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Joe Zabielski said it was becoming clear that the community and the school administration no longer wanted him to be the man coaching the Susquehanna Sabers football team.
When the Sabers went back to work Monday, trying to find a way to produce their first victory in three seasons, the coach who guided the program through its most successful times was back in charge. Dick Bagnall, also the athletic director, replaced Zabielski as head coach, but Zabielski remained with the team as an assistant, ending a coaching career that produced an 0-23 record.
Bagnall, who won more than 100 games and took the Sabers to the 1994 state Class A semifinals, had been retired from coaching for almost nine years.
"We're going to go back to the offense I know, which is the option," Bagnall said. "I'm looking at personnel. I know the kids from school, but not as football players.
"I know the defense is giving up so many points that we've got to get to work on that."
Zabielski knew before Friday's game that it would be his last as head coach. He told the team after the loss to Scranton Prep.
"I'm happy to take a step in the right direction," he said. "I'm willing to make any sacrifice possible."
Zabielski reluctantly accepted a move that others thought was needed to turn around a dismal program.
"Whatever makes the program go forward," he said. "But, I'm not going to quit.
"Dick and I get along very well. What most people want is the old offense back, but we really need to work on the defense, too."
The Sabers have given up more than 40 points per game during a school-record, 26-game losing streak.
More than half of the games have been shortened to a running clock finish by the Mercy Rule once Susquehanna has trailed by at least 35 points in the second half. That is the first trend that Bagnall will try to end.
Another move the coach is looking to make is improving the depth to make junior varsity games feasible again.
"I would hate to see the football program be dropped because of a lack of numbers," Bagnall said.
In the second-year of a cooperative sponsorship, Susquehanna is down to just five players from Blue Ridge. Bagnall said he will make the uncommon move of trying to recruit players in-season in order to take better advantage of the cooperative sponsorship.
Bagnall said principals of the two schools were discussing how to notify interested players that this week was the time to get involved.
"We want to encourage those that did not come back this season to come back now," Bagnall said. "It's the fourth game or the sixth week, but we'd welcome them because we need numbers.
"It would normally be against my principles, but considering the situation, we need to get back to rebuilding."
Bagnall said prospective additions to the lineup at this point would have seven weeks to get a head start on the future, the same approach he is taking. He plans to remain as head coach next season.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Scranton Prep proved that time of possession can be an insignificant football statistic when a team can score in a hurry.
The Cavaliers scored on the first play of two of their first three possessions on the way to a 50-6 romp over Susquehanna in a Lackawanna Football Conference crossover game.
Prep quarterback Steve Malinchak threw just four passes - three in the first quarter and one on the first play of the second quarter. He completed all four for 125 yards and the Cavaliers' first three touchdowns.
Malinchak then turned his only carry into Prep's fourth touchdown on a five-yard run for a 29-0 lead with 7:47 left in the half.
Prep reached the Mercy Rule by scoring on its third play of the second half for a 36-0 lead. The Cavaliers scored again on their next possession in just two plays, giving them five scoring drives of three plays or fewer.
Susquehanna had advantages of 60-23 in offensive plays and 33:52-14:08 in time of possession.
The Cavaliers averaged 11.8 yards per run and 15.2 per play to rack up a 350-186 advantage in total offense.
The Sabers were also hurt by six fumbles, including three they lost. One of those fumbles came on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2 after driving for 7:47 and 17 plays to end the first half.
Prep built the lead to 50-0 before sophomore quarterback Anthony Dorunda scored on a 15-yard keeper with 39.8 seconds left.
Dorunda had a busy night. He carried 20 times for 38 yards, including four sacks for 25 yards in losses. He completed five of 11 passes for 52 yards.
Dorunda also led the team in tackles with seven, along with one assist.
Brian Brady went high to pull in two passes for 26 yards.
Ernie Taylor led a ground game, which produced 134 yards, by carrying 11 times for 44 yards. Freshman Christopher Felter added 30 yards on five carries.
In another LFC crossover game, Montrose fell in overtime at Old Forge, 13-12, Saturday.
Dustin Palmer returned the opening kickoff inside the Old Forge 30, allowing Montrose to take an early 6-0 lead.
Old Forge sent the game into overtime where Montrose again grabbed the lead. Old Forge matched the Montrose touchdown on its overtime series and kicked the deciding extra point.
In professional baseball, the New York Mets extended their working agreement with the Binghamton Mets through the 2006 season.
Binghamton, an Eastern League team, is the Class AA affiliate, the second-highest in the Mets' system.
The Mountain View Booster Club sponsored the first Mountain View Cross Country Invitational September 11.
Forest City, Susquehanna, Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail joined the host school in the event.
Susquehanna won three of the seven titles.
Alex Kotran won the girls' junior high race by finishing the 1.8-mile course in 13:14 to lead the Lady Sabers to the team title.
Abington Heights won the varsity boys' race while Abington Heights won the junior high boys' team title.
Kotran was followed by teammates Sidney Carmody, Mary Tarbox and Christine Biegert as Susquehanna swept the top four places in the girls' junior high race. The rest of the top 10 was: Jessica Butler and Sarah Carey, Forest City; Mischa Weldy and Ellen Biegert, Susquehanna; and Amanda Schmidt and Suzanne Skurnowicz, Mountain View.
Jeremiah Fordham of Abington Heights won the boys' junior high race in 11:40. He was followed by: Dominick Roziak, Lackawanna Trail; Bill Cooney, Abington Heights; Cameron Ware and Cas Ware, Lackawanna Trail; Brandon Noldy and Justin Cerra, Mountain View; Aaron Soden and Justin Lee, Susquehanna; and Richard Shubin, Mountain View.
Lackawanna Trail's Tim Nowakowski won the boys' varsity race in 19:07. He was followed by: Jake Winowich, Abington Heights; Kevin Lee, Susquehanna; Phil Stark, Lackawanna Trail; Ben Chmil, Abington Heights; Jake Tompkins, Mountain View; Chad Winowich, Abington Heights; Chris Gardner, Mountain View; and Brooks Aikman and Bill Lundin, Abington Heights.
There were not enough girls' runners for team scoring. Walker was followed by: Kathryn Nezbydoski and Marissa Hall, Forest City; Deanna Stone, Susquehanna; Melanie Currier, Lackawanna Trail; Diipali Figgles, Mountain View; Amanda Risher, Forest City; Kayla Fuller, Mountain View; and Mary Newak, Forest City.
Elk Lake's Robert Squier recently made his debut as a member of the Army men's cross country team during a 22-37 loss to Cornell.
Squier, a freshman, did not figure into the team scoring but finished 11th out of 23 Army runners in the meet with a time of 29:00.65 for the 5-mile course.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Lackawanna County Cross Country Invitational is scheduled for Saturday at McDade Park in Scranton.
District 2 golf qualifying for Lackawanna League schools is underway. The girls are scheduled to try to earn their district spots at Scranton Municipal September 28. The boys' were scheduled to compete September 21.
Bagnall's return to the sideline will be challenging. The Sabers are home Saturday against Lakeland, which is off to a 3-0 start after reaching the state Class AA semifinal last season.
This week's high school football predictions, with the winners in CAPS: MONTROSE 16, Bishop O'Hara 0; LAKELAND 51, Susquehanna 12; SCRANTON PREP 24, Old Forge 19; WALLENPAUPACK 42, North Pocono 0; SCRANTON 32, Delaware Valley 20; VALLEY VIEW 9, West Scranton 7; HONESDALE 18, Abington Heights 0; LACKAWANNA TRAIL 20, Carbondale 12; DUNMORE 37, Mid Valley 6; RIVERSIDE 43, Western Wayne 14.
Last week's record, in game's completed by Sunday evening, was 7-1 (87.5 percent), bringing our season record to 26-7 (78.8 percent).
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Busch Sweeps New Hampshire
Loudon, NH Kurt Busch took four tires in his final pit stop and built a commanding lead to win the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire, Sunday. Teammate Matt Kenseth held on for a runner-up finish and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took third place.
Busch led 155 laps of the 300-lap race to sweep both New Hampshire events this year. In July, he led 110 laps on the way to victory. It was Buschs third win of the season and it tied him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead in the first race for the 10-race Nextel Chase for the Championship.
"It was a great win in July and this time around it was great to be able to execute like we did," said Busch. "But it was behind the scenes work that has allowed us to work our way into the top-10 and have that security."
Last years champion, Matt Kenseth was second.
"It was a good run for us," said Kenseth. "I wasnt a big fan of this play off thing when it started, but it was pretty exciting today, and I think its time to go racing. I think my team is up to it."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was unable to move by Kenseth as the laps wound down and had to settle for third.
"I might have been a little faster than Matt, but he was a little far ahead of me for me to catch him," said Earnhardt. "I was just trying to be conservative. Kurt was way better than anybody else."
Dale Jr. and Busch have the same number of points (5210), but Dale Jr. is the leader by virtue of his four wins, one more than Busch.
Early in the race Greg Biffle got into the rear of Robby Gordons No. 31 and pushed him into the wall. Gordon was able to continue and a few laps later, he tapped the rear bumper on Biffles Ford.
Biffle slid up into the outer wall, and collected Jeremy Mayfield and Tony Stewart on his way.
Stewarts No. 20 Chevrolet was damaged too much for him to continue racing and he wound up 39th. Mayfield finished 35th and Biffle was 28th.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kurt Busch, 2. Matt Kenseth, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Kasey Kahne, 5. Jamie McMurray, 6. Joe Nemechek, 7. Jeff Gordon, 8. Elliott Sadler, 9. Michael Waltrip, 10. Kevin Harvick.
Nextel Chase For The Championship Leaders After 1 of 10 Races: 1. Earnhardt Jr.-5210, Biffle-5210, 3. J. Gordon-5201, 4. Kenseth-5200, 5. Johnson-5180, 6. Sadler-5172, 7. Martin-5139, 8. Stewart-5086, 9. Newman-5074, 10. Mayfield-5068.
Giving Fans The Chair At the conclusion of the Talladega Spring race, many fans threw bottles, cans, ice chests and other stuff onto the track. Most were venting their frustration of the race ending under caution. All of us at one time or another has wanted to throw something when we are disappointed by the outcome of some sporting event.
But the object-throwing isnt limited to just NASCAR racing, and fans.
Frank Francisco, a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers was arrested Tuesday after a game with Oakland and charged with aggravated battery after throwing a chair into the right field grandstands, which broke the nose of a fan.
Public reports indicated the Rangers felt Francisco was provoked by unruly fans. Oakland Athletic Management and law enforcement officers disagreed.
Is this a trend? Have NASCAR drivers ever been unduly provoked? Have they ever thought about throwing a chair, or anything else?
"It really boils down to fact that the fans pay the bills," said Kyle Petty, driver of the No. 45 Brawny Dodge. "Were partnered with companies like Georgia-Pacific, General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Wells Fargo Financial. If fans dont support our sponsors by buying products made by Georgia-Pacific or General Mills, drinking Coca-Cola, or using Wells Fargo Financial, then those sponsors dont support us so we can drive the car. In return, those people dont buy tickets to see us race because we dont have the financial support we need to compete and to give the fans a good race.
"You look at other sports, say basketball or football, and the players obligation is to the owners. Our obligation is not only to the owner as a driver, but its to the fans too because they are the ones who help the owners make money.
"We dont have problems with fans that some other sports might because we dont have an antagonistic relationship with them. You might see that in baseball or basketball or some other sports, but not here. I mean, how many times have you seen a basketball player leave the court screaming at the fans or a baseball player pointing out someone in the crowd? Youre antagonizing the fans and I dont think you see that in NASCAR racing. You dont have to worry about things like that happening in racing."
Want To Express Your Opinion To NASCAR? Often fans want to express their feeling and/or opinions to the NASCAR organization. Well, here is your chance.
Write down whatever you would like to say to NASCAR Pres. Mike Helton or V-P Jim Hunter and mail it to: The Racing Reporter, 913 Lakeside Dr., Mobile, AL 36693.
We will deliver your letter to one of these NASCAR officials at either the Martinsville or Atlanta race weekends.
The only thing I ask is that you do not use profanity or any obscene language in the letter.
I cannot guarantee that you will receive a reply, but at least you will be heard.
HAMILTON Leads Truck Drivers The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Hamilton-2623, 2. Setzer-2593, 3. Edwards-2584, 4. Crafton-2469, 5. Musgrave-2461, 6. Kvapil-2435, 7. Chaffin-2380, 8. Start-2267, 9. Sprague-2266, 10. Skinner-2263.
Busch Series teams had the weekend off.
The Nextel Cup and Busch Series are at Dover, DE, while the Craftsman Trucks go west to Las Vegas.
Saturday, September 25, Busch Series Stacker 200, race 27 of 34, 200 laps/200 miles, 1 p.m. TV: TNT.
Saturday, September 25, Craftsman Trucks Las Vegas 350, race 19 of 25, 146 laps/219 miles, 10 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, September 26, Nextel Cup MBNA America 400, race 28 of 36, 400 laps/400 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: What is the only foreign truck manufacturer to compete in a NASCAR series?
Answer to last Weeks Question. Which driver holds the record for career starts in the Daytona 500? Answer. Dave Marcis has 33 starts to lead all drivers.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to: www.race500.com.
Following are results from week three of the Wednesday night Maplewood Classic League at Maplewood Lanes, Montrose, PA.
Top five leading points teams are: C & A Vending - 31 1/2, followed by Kellys Hammers - 26 1/2, Barney & Dickens - 24, Maplewood Lanes - 23 1/2, Maplewood Pros - 23.
Top three Team Scratch Game Scores were: Triple C - 904; Kellys Hammers - 898; A & J Logging - 874.
Top three Team Scratch Series were: Triple C - 2567; Kellys Hammers - 2524; C & A Vending - 2426.
Top five Scratch Game Highs were: Dave Newhart 269; Rod Smith 259; Keith Wilbur - 246; Archie Ellsworth - 246; Frank Rinker - 244.
Top five Scratch Series were: Dave Newhart - 722; Rod Smith - 716; Keith Wilbur - 709; Frank Rinker - 673; Keith Bennett - 666.
Individual High Averages are held by: Keith Wilbur - 221.56; Dave Haines - 220.50; Dale Hayner - 219.22; Bill Himko - 218.56.
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