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The Bishop O'Hara Bruins will play for the Eastern Conference Class A championship this week, but they will not soon forget Anthony Dorunda or the rest of the Susquehanna Sabers.
Midway through the season, the Sabers ruined a perfect Bishop O'Hara record in the first night football game ever played in Susquehanna, 27-24. In the regular-season finale, the Sabers proved it was not a fluke by keeping the Bruins out of the district and state football playoffs with a 33-18 victory in Dunmore.
Dorunda carried 30 times for 324 yards and six touchdowns in those two wins while throwing for two more scores and intercepting two passes. His 151 yards on 21 carries, combined with Chris Felter's 77 yards on eight carries, helped the Sabers rack up 288 rushing yards against the playoff-bound team to finish a 4-6 season on November 4.
"We told the kids to beat Bishop O'Hara again would give us four wins and put Susquehanna back on the football map," Sabers coach Dick Bagnall said. "We had good games against Scranton Prep and Lakeland, two teams that other (Lackawanna Football Conference Division III teams) did not play.
"We met our goals and beating O'Hara again was a nice stepping stone for next year. They're a team that beat Old Forge and Mid Valley."
The wins over Bishop O'Hara were two of the highlights of a season that allows the Sabers to look forward rather than looking back on three straight winless seasons.
The first step was a 7-6 victory over Montrose to end a 34-game losing streak.
Another highlight was that there was no mercy in Susquehanna football games this season.
About half of the games in the losing streak ended with the running clock of the Mercy Rule after opponents racked up leads of 35 or more points.
Old Forge and Lackawanna Trail came close, each stretching leads to 34 points while pulling away late, but nobody put the Mercy Rule into effect against the Sabers in 2005.
"We overcame a lot," Bagnall said. "First of all, to stay out of the Mercy Rule was a goal. To win at least a game was a goal.
"We met our goals. We started playing more than one or two good quarters. This last game with Bishop O'Hara, we played four quarters.
"We wanted to have a competitive team and win some games."
The Sabers did just that, meaning a year from now progress could be measured by getting into a race for a playoff berth rather than just hoping to somehow pull out one win.
Bagnall, who came out of retirement last season to try to rebuild a program that he led to two straight state playoff appearances in the 1990s, said he will return for at least one more season.
"I'll be back," Bagnall said. "I thought I would stay and see these juniors through. When I took over last year, you could see the potential in these young kids like Felter, Dorunda, and (Cody) Norris.
"They learned the offense and hopefully next year they will run it even better."
Dorunda developed into a dangerous running threat at quarterback. He had five games of at least 100 yards rushing while finishing the season with 856 yards and 12 touchdowns on 154 carries.
Felter averaged six yards per carry while running for just under 500 yards. Ernie Taylor added another 386 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown in each of the last five games.
Dorunda was 51-for-113 passing for 745 yards and four touchdowns while throwing six interceptions. He threw for a season-high 232 yards in the opener against Carbondale.
Norris, who had three games with four catches each, and Nick Ott were the leading receivers.
The Sabers do lose some key parts of the defense, which threw Bishop O'Hara for losses 10 times, totaling 50 yards in the final game.
Tackle Bob Reddon led the team in total tackles and was the only player to average more than one tackle for loss per game.
Taylor was third in total tackles and second in tackles for losses from his linebacker position.
Zach Pomeroy was leading the team in sacks before a season-ending injury. Pomeroy, who also started at center, tried to play on an undiagnosed broken leg, only to suffer a second break that ended his senior season.
The Sabers had some troubles in the line after that injury, but after trying different combinations, Cody Kuiper emerged as the center in time for the second win over Bishop O'Hara.
The play at center was part of a strong finish by Kuiper, who was the team's second-leading tackler over the final four games.
Dorunda also made major contributions on defense. He was second on the team in tackles, intercepted four passes, recovered two fumbles and forced another. His crunching hit inches short of a first down stopped Montrose's final drive in the game that ended the losing streak.
WEEK IN REVIEW
District 2 Class A champion Mountain View had its boys' soccer season come to an end in the first round of the state tournament November 8.
Moravian Academy eliminated the Eagles, 3-0, with all three of its goals coming off of headers on throw-ins.
George Andriko scored both first-half goals for the District 11 champions.
Matthew Blessing started each scoring play with a throw-in.
Moravian outshot Mountain View, 17-9, and had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
The soccer season ended for the remainder of the Lackawanna League's teams during a tripleheader at Scranton Memorial Stadium the same day.
Mechanicsburg defeated North Pocono, 3-1, in Class AA boys; Warwick ripped Delaware Valley, 7-2, in Class AAA boys; and South Williamsport shut out Valley View, 8-0, in Class AA girls.
In girls' volleyball, Blue Ridge's Julie Page and Susquehanna's Kirsten Kemmerer were first-team selections on the Lackawanna League all-star team.
Page and Kemmerer joined Delaware Valley's Samantha Morgan and Angelica DeVoe, Western Wayne's Samantha Greenwood and Lackawanna Trail's Courtney Koelsch on the first team.
County players grabbed half of the second-team spots. There were also four county players among the 11 who received honorable mention.
Forest City's Toni Ravnikar, Mountain View's Hilary Shinn and Susquehanna's Kim Frechen were the second-team choices.
Forest City's Marlo Madrid and Sarah Zedar received honorable mention, along with Mountain View's Chelsea Marcho and Susquehanna's Casey Glidden.
In high school football, four Lackawanna Football Conference teams survived the first week of playoffs. The four remaining teams in the league were all Susquehanna opponents, making up half of the team's schedule.
Abington Heights, District 2's only unbeaten team, suffered the most heartbreaking defeat.
Jim Potocnie caught a 20-yard pass from Mike Gnall on a fake field goal with no time left on the clock to lift Whitehall to a 13-10 victory over Abington Heights in the District 2-11 Class AAA semifinals.
Abington Heights had an 18-6 edge in first downs and a 293-129 lead in total yardage when Whitehall took over at its 14 with 2:12 left and no timeouts remaining.
The Zephyrs converted a fourth-and-11, a fourth-and-14 and a third-and-10 situation on the winning 14-play, 86-yard drive.
Hazleton Area defeated Delaware Valley, 42-21, for the District 2 Class AAAA title.
Lackawanna Trail ripped Mid Valley, 49-6, for the District 2 Class A championship.
LFC teams split in the District 2 Class AA semifinals. Lakeland shut out Wilkes-Barre Meyers, 25-0, and Hanover Area defeated Scranton Prep, 26-10.
Old Forge and Bishop O'Hara advanced to meet each other in the Class A final of the consolation Eastern Conference playoffs, which do not advance teams in the state playoffs.
Bishop O'Hara beat Lourdes Regional, 34-18, and Old Forge downed Cardinal Brennan, 43-14.
Scranton (Class AAAA) and North Pocono (Class AAA) lost in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Heather Bradley, a senior co-captain from Blue Ridge, earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors while helping the University of Scranton reach the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III women's volleyball tournament by winning the Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom Division title.
Bradley had a match-high 25 digs as Scranton recovered from a loss in the first game to beat Lycoming, 28-30, 30-24, 30-20, 30-22, in the MAC Freedom final.
Bradley finished with a school-record total of 619 digs on the season. She had 126 as a sophomore and 374 as a junior to make her career total 1,119.
Brooke Hinkley, a sophomore from Blue Ridge, played in every game of the tournament, along with Bradley. Hinkley led all players in the championship match with seven blocks.
Eastern University wound up eliminating Scranton, 30-22, 30-24, 30-20, in the first round of the NCAA Middle Atlantic Regional.
Practice started for winter high school sports seasons Monday.
The first competitions in basketball, wrestling and swimming are scheduled for December 2.
In high school football, there are 16 teams left in the state in each classification.
Lackawanna Trail will play three-time defending state champion Southern Columbia at Shamokin Friday night to try to reach the state quarterfinals.
Lakeland will play Hanover Area for the District 2 Class AA title.
Bishop O'Hara and Old Forge will end their season with the Eastern Conference Class A championship game meeting at Old Forge.
Perhaps our football predictions should have come to an end with the close of the regular season.
Last week's playoff predictions were just 3-6 (33.3 percent), dropping our season record to 86-28 (75.4 percent).
This week's predictions, with winners in CAPS: HANOVER AREA 25, Lakeland 18; SOUTHERN COLUMBIA 48, Lackawanna Trail 6; OLD FORGE 39, Bishop O'Hara 15.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BUSCH BROTHERS Make The News At Phoenix
Avondale, Arizona – Tony Stewart strengthened his Nextel Cup points lead over Jimmie Johnson as the series heads to Homestead, FL, for the final race of the season, but the two big newsmakers were Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Kyle, the younger brother of defending Nextel Cup champion, Kurt Busch won Sunday’s Checker Auto Parts 500K at Phoenix International Raceway for his second win of the year.
“This was number two, but we should have had several more,” said Kyle. “I’m behind my brother one hundred per cent, and I want to thank Crown Royal for getting rid of the 2004 champion.”
Kyle’s reference to Crown Royal is because they are the major sponsor on the No. 97 Ford driven by his brother, Kurt. Prior to the race, Kurt was suspended by car owner, Jack Roush, for the remaining two races of the season, and replaced with Kenny Wallace.
Kurt Busch was charged with running a stop sign, speeding, and reckless driving on Friday night. At the time he was stopped, alcohol was smelled on his breath by the arresting deputy, but a breathalyzer machine failed so he was not charged with a DUI.
But what makes the story even worse is that Roger Penske, the car owner Busch will be driving for in 2006, told a national television audience he would use money to get Busch off the hook.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Penske. “But we are an awful big racing team and circumstances like this do occur. It will in no way jeopardize his relationship with us.
“I’m going to get with the sheriff and see what we can do to get him (Busch) out of this, and maybe do something for the community.”
In other words, Penske is saying, “we’ll just see what kind of big community project they want and toss a couple million dollars into it, and then that will be the end of it.”
However, Jack Roush, Busch’s current team owner, didn’t view the situation as rosy as Penske.
“I originally didn’t plan to take any action,” said Roush. “I felt like we could stand aside and say it’s none of our affair. But after we read the sponsor commitments, we had to take action.
"This suspension is made after full review of all the circumstances surrounding Kurt's Friday night altercation with the Arizona police, and after consultation with our primary sponsors, Newell Rubbermaid and Diageo. All parties are in complete support that the action being taken today is necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.
"We give our profound apology and support to the arresting officer and the entire Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and thank all of the officers for the great job they do with helping the Phoenix International Raceway bring our event to so many wonderful Arizona race fans.”
According to an Associated Press report, Busch was argumentative, uncooperative, and called the arresting deputies, “wimps.” He was taken into custody for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, and transported to a sheriff’s substation at the raceway.
“This was not alcohol related,” said Kurt Busch. “I was speeding, but I certainly wasn’t operating under the influence of alcohol. I certainly wish this hadn’t happened, and I am very sorry.”
A breath test was administered, but the breath analyzer failed to operate properly, and Busch was ticketed for reckless driving and released.
“Our streets are not to be used as raceways,” said Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio. “He ought to confine his speed to the race track. The guy thinks he can come in here and do what he wants. We’re going to do what we can to show him he can’t race like that on our streets, and do what he did to my deputies.”
Greg Biffle, who led the most laps, was second, followed by, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Robby Gordon, Dale Jarrett, and Travis Kvapil rounded out the top-10.
Stewart gained 14 points on second-place driver Jimmie Johnson in this year’s Chase. He now leads Johnson by 52 points, and third-place driver, Carl Edwards by 87 points. Greg Biffle is fourth, 102 points back. These are the only drivers that have a mathematical possibility of winning.
“Our car had good balance during the race,” said Stewart. “We kept on working on it, and it was good on long runs. We did what we had to do.”
Top-10 Contenders for the Nextel Cup championship: 1. Stewart-6415, 2. Johnson-6363, 3. Edwards-6328, 4. Biffle-6313, 5. Martin-6253, 6. Newman-6208, 7. Kenseth-6187, 8. Wallace-6016, 9. Busch-5974, 10. Mayfield-5939.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Truex-4791, 2. Bowyer-4727, 3. Edwards-4495, 4. Sorenson-4389, 5. Hamlin-4091, 6. K. Wallace-3992, 7. Menard-3946, 8. D. Green-3765, 9. Keller-3743, 10. Biffle-3685.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Musgrave-3429, 2. Setzer-3371, 3. T. Bodine-3272, 4. Hornaday-3231, 5. Skinner-3141, 6. Hamilton-3094, 7. Starr-3018, 8. Sprague-2962, 9. Crafton-2961, 10. Kluever-2928. Note: The only two drivers that can win this year’s Truck Championship are Musgrave and Setzer.
NASCAR ends its 2005 racing season this weekend at Homestead, FL. It will be the season finale for the Cup, Busch and Craftsman Trucks. The only thing remaining will be series banquets.
Friday, November 18, Craftsman Trucks Ford 200, 134 laps/200 miles, 8 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, November 19, Busch Series Ford 300, 200 laps/300 miles, 4 p.m. TV: NBC.
Sunday, Nextel Cup Ford 400, 267 laps/400 miles, 3 p.m. TV: NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: Mike Bliss is the 2002 Craftsman Truck Series champion. Which series does he drive in now?
Last Week’s Question: When were women first allowed in the NASCAR garage area? Answer. It was not until the mid 1980s that NASCAR allowed women in the garage area on a regular basis.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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