Although an illness forced him to miss out on the national tournament after winning a state title in freestyle, Panasevich put together a strong national tournament in Greco-Roman.
Panasevich shut out three opponents and pinned three others in 1:22 or less. The only loss in eight bouts came in overtime in the semifinals.
Greco-Roman wrestling allows only attacks on the upper body, but Panasevich said the specialized form of the sport will still help him in high school and future college wrestling.
"It really helps your balance and other aspects of wrestling," he said. "It helps with your upper body."
Matt, who is also an all-star soccer player at Mountain View where he played midfield last season, is the son of Mike and Sharon Panasevich of Gibson. He is coached at Mountain View by his father, a former District 12 wrestling champion. Matt qualified for Northeast Regionals for the second straight time last season, when he won the District 2 championship.
Wayne County - The Dessin Animal Shelter will be holding its fifth annual Golf Tournament on Sunday, September 12 at Memorial Links, Pleasant Mount. The format will be Captain & Crew with an 8 a.m. tee time. Greens fee and cart included in the registration fee. There will be food and beverage on the course. Prizes will be awarded in many different categories. Come out and show your support for the homeless and abused pets of our area. For more information or to register contact Ron Arnold at (570) 253-3002.
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