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Susquehanna County's three unbeaten fall high school sports teams each emerged from what could be the most trying week on their schedules with significant victories that preserved perfect records.
The Elk Lake girls' cross country team won its biggest cluster meet of the season; the Susquehanna girls' volleyball team beat its two strongest challengers; and the Forest City boys' soccer team extended its division winning streak by easily handling the second-place team.
None of the teams is officially a champion yet, but last week's results move each closer to that goal.
ELK LAKE GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY
Lackawanna League cross country uses meets that feature a group of teams running together and scores pairs of teams against each other.
With one impressive run at McDade Park in Scranton, Elk Lake got past fellow unbeaten Blue Ridge, a Scranton Prep team that came in with just one loss and two teams that entered the day with .500 records.
Rachel Owens finished first in the meet to lead the Lady Warriors to victories of 22-33 over Blue Ridge, 17-38 over Scranton Prep, 20-38 over Montrose and 16-46 over Bishop Hannan.
"I think we beat the strongest teams in the league," Elk Lake coach Will Squier said. "We're really focusing now on the end of the season. We can't quit after that meet, but I felt that if we were going to win the league, we had to get through that one."
Owens, a junior, remained undefeated in the league.
"She's going to have a very strong challenge for the top female runner in the league when we run against Wallenpaupack (and Rachel Schmalzle)," Squier said.
Montrose's Tara Chiarella finished second, but Elk Lake claimed four of the top six spots in the meet.
Junior Ellen Squier, who joined Owens as a state qualifier last year, was third. After Blue Ridge's Vicki Hartt, Lisa Ruppert and Kim Caines grabbed the next two spots for Elk Lake.
"Lisa keeps getting stronger every race," coach Squier said.
Caines, a sophomore, joined Owens and Squier last spring in qualifying for the state track meet as part of the 3200-meter relay team.
Laura Nulton was 15th for Elk Lake.
Nulton and Hannah Owens moved up as freshmen to provide depth to the varsity this season after helping the junior high team place third in the district a year ago.
Rachel Owens and Squier helped the junior high program win back-to-back district team titles when they were in eighth and ninth grade.
Ruppert was the leader of that first junior high championship, placing second in the district a year after she won it as a seventh grader. She left the program to play soccer as a freshman, but made arrangements with both coaches to compete in both soccer and cross country this fall.
"That has added strength to us in the middle of the lineup," coach Squier said.
While the girls' team seems to be on the verge of a championship, the boys' team is closing in with a 12-2 record.
"The boys are a year behind," Squier said. "We have just one senior and one junior on the team and we're doing real well. Our junior high boys' team is undefeated.
"The boys' team is going to get real strong, real quick. It's going to be a good year this year. Next year, we're going to be real tough on both sides."
SUSQUEHANNA GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL
Casey Glidden and Katie DeWitt led the way as Susquehanna swept matches against Mountain View and Western Wayne to improve to 7-0 in the Lackawanna League.
The Lady Sabers ended the week two matches ahead of both teams in the standings. They have handed Western Wayne both of its losses and have just one match left against Mountain View.
Barring an upset against one of the teams between fourth and seventh place in the league and the Lady Sabers can take the league title even if they lose their rematch with Mountain View.
"This should put us in position to be first in the league," Susquehanna coach Phil Baldwin said, "but you don't like to think of it that way yet."
Glidden had 15 assists and seven aces while DeWitt had six kills in the 25-15, 25-18, 25-11 win over Mountain View.
DeWitt then led in kills and aces while Glidden led in assists during a 25-18, 25-22, 29-27 victory over Western Wayne.
"They put a scare into us in the last game," Baldwin said.
Susquehanna has kept climbing after finishing second in the District 2 Class AA tournament last season. The Lady Sabers have eight current seniors who gained experience last season when only one senior was in the starting lineup.
"We can accomplish anything if we work together as a team," captain Abby DeWitt said.
The Lady Sabers have been building up to this season since three years ago. Abby DeWitt was on the team then along with six other current players – middle hitters Katie DeWitt and Kirstie Kemmerer, outside hitters Jessica Terpstra and Amber Gaffey, libero Meghan Gilleran and Glidden, the setter.
Kaitlyn Flor, a senior who is in her third season on the team, provides depth along with underclassmen Tara Flor, Mary Jo Cotter, Alex Kotran, Leann Terpstra and Hannan Price.
"Our team has the drive, the heart and the skill to accomplish all of our goals," Katie DeWitt said.
FOREST CITY BOYS' SOCCER
Forest City returns 10 of the 11 starters from last season's team which went unbeaten while winning Division III of the Lackawanna League and never trailed in a game until giving up the winning goal in a 2-1, sudden-death loss to Wilkes-Barre Meyers in the District 2 Class A quarterfinals.
The Foresters extended their division winning streak to 18 games with a 4-0 win at Mid Valley, which entered the game in second place.
Jonathan Chesnick had two goals while Steve Beautz and Ian White added one each in the win.
Every other team in the division now has at least two losses.
The Foresters were challenged early in a 2-1 win at Dunmore, but have won three of their six league games by shutout. They also have an 8-1, non-league win over Western Wayne.
"The important thing for us is to win our division," Foresters coach Steve Fonash said. "That's the goal we set out to do.
"As a small school, it's difficult to go deep in the playoffs. We hope we can, but we'll put our emphasis on winning the league. Anything after that is gravy."
The Pisarcik triplets - Justin, Jarrett and Jason - return on defense along with Matt Sibio. Justin Pisarcik and goalie Steve Sosnowski are returning first-team all-stars.
White, a sophomore, is leading the league in scoring with seven goals and nine assists. He is joined at striker by Stan Vitzakovitch, who has eight goals and two assists.
Chesnick, an offensive midfielder, is third on the team with seven goals. Beautz, another midfielder, is fourth with three goals.
Mike McGraw returns as the defensive midfielder. Taylor Meyer, the only new starter, is the right midfielder.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose dominated Scranton Prep on the way to a 42-20 football victory.
Scranton Prep's three touchdowns came on a pair of kickoff returns and a score against the Montrose reserves after the Meteors had opened a 30-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Montrose (3-2) put together two quick scores for a 16-0 lead in the first quarter before Prep answered with its first kickoff return for a touchdown.
Nick LaBarbera scored on an eight-yard run and Guy Roszel followed less than a minute later by returning a fumble 24 yards for a score. Taylor Smith and Bud Roszel added the two-point conversion runs.
LaBarbera finished with two touchdown runs and also passed seven yards to Tom Blachek for a touchdown that combined with a Jared Fowler two-point conversion run to make the lead 24-6 at halftime.
Fowler had a seven-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Taylor Smith carried 16 times for 166 yards to lead a rushing attack that produced 308 yards.
Montrose also benefited from five turnovers.
Susquehanna lost five turnovers and was upset, 21-18, by Mid Valley.
The Spartans came into the game winless but got more than 200 yards rushing from Kyle Chuff, who also scored all his team's points.
Chuff's three extra points were the difference when Susquehanna failed to convert a kick, a run attempt and a pass attempt after its touchdowns.
"We haven't made an extra point in three games," Susquehanna coach Dick Bagnall said. "It doesn't matter what we try – run, throw or kick. We can't get it done."
The Sabers stayed in the game by stopping the Spartans on downs at the 10 while trailing, 21-12, with less than eight minutes left.
After having a drive to the Mid Valley 14 stopped by a third-down sack and a fourth-down dropped pass, Susquehanna scored with 1:41 left on a 51-yard pass from Anthony Dorunda to Dustin Shaw.
Chuff recovered the on-side kick then broke a 17-yard run to assure the Spartans that they would be able to kneel on the ball and run out the clock.
Two players from Susquehanna County high schools have formed a partnership on the Misericordia College women's tennis team.
Sarah Golis, a freshman from Montrose, and Blaire Lord, a junior from Elk Lake, are 4-0 as a doubles team.
Golis is also 8-1 for the best singles record on the team, which is 6-3 overall. She has played at both the fourth and fifth singles spots.
Lord is 5-4 in singles and 1-2 with other doubles partners. She has played in the fifth and sixth singles positions and is on her way to her third varsity letter.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Montrose is prepared to begin play as a member of Division III of the Lackawanna Football Conference after dropping down from Division II.
Based on their results outside the division in the first half of the season, the Meteors (3-2) look like a contender as they prepare to play Friday at another of the division's top teams, Old Forge (3-2).
Susquehanna (1-4) opens division play Saturday at home against defending champion Lackawanna Trail (2-3). The Lions are coming off three straight losses to strong Division II teams - Riverside, Lakeland and Dunmore.
Our high school football predictions last week went 9-1, bringing our season record to 44-13 (77.2 percent).
This week's predictions, with home teams in CAPS: Montrose 16, OLD FORGE 14; Lackawanna Trail 28, SUSQUEHANNA 12; Abington Heights 13, DELAWARE VALLEY 7; NORTH POCONO 28, Honesdale 20; Valley View 35, WALLENPAUPACK 17; SCRANTON 20, West Scranton 14; Dunmore 50, WESTERN WAYNE 6; Lakeland 30, MID VALLEY 14; RIVERSIDE 47, Scranton Prep 13; Carbondale 22, BISHOP O'HARA 20.
In girls' cross country, Elk Lake will get its first look at the competition for a possible District 2 Class AA team title when it goes head-to-head with defending state champion Dallas Saturday in the Endless Mountains Invitational at the Wyoming County Fairgrounds.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins again open the American Hockey League season with a home game Wednesday night against the Manitoba Moose.
The Binghamton Senators open their season Saturday at home against the Syracuse Crunch.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
STEWART Coasts To Kansas Win, Kansas City, KS – Tony Stewart won Sunday’s Banquet 400 on fuel mileage.
Stewart had an 18-second lead going into turn two of the last lap, but with a mile to go, the fuel tank in his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet ran dry.
“We come off turn two and it went flat for good,” said Stewart. “I just shut the motor off and sat there and watched where the leaders were. Man, it was an awesome weekend.”
Tony Stewart is all smiles after Sunday's win at Kansas.
Stewart inherited the lead on lap 262 of the 267-lap race, after Jimmie Johnson, who had led the most laps, pitted for a splash of fuel. Johnson exceeded NASCAR’s speed limit coming off pit road and wound up 14th.
Casey Mears also ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted across the finish line for second.
Mark Martin called his car, “one of the worst I’ve ever driven,” early into the race, but after adjustments and other drivers’ fuel problems, he finished third.
“I’m proud of these guys, and we’re still in it,” he said. “We’re going to fight it to the end.”
Dale Jarrett finished fourth, his best finish of the season.
Points leader, Jeff Burton came home fifth and increased his Chase lead to 69 points over Denny Hamlin, who moved up from fifth to second.
“I hate these fuel mileage things like today,” said Burton. “We had a really good car, ran well, and look forward to Talladega.”
Neither of the Hendrick Motorsports teams fared well. Jeff Gordon’s engine quit on the frontstretch on lap 238 and he was pushed into the pits by Terry Labonte. It was his fifth DNF of the season.
“I really didn’t know what went wrong,” said Gordon. “I came out of three and it just shut off. I’m upset now, because I want to know what happened. We’re in no way out of this championship, but we have to really tighten up.”
Kyle Busch, another Hendrick driver had run up front early in the race, but like Johnson, he too, was caught speeding on pit road.
Matt Kenseth spun out once, and never got the handling right on his No. 17 DeWalt Ford. His 23rd-place finish dropped him one spot, to third in Chase points.
Tenth-place finisher, Dale Jr. ran with the leaders early in the race, but he lost several positions because of poor handling.
Unofficial Top-10 Chase contenders: 1. Burton-5511, 2. Hamlin-5442, 3. Martin-5441, 4. Kenseth-5427, 5. Harvick-5415, 6. J. Gordon-5391, 7. Earnhardt-5388, 8. Johnson-5346, 9. Kyle Busch-5278, 10. Kahne-5238.
Unofficial top ten finishers of Banquet 400: 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Casey Mears, 3. Mark Martin, 4. Dale Jarrett, 5. Jeff Burton, 6. Carl Edwards, 7. Kyle Busch, 8. Brian Vickers, 9. Clint Bowyer, 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Truck Battle Is Heating Up – The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series battle has been close all year long. Unlike the Busch Series, where one driver (Kevin Harvick) has dominated, there has not been one single team that has controlled the lead.
As the series heads towards its November 17 finale at Homestead, the points battle is intensifying.
Todd Bodine, driver of the No. 30 Toyota continues to lead, but his one time margin of 182 points, which he held after the 15th race of the season at Indianapolis, has been cut in half, thanks to Johnny Benson’s performances in the last four races.
Benson, driver of the No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, has two wins and two fourth-place finishes in his last four starts.
Bodine’s 91-point advantage over Benson seems narrow compared to his previous margin, but when put into a historical perspective, it’s the fourth-largest margin in series history with six races remaining.
Benson says it’s been a great season no matter what the points standings reflect.
“We have not lost any sleep over the points battle,” said Benson. “I have been fortunate enough to have won a couple of championships in my career and you really can't do much about them. You really just have to go to the racetrack each week and do the best you can and the points will take care of themselves.
“Todd Bodine is going to be really hard to catch. He has some really big numbers for us to go get, and we are going to have to battle for every point. The 30 team is not going to hand us anything. We need to have a lot of weekends like we did at Loudon or Las Vegas in order to have a chance to win the championship.”
Mike Skinner, at age 49 years, three months, is the third-oldest driver to win a series race – a month younger than Musgrave was when he won at Gateway International Raceway in April, 2005. Joe Ruttman remains the oldest winning driver at age 56 years, 6 months.
Toyota got its 10th win of the season after Skinner’s win at Las Vegas. It is a season-high for the third year manufacturer that won nine times in 2005. As a result, Toyota extended its lead in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers’ Championship standings.
Meanwhile truck owner Bobby Hamilton Sr., who is recovering from cancer spent Tuesday and Wednesday last week in Washington, D.C., as an Ambassador for the State of Tennessee in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and the Celebration on the Hill, a Cancer Action Network event. Hamilton spoke at fundraising events, one to a crowd of more than 4,000 people.
“Thank you for letting me be a part of your family,” Hamilton told other cancer survivors. “The support you get from cancer patients and their families is tremendous. It makes you want to fight even harder.”
HARVICK Is Runaway Busch Leader – Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Harvick-4810, 2. Edwards-4081, 3. Bowyer-3955, 4. Hamlin-3908, 5. Yeley-3826, 6. Kyle Busch-3553, 7. Menard-3543, 8. Biffle-3479, 9. Sorenson-3237, 10. Sauter-3152.
The Craftsman Trucks and Nextel Cup teams are at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, while the Busch Series teams have an off weekend.
Saturday, October 7, Craftsman Trucks Talladega 250, race 20 of 25, 94 laps, 3 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, October 8, Nextel Cup UAW-FORD 500, race 30 of 36, 188 laps, 1:30 p.m. TV: NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: Nextel Cup driver Jeff Green is one of three racing brothers from Owensboro, KY. What are his brother’s names?
Last Week’s Question: What is Cup driver Ryan Newman’s home town? Answer. It is South Bend, Indiana.
If you have any NASCAR questions, e-mail them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On September 9, 14-year old Vikki Hartt placed First in the Women's Division at the 16th annual Komen NEPA Race for the Cure held in Scranton. The Race is conducted by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and again drew over 6,000 participants. In the 5K event, Vikki clocked in at 20:17, outrunning the second place female by 17 seconds. A freshman, she is a member of the Blue Ridge High School Cross Country Team. Vikki's parents are Jerry and Karen Hartt, Lakeview. Her grandparents are Harold and Janet Hartt, Steinbach Corners, and Vic and Marian Slamas, Forest City.
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