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Susquehanna and Montrose each enter the 2006 football season hoping to make significant improvement.
The chances of improvement resulting in a postseason berth increased when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and District 2 expanded their playoff formats last spring.
Since beginning state football playoffs in 1988, the PIAA has made adjustments to the format every two years. This time around, the changes were more drastic than usual.
In addition to the usual adjustments that go with a new two-year enrollment cycle, the PIAA expanded the season for more than half of the state's teams.
Pennsylvania's longer football season will mean an expanded playoff bracket with an extra week of postseason play for every qualifier in the eastern half of the state and selected teams in the western half.
District 2, which includes the two Susquehanna County football programs, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the change. Last year, 10 District 2 teams had a shot at advancing into state play through either district or subregional tournaments. This season, that number will be anywhere from 17 to 20.
The state high school football season now consists of 16 weekends of play. For the past two seasons, the rest of the state remained at 15 games while the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League was allowed an exemption for 16 games of play in order to keep its playoff format intact when the state brackets were altered in 2004. The WPIAL, which takes in the Pittsburgh suburbs, serves as District 7 of the PIAA.
The expanded playoffs double the size of the brackets in many eastern districts and subregionals. A subregional is a combination of two or more districts when one district does not have enough members in a classification for the PIAA to recognize its champion as a state tournament qualifier.
Because of its cosponsorship of football with Blue Ridge, Susquehanna joins Montrose as a Class AA team in football.
District 2 will expand from a four-team playoff format to eight teams this season in Class AA. The Sabers and Meteors are among 15 teams trying to qualify for those berths. Bishop Hoban, Carbondale, Dunmore, Hanover Area, Lakeland, Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke, Riverside, Scranton Prep, Valley View, Wilkes-Barre GAR, Wilkes-Barre Meyers and Wyoming Area are the others.
"It would be a goal you would certainly want to have for your kids," Susquehanna coach Dick Bagnall said. "But, only if you're good enough to belong there."
Bagnall came out of retirement in 2004 and helped the Sabers end their 34-game losing streak last season. The Sabers went on to finish 4-6 and were ninth in the District 2 playoff points race, which would have missed the postseason by one spot. Bagnall led the Sabers to the state semifinals in 1994 and the state quarterfinals in 1995 as a Class A team.
Montrose was 1-8 and tied for 14th out of the 16 teams that were Class AA last season.
On the state level, the biggest change is that Districts 2, 11 and 12 will now be able to declare their own champions in Class AAA.
Districts 2 and 11 were part of a Subregional a year ago in Class AAA and wound up with two teams each entered into the four-team tournament. Now, each district will have its own four-team tournament and the winners will meet in a state playoff game to determine one of the PIAA quarterfinalists.
District 12, which consists of the Philadelphia public schools, will still be part of a District 1-12 Subregional in Class AAA, but the format is set up to allow for a District 12 championship game. District 1 has six teams in the eight-team tournament and they will play against each other in the first round. District 12's two qualifiers will meet, determining a district champion and one of the four semifinalists for the Subregional tournament.
In Class AAAA, District 2 will still be part of a Subregional tournament with Districts 4 and 11. District 2 could have anywhere from one to four teams in the eight-team event.
District 2 will grow from a simple championship game to a four-team playoff in Class A. The winner of the tournament will still play the District 4 champion, which has been Southern Columbia throughout the history of the state tournament.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Moosic - Pawtucket's uncanny four-year dominance of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons is over.
Jeremy Cummings and Seung-Hak Lee combined on a two-hitter Saturday afternoon, allowing the Red Barons to produce back-to-back victories over the Red Sox with the first time since 2002 with a 7-3 win.
The Pawsox had a 42-16 lead in the series from the beginning of the 2003 season to the start of Friday night's game, which the Red Barons won, 4-3.
The International League North Division-leading Red Barons made it two straight with the help of four extra-base hits in the five-run third inning Saturday. Dusty Wathan capped the inning with a three-run homer.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Practice for fall high school sports officially opened Monday.
While athletes in the other sports continue practices and scrimmages in the week ahead, golf season will get underway Tuesday, August 22 with the annual Jackman Memorial Tournament at Scranton Municipal Golf Course.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
HARVICK Outduels Stewart At The Glen, Watkins Glen, NY – Kevin Harvick lost the lead to Tony Stewart on lap 86 of the 90-lap Nextel Cup AMD at the Glen on Sunday, then retook it one lap later, and pulled away for his second win of the 2006 season.
Kevin Harvick celebrates Sunday's victory in the AMD at The Glen
“Right after he got by me, I was thinking, ‘oh my God, how am I going to drive into a corner hard enough to pass him back,’” said Harvick, the driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Chevrolet.
“I just never gave up. I really don’t know how he passed me, because my car was really good.”
It was Harvick’s first road course win. His other 2006 victory came at Phoenix in April. The win moved him up one spot, from fourth to third in the Chase standings.
“It was a lot of fun racing with Kevin,” said second-place finisher, Tony Stewart. “We just over-drove it there at the end a little, and opened up the door for him.”
Stewart had won the two previous races at Watkins Glen. He moved up two spots from ninth to seventh in points.
Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Roush Racing Ford had a strong car and finished third.
“I thought I could get by Kevin before that last pit stop, but his car was just so quick that my only shot was to pass him in the inner loop,” said McMurray. “He just had a super fast car and I could never seem to catch him in the right place.”
Robby Gordon, who finished second in Saturday’s Busch Series race at the Glen, was fourth. Carl Edwards, Boris Said, Scott Pruett, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Newman, and Ron Fellows rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Polesitter Kurt Busch, the winner of Saturday’s Busch race had all kinds of problems. He was spun out on the start, and then later in the race, he was sent to the tail end of the field by NASCAR for pitting under red during a caution.
He was also involved in at least two more bumping incidents and finished 21st.
For the second weekend in a row, Kasey Kahne has spun out on the last lap. His 24th-place finish caused him to lose Chase points, but he still remains 11th in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was having a pretty good run until he spun out on lap 73 and wound up 18th. He remains tenth in the Chase, 515 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson.
Even though Johnson finished 19th, Matt Kenseth, who is second in points was not able to gain on him. Kenseth was involved in a late multi-car pileup and finished 23rd.
Top ten Chase Contenders with four more races remaining before the Race For the Chase begins: 1. Johnson-3235, 2. Kenseth-3111, 3. Harvick-2918, 4. Burton-2873, 5. Kyle Busch-2863, 6. Martin-2809, 7. Stewart-2794, 8. Hamlin-2775, 9. J. Gordon-2750, 10. Earnhardt, Jr.-2720.
These are the only drivers mathematically eligible. All others have been eliminated.
Whatever Happened To The ROUSH TEAMS? While other Cup teams have picked up steam this season, practically all the Roush Racing drivers have fizzled.
While Matt Kenseth has two wins and has remained close to the top of the point standings, the rest of Roush’s teams have struggled.
Aside from Kenseth, only veteran Mark Martin seems like a safe bet to make this year's Chase, but he has yet to score a victory.
Greg Biffle, who led the series with six victories last year, has just one win this season and has yet to make the top-10.
“We hate to blame the car because in the wind tunnel the car really appears real similar to the car we had – just a little bit better,” Biffle said. “I think where we're mainly getting beat is more of the technical side. Their car runs lower on the race track more of the time. It's a matter of shocks, springs, sway bars. It's a matter of a bunch of things that they've got scienced out a little bit better than we do right now.
“And we're gaining on that. I think Matt's the leader in our organization on that. No, I don't believe it's the car. I'm confident it doesn't have anything to do with the car.”
If it isn’t the car or equipment, what is it?
Carl Edwards won four times last year, but is still short of a 2006 victory. He has already changed crew chiefs once, and there is talk of changing again. Based on his performances this season, his Chase chances get smaller with each passing race.
Jamie McMurray, the highly touted driver who replaced Kurt Busch, has not been a factor in any race, and is one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Going into last year’s Chase, Roush Racing was the dominant organization in the Nextel Cup Series.
So what is the problem?
Kenseth and Biffle say the team has fallen behind technologically, allowing teams like Richard Childress Racing (two drivers in the top 10) to catch them and Joe Gibbs Racing (four wins between Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin) and Hendrick Motorsports (three drivers in the top 10) to pass them.
“I think last year we won more races, but last year Greg really had their stuff figured out and we all learned a lot from that and incorporated that in our cars,” Kenseth said. “Some of the other teams kind of caught up to what we were doing and took that one step farther and we're honestly just a little bit behind right now. We're not way behind, but we're not ahead of everybody like we were as a company last year.”
HARVICK Continues As Busch Leader – Top-10 Busch Series drivers: 1. Harvick-3778, 2. Edwards-3335, 3. Hamlin-3281, 4. Bowyer-3208, 5. Yeley-3121, 6. Biffle-2835, 7. Menard-2810, 8. Kyle Busch-2708, 9. Sauter-2627, 10. K. Wallace-2575.
BODINE Stays Atop The Trucks – Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Bodine-2454, 2. Benson-2310, 3. Reutimann-2260, 4. Musgrave-2215, 5. Crawford-2199, 6. Sprague-2152, 7. Cook-2148, 8. Starr-2140, 9. Hornaday-2139, 10. Setzer-2063.
KIMMEL Leads ARCA Drivers – ARCA RE/MAX Series top-10 drivers: 1. Frank Kimmel-3135, 2. Bobby Gerhart-3100, 3. Damon Lusk-2640, 4. Ryan Foster-2620, 5. Billy Venturini-2575, 6. Ryan Howard-2500, 7. Todd Bowsher-2435, 8. Brett Rowe-2405, 9. Blake Bjorklund-2360, 10. Ken Weaver-2335.
The Craftsman Trucks have an off weekend, while the Busch and Nextel Cup teams will be at the two-mile Brooklyn, Michigan track.
Saturday, August 19, Busch Series Carfax 250, race 25 of 35, 125 laps/250 miles, 3 p.m. TV: TNT.
Sunday, August 20, GFS Marketplace 400, race 23 of 36, 200 laps/400 miles, 1:30 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Which is the shortest track in Nextel Cup racing?
Last Week’s Question: What is “Happy Hour” in NASCAR racing? Answer. It is the last scheduled practice before a race.
Last Week’s Question: You may read additional racing stories at www.race500.com.
Jason Maile’s NextLevel Hoops Basketball Camps for boys and girls 4th - 8th grade and 8th - 12th grade were held July 20 – 25 at Forest City Regional High School. Under the direction of Coaches Jason Maile, Bob Matos, Matt Pisarcik, Suzanne Brady, and Michael McGraw, campers from Forest City, Mt. View, Tunkhannock, Preston Area, Hancock, and Lakeland enjoyed three days of shooting and offensive skill development, along with competitive basketball.
Pictured (l-r) are 4th-8th Grade Campers: standing – Michael McGraw, Suzanne Brady, Angelina Munifo, Joseph Munifo, Vince DeLucy, Logan Fitzsimmons, Colby Donahue, Jeff Schlasta, Jason Maile; kneeling – Alexis Woody, Candice Baumher, Lizzie Heller, Danielle Liuzzo, Brandon Striefsky, Alex Luchessi, Ricky Yankauskas.
Pictured (l-r) are 8th-12th Grade Campers: standing – Jason Maile, Chris Nebzydoski, Matthew Stephenson, Michael Callum, Jon McBride, Justin Pisarcik, Jessica Butler, Matt Pisarcik, Bob Matos; kneeling – Shane Whitehead, Jeremy McGovern, Jason Pisarcik, Jared Pisarcik, Alycia Jones, Chelsea Lucchesi, Kerri Kotch, Katie Rosengrant; sitting – James Dewitt, Zachery Tator, Kevin Swartz, Jason McGovern, Mitchel Goben, Chad Pauline, Danielle Liuzzo, Amanda Cino, Aimee Wilder.
Special award winners are as follows.
4th-8th Grade Camp: Step-Back Champions – Logan Fitzsimmons and Vince DeLucy; Knockout Champion – Danielle Liuzzo; 1-on-1 Champion – Lizzie Heller; Foul Shooting Champion – Colby Donahue; Hot Shot Champion – Jacob Chabala; Coaches Award – Angelina Munifo; Player of the Week: Colby Donahue.
8th-12th Grade Camp: Step-Back Champion – Michael Callum; Knockout Champion – Jessica Butler; 1-on-1 Champion – Jon McBride; Foul Shooting Champion – Jared Pisarcik; Hot Shot Champion – Chris Nebzydoski; Coaches Award – Kevin Swartz; Player of the Week: Michael Callum.
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