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Winter high school sports teams are going through their third week of practice in preparation for the start of regular-season play Friday.
Basketball, wrestling and swimming teams can begin competition that day and most will be in action the first weekend in tournaments or other non-league competition.
Blue Ridge, Elk Lake, Montrose, Mountain View and Susquehanna will all be part of Division 2 of Lackawanna League wrestling this season along with Holy Cross, Lackawanna Trail, Scranton Prep, Valley View and Western Wayne. They will begin league competition December 17.
The boys’ and girls’ basketball teams in the Lackawanna League will play one league contest before the holiday break.
The six county schools are grouped with Lackawanna Trail and Western Wayne in Division 3 in basketball. All of those teams will open December 22 except for the Montrose and Mountain View boys, who will meet at Montrose the next night.
Elk Lake has the county’s only swim program, with some additions from Montrose in a new cooperative sponsorship. The Warriors compete in Division 2 of a two-division setup in the Wyoming Valley Conference. The Lady Warriors compete in Division 2 out of three divisions of the WVC.
Delaware Valley, Scranton, Valley View, West Scranton, Abington Heights, Tunkhannock and Scranton Prep are Elk Lake’s divisional rivals.
There are crossover swim meets, which do not count in the standings, beginning December 8. The first meets in Division 2 are January 5.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Some of the most productive athletes in the history of Pennsylvania high school football combined to eliminate the last two Lackawanna Football Conference teams and bring an end to the fall sports season in District 2.
Zach Barket became the first player in state history to go over 4,000 rushing yards in a season and the third to go over 8,000 yards in a career while helping Schuylkill Haven outlast Riverside, 43-38, in a battle of unbeatens in the state Class A quarterfinals.
Barket ran for four touchdowns as he has done in all but one game this season. He went over 200 yards rushing as he has done in all 14 games. But, he also added the game’s biggest defensive play with an interception in the final minute.
The senior broke the state single season rushing record, which was set by Parkland’s Austin Scott in 2002 before he headed to Penn State.
“Jason Killian from our school had the state records until Austin Scott broke them,” Barket said. “I watched him break them on TV.
“I always thought what he did was crazy. I never realized that I could be the one breaking his records.”
Dunmore managed to keep Philadelphia West Catholic from extending its streak of scoring 50-plus points in a game at eight, but there was no stopping the Burrs.
West Catholic opened a 28-0 lead in the first 14 minutes and piled up 541 yards of total offense in a 49-21 victory in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“Since it’s our first year in the PIAA, a lot of people don’t know about us,” said quarterback Curtis Drake, a Penn State recruit who is likely to wind up as a wide receiver for the Nittany Lions. “It’s good to get a chance to show what we can do.”
The champions of the Philadelphia Catholic League, which joined the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association this year, continued their season-long trend of averaging more than 10 yards per carry and 10 yards per play.
Drake carried 11 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns while hitting four of seven passes for 91 yards. Raymond Maples added 159 yards on eight carries as the Burrs ran for 450 yards on 37 tries.
Amanda Lass made the all-tournament team as Marywood University won its Tip-Off Tournament to start the women’s basketball season.
Lass, a 6-foot-1 junior forward/center from Montrose, came off the bench to share the team scoring lead with 33 points and to lead the team in rebounds with 20. She hit 14 of 25 shots from the floor (56 percent). Lass also had two blocked shots and two steals.
After Marywood handled Penn State-Hazleton, 75-30, in the opener, it had trouble with Goucher in the final before pulling away for a 72-57 victory.
Lass hit two free throws with 12:26 left to put Marywood ahead to stay, 47-45. She had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the championship game.
Caitlyn Ely, a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard from Montrose, played in one of the tournament games. She had two points, four rebounds and an assist.
Lass had eight points and six rebounds in just 11 minutes as Marywood improved to 3-0 with a 60-51 victory over Wilkes.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Susquehanna and Blue Ridge will each have all three of their teams in tournaments on the first weekend of the winter sports season.
The Sabers are at the Deposit Tip-Off Tournament while the Lady Sabers are at the Tunkhannock Tournament in basketball Friday and Saturday. Susquehanna will also be in the Susquehanna Valley (N.Y.) Wrestling Tournament Saturday.
The Raiders and Lady Raiders both open their basketball seasons in the Sayre Tip-Off Tournament Friday and Saturday. Blue Ridge is at the Wyalusing Duals in wrestling.
All five county schools that have wrestling will open their seasons in tournaments Saturday.
Mountain View joins Susquehanna at Susquehanna Valley.
Montrose and Elk Lake join Blue Ridge at Wyalusing.
Some county basketball teams will also be in the same events.
Mountain View joins Blue Ridge in the boys’ half of the Sayre Tip-Off Tournament.
The Elk Lake girls join Susquehanna at the Tunkhannock Tournament.
The Montrose basketball teams open on the road in non-league games. The Meteors play at Riverside Friday and the Lady Meteors are at Valley View Saturday.
Elk Lake plays at Carbondale in the annual Red Wallace Scholarship Game in boys’ basketball Friday night.
Forest City opens the boys’ basketball season Monday and Tuesday, December 8 and 9 in the Finan Tournament at Carbondale.
Elk Lake opens the boys’ and girls’ swimming season at Berwick December 8.
In high school football, the elimination of the last two LFC teams means our predictions are done until next year.
We completed our most accurate season ever in 2008 by going 2-0 in the final weekend, 15-1 in the playoffs (93.8 percent) and 116-16 for the year (87.9 percent).
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
David Pearson Didn’t Have Big Bucks – Layoffs, lack of sponsorship, and the need to cut back on expenses is affecting every NASCAR race team. The big question is, how will these changes impact the sport?
“I’ve never quite seen the garage like this,” said team owner Bill Davis, who admits his Cup team might not be back in 2009 if he cannot find a sponsor. “But then again, we’ve never had these huge budgets and these huge payrolls. Maybe this garage is going through an adjustment period, just like the business world does. It happens. When things get tight, you adjust and scale back. Unfortunately, that involves hard times for some people.”
David Pearson, "The Silver Fox," at Richmond in 1964
Photo courtesy of NASCAR
Think about how NASCAR has changed over the past sixty years. Not so long ago, when someone mentioned NASCAR, they were merely referring to the organization that sanctioned, governed, and promoted their style of stock car racing. Now when we say NASCAR, we’re talking about a sport, a way of life, a phenomenon, and all things surrounding this type of racing.
Several decades ago the sport centered around the drivers. Many of them raced without any major sponsors.
“Silver Fox and “Little David” are two nicknames used to describe David Pearson, the three-time Winston Cup champion.
“The best there’s ever been,” is Richard Petty’s description of Pearson.
Pearson was born on December 22, 1934, in Whitney, South Carolina.
He started racing in 1952 in a 1940 Ford coupe, in Woodruff, SC. He pocketed $13 after winning his first race, but liked the thrill so much that he knew racing was his life.
In 1960, Pearson bought his own late model Chevrolet race car and headed to Daytona, where he came in 18th. He raced in the first World 600 and came in 10th.
He was named Rookie of the Year in 1960.
Then in 1961, David went on to win three major victories, the World 600, the Firecracker 250 and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta – making him the first man to win, in a single year, on three of NASCAR's Big Four tracks.
In 1964, Pearson won eight races on the short tracks and was the fastest qualifier 12 times. In 1966, driving for Dodge, he won 10 of his 15 Grand National victories on dirt tracks, and then earned enough points on the superspeedway to win the first of his three NASCAR championships. Pearson switched to Ford, and in 1968, drove the Ford to 16 victories and 36 finishes in the top five.
In 1969, he became the first man to break the 190 mph barrier at Daytona, qualifying his Ford Talladega at 190.029 mph. He then went on to win the 125-mile qualifying race. In March at Rockingham, he scored a victory in the Carolina 500 and gained victories on each on the South's existing superspeedways.
Pearson entered 572 races, out of which he won 105, and placed within the top five 301 times. Pearson was the NASCAR Winston Cup Champion in 1966, 1968 and 1969.
He was equally good on road courses (four wins), superspeedways (48 victories) and short tracks (54). He also won 23 dirt track races, and won at least one time at almost every venue.
Pearson is perhaps a legend not only for his driving stats, but for his legendary rival with Richard Petty. Petty was quoted in the March, 1993 Stock Car Racing Magazine as saying, “Writers were asking me last year who was the best driver I ever raced against. I told them David Pearson. David and I ran more first and seconds than anybody else, and we raced together on dirt tracks, superspeedways, and road courses, big and little tracks. It didn’t make any difference; you had to beat him every week.”
One of their most memorable duels took place at Daytona in 1976. Pearson had fallen back about a second behind Petty but made up the distance in the last three laps. While fighting for the lead in the backstretch, Pearson and Petty got together, sending Pearson into the wall and Petty into the grass about 100 feet short of the finish line. Pearson, who had managed to keep his car running, inched his way to the checkered flag at 20 mph. For most fans, this ranks as one of the all time, if not the greatest, finish in history.
Even though Pearson went on to have major sponsors, his yearly racing budget never exceeded $75,000. That’s pocket change compared to today’s teams.
A lot has changed in NASCAR since Pearson was in the spotlight. The sport is team and sponsor focused. No longer is there room for an owner/driver in big league NASCAR racing. Even a single one-car operation has upwards of 100 people.
“We've been very fortunate,” Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson said. “This has been an incredible ride we've been on since 2002... it's a lot different than what it used to be. The crew chief used to have to get out there and build the shocks and set up the race cars and do all that stuff himself.”
Hendrick Motorsports has over 500 people, so crew chiefs mainly supervise.
“I'm very fortunate that Mr. Hendrick allows me to employ the people that we need to, and have teammates like what we've got, that we're able to delegate to very smart people, and they kind of feed me the information, and we adjust as we need,” Knaus continued. “So it's really not me [who’s] the one that's it, it's all the guys. It's all the people we've got at HMS, we've got at the shop, the guys we've got to travel weekly with the 48 team.”
NASCAR’s fan base has remained strong, with TV ratings rebounding this season after back-to-back years of decline. Most analysts blame noticeably smaller crowds at the track and plummeting merchandise sales on economic conditions. Foreclosures, higher bills and gas prices, as well as soaring job cuts across all sectors, have left NASCAR fans feeling the economic pinch.
The economic times are tough for many Americans, and destined to get tougher. The sports world won't be spared. NASCAR is just the first of the big-four sports to feel the pinch.
While NASCAR is striving to lower costs, such as eliminating all testing, the sport is team oriented. It takes a lot of players to field just one NASCAR Cup car. The sport will never go back to its prior days.
The strong will survive and the weak will get out… or merge. Being in NASCAR is like being in Las Vegas. As long as your money holds out, it’s a great place to be. When the money is gone, you are on your way out the door.
Next Week: The Fast, Brief Life of Lee Roy Yarbrough.
Racing Trivia Question: Which old time driver was often called, “The Wilkes County Wildcat?”
Last Week’s Question: Which Series will Sam Hornish race in 2009? Hornish will continue to race in the Cup Series.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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