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By the time the Susquehanna Sabers got to the final two weeks of the football season, they had wiped out the damages of the recent past.
In the final weekend of the 2009 season, they gave a sign that more progress still could be ahead in the future.
“I told our kids to hold our heads high,” Susquehanna coach Dick Bagnall said after the season ended with a 36-22 loss to unbeaten Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 champion Old Forge. “This game was a building block for next year.”
The Sabers had already clinched their first winning season since 2000 when they got to 6-2. At that point, they had beaten one District 2 Class AA playoff team (Wilkes-Barre GAR) and held a second-half lead on another (Mid Valley).
Susquehanna even carried a shot at a regular-season title and postseason berth into the final two weekends only to lose to the division’s top two teams in games that showed promise. The Sabers produced the big plays necessary to stay close while being consistently outplayed by Carbondale in a 26-18 loss. Then, they played Old Forge on otherwise even terms while big plays - turnovers on the first four Susquehanna possessions - made the difference.
“We have to get to the weightroom and get bigger, faster and stronger,” Bagnall said. “We have a lot of kids coming back.
“Maybe we can get some more kids out who are good athletes after they see that our program is back.”
Susquehanna ran for 208 yards while producing 22 points against an Old Forge defense that was giving up a league-low 7.3 points per game. The Sabers outscored the Blue Devils, 22-18, over the final three quarters.
Junior quarterback Dan Kempa is one of the players set to come back next year. He carried 160 times for 1,187 yards in his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
Nick Felter and John Salinkas put up nearly identical numbers while averaging just under seven yards per carry and rushing for a little more than 500 yards.
In all, the three main runners averaged over seven yards per carry while producing more than 220 yards per game.
The resurgence of the Susquehanna football program was just one of the highlights of the recently completed fall high school sports season.
The Elk Lake cross country teams, Forest City boys’ soccer, Montrose golf and Montrose girls’ soccer continued their success.
Elk Lake fell short of defending its Class AA boys’ state championship but the Warriors did sweep through unbeaten seasons in both boys’ and girls’ in the Lackawanna League before qualifying both teams for the state meet where the boys finished third.
Forest City produced its third straight unbeaten championship season in Division 3 of the Lackawanna League.
The Montrose teams produced championships that they each fell one game short of a year ago.
Montrose won the Lackawanna League North Division in golf and the District 2 Class AA championship in girls’ soccer.
Individually, Allison Hall of Blue Ridge repeated her District 2 Class AA cross country championship before finishing 11th in the state, two spots behind Elk Lake’s Maria Trowbridge. Hall also earned Lackawanna League Female Runner of the Year honors.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Abington Heights, Dunmore and Northwest captured District 2 football titles to advance to the state playoffs.
Paul Gallagher carried 19 times for 232 yards and two of his three touchdowns to lead Abington Heights to a 35-6 rout of Dallas in the Class AAA final.
Dunmore used three first-half interceptions, including one that Michael Ehnot returned 34 yards for the first touchdown, to jump out in front of Lakeland, 35-8, in the Class AA final.
Northwest held off a late Riverside rally to win the Class A title, 40-30.
Next week’s column will feature a recap of performances by Susquehanna County athletes in fall college sports.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Abington Heights and Dunmore will represent the Lackawanna Football Conference in the state playoffs Friday night at 7.
Abington Heights (11-1) plays District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (11-1) in Class AAA at Bethlehem School District Stadium.
Dunmore (12-0) plays District 12 champion West Catholic of Philadelphia (10-2) in Class AA at Palisades High School.
Our high school football predictions last week were 3-0, bringing our playoff record to 8-4 (66.7) and season record to 106-25 (80.9 percent). Predictions for this week’s games: Abington Heights 22, Allentown Central Catholic 17; West Catholic 29, Dunmore 19.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Hamlin Wins Finale, Title Goes To Johnson
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Sprint Cup finale, for his fourth win of the season, but the big news was Jimmie Johnson winning his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Jimmie Johnson, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
“I promise you that in three or four years we’re going to win the championship,” said Hamlin. “We beat Jimmie Johnson in five of the Chase races, and if we hadn’t had those three DNF’s, it might have been a different story.
“We were right there, but those guys (Johnson) were the standard-bearer. They didn’t make many mistakes. But I think we showed we have that strength and I can’t wait until next year.”
Jeff Burton finished second, for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish.
“Well, the team is the one that deserve it,” said Burton. “They have worked hard and put forth an incredible effort. I think we were just a little off on that last run, but that’s probably my fault because I wasn’t able to tell Todd (Todd Parrott, crew chief) exactly what we needed. Everybody did their part; I just came up a little short.”
Perhaps the biggest drama of the entire 267-lap race was played out by Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya.
About midway during the race, Tony Stewart passed under Montoya, and as he did so, drifted back up in front of Montoya’s No. 42.
Montoya never slowed, and rammed the rear of Stewart’s No. 14.
Less than a lap later, Stewart pulled down into the right side of Montoya, cutting the right front tire on Montoya’s car. Montoya lost control and hit the outside wall.
After repairs were made on Montoya’s car, and he was back on the track, he spun Stewart into the infield grass.
NASCAR blackflagged Montoya and assessed him a two-lap penalty for “over aggressive driving.”
Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, and A. J. Allmendinger were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued to have his problems. This past week he had two flat tires and hit the outside wall once, and wound up 28th.
“I’m glad this year is over,” he said. “It’s been a tough one. I sure hope next year is a better one for us. I don’t think I can stand another one like this one.”
Final top-10 Sprint Cup points leaders: 1. Johnson-6652, 2. Martin-6511, 3. J. Gordon-6473, 4. Kurt Busch-6446, 5. Hamlin-6335, 6. Stewart-6309, 7. Biffle-6292, 8. Montoya-6252, 9. Newman-6175, 10. Kahne-6128, 11. Edwards-6118, 12. Vickers-5929.
Jimmie Johnson rewrote NASCAR history this weekend at Homestead. It was a tremendous accomplishment for him to win four consecutive Cup titles.
“To do something in the sport that’s never been done before is so awesome,” said Johnson. “To be up there with the Pettys’, Waltrip, Yarborough, and Jeff Gordon is unbelievable. I don’t know where to start.
“But the team is what made it great. They did an awesome job. An I think Chad Knaus is one of the smartest and best crew chiefs in NASCAR.
“We couldn’t have done it without all of them. It was a terrific team effort.”
Some of the qualities that make him a positive in NASCAR also work against him. Johnson’s polite demeanor results in complaints by many fans, that he’s too bland. As a result, he’s not as popular as he should be and doesn’t get the respect, many think he deserves.
Most fans prefer to see a more colorful driver, rough around the edges, competing for the championship. Racing is about emotions, and Johnson with his methodical, sometimes near-perfect driving style, doesn’t evoke the fans’ emotions like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch.
Around two-thirds of the fans I’ve talked with, said they would prefer to see some other driver as champion. Johnson may not bring more people out to the races, but he has always represented NASCAR in a professional manner.
It was team owner, Rick Hendrick’s ninth Cup championship. Unfortunately, he was not on hand. He had remained in North Carolina with a niece, who was about to undergo a kidney transplant.
KYLE BUSCH WINS RACE AND CHAMPIONSHIP
Kyle Busch held off Carl Edwards, who tried a last-ditch effort to get by Busch on the last lap, to win Saturday’s Nationwide Ford 300 race.
The win was Busch’s ninth of the season and his first NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.
Final top-25 Nationwide leaders: 1. Kyle Busch-5682, 2. C. Edwards-5472, 3. B. Keselowski-5364, 4. J. Leffler-4540, 5. M. Bliss-4075, 6. J. Allgaier-4049, 7. S. Wallace-4007, 8. J. Keller-3960, 9. B. Gaughan-3914, 10. M. Annett-3598, 11. K. Wallace-3569, 12. T. Raines-3548, 13. M. McDowell-3449, 14. J. Logano-3371, 15. K. Harvick-3248, 16. S. Wimmer-3177, 17. E. McClure-2962, 18. D. Ragan-2632, 19. D. O’Quinn-2404, 20. B. Vickers-2403, 21. S. Lagasse-2194, 22. M. Kenseth-1992, 23. J. Townley-1989, 24. G. Biffle-1966, 25. P. Menard-1876.
HORNADAY CLAIMS RECORD FOURTH TRUCK TITLE
Ron Hornaday wrapped up the 2009 Camping World Truck Series championship last week and became the first driver to ever win four Truck Series championships. “Five wins in a row is remarkable, and that's because of Rick Ren (crew chief) and all the guys and Kevin and DeLana Harvick Racing for letting us build new trucks week in and week out.”
Hornaday’s victory celebration was subdued, because he had been sick for several days.
“It's just been flu symptoms,” he said. “It all started when I got off the airplane. You know, my mother in law's been sick, and we went to the hospital and seen her. Then we jumped on an airplane. I must have gotten the flu or something. The tickle in the throat, the head ready to blow off. You know the whole deal.”
Kevin Harvick was the race winner. He finished ahead of Matt Crafton, Colin Braun, Timothy Peters, and Todd Bodine.
Final top-25 Truck standings: 1. R. Hornaday-3959, 2. M. Crafton-3772, 3. M. Skinner-3602, 4. T. Bodine-3437, 5. C. Braun-3338, 6. J. Sauter-3331, 7. B. Scott-3307, 8. T. Peters-3289, 9. D. Starr-3271, 10. R. Crawford-3161, 11. S. Compton-3124, 12. T. Malsam-3026, 13. T. Cook-2890, 14. J. Bueschler-2884, 15. T. Bell-2767, 16. J. White-2733, 17. Kyle Busch-2583, 18. D. Setzer-2483, 19. C. McCumbee-2410, 20. A. Almirola-2301, 21. N. Benning-2097, 22. R. Carmichael-1978, 23. B. Knupp-1345, 24. B. Ickler-1340, 25. M. Gosselin-1324.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the former Cup driver known as “The Skoal Bandit?”
Last Week’s Question: When did Homestead-Miami Speedway open? Answer. The first race was held Nov. 14, 1999.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: email@example.com.
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