Four teams will be making the District 2 Class 3A playoffs. The district hierarchy said as much.
Seems three teams — Scranton Prep, Western Wayne and Hanover Area — have jumped at the opportunity. All are 4-1 as the Wyoming Valley Conference and Lackawanna Conference football seasons make the turn for the home stretch.
As for the others. Well, they’re bunched up in a pack of four teams separated by 100 state points top to bottom.
Lake-Lehman and Nanticoke are two of them. Both are 2-3. Lehman is 80 points behind fourth-place Meyers (3-2). Nanticoke is 90 in arrears.
If Lehman is going to make the district playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, the Black Knights will limp their way there. The team has been hit hard by injuries, perhaps harder than any other WVC club. Nanticoke hasn’t made districts since 1999 and must eliminate those in-game swoons that cost the Trojans in all three losses.
Lehman is at Tunkhannock (2-3) at 7 p.m. Friday, playing a team going through a bit of a resurgence. Nanticoke plays at the same time against visiting Crestwood (1-4), the 2014 D2-3A champion which has been swarmed by the injury bug for a second consecutive year.
The PIAA’s new six classification format shuffled the WVC schedule. Lehman will be playing Tunkhannock for the first time since 2007. Nanticoke last played Crestwood in 2006. So nothing can be culled of historical value.
Of course, if Tunkhannock was able to dust off that old game film from nine years ago for nostalgia’s sake, the Tigers wouldn’t see a Lehman team as banged up as this one.
Sophomore running back Trey Borger was expected to be the workhorse after Lehman graduated two 1,000-yard rushers. He was lost for the season with a knee injury. So was senior offensive lineman Mason Rios, a Times Leader All-WVC selection last year who excelled at blocking at the second level. His year ended with a knee injury as did the season of junior tight end/defensive tackle Mike Slivinski.
Even reliable kicker Ian Dawsey is out, a victim of an injury while playing for the soccer team. Then in last Friday’s 41-14 loss to Hanover Area, running back Charlie Kuschke suffered a leg injury and fullback Matt Kurtz hurt his arm.
“You know, it is what it is,” Lehman coach Jerry Gilsky said. “You know, coaches say ‘I have sophomores playing, I have juniors playing, I have seniors playing.’ I told my guys this. You’re playing with football players out there. I don’t care what level they are. Kids are going to have to play. Role players are now going to have to be our main guys. Guys are out. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Nanticoke’s issue hasn’t been physical. Coach Ron Bruza said the team is rather healthy and expects tight end/defensive end Justin Casey back after he missed last Friday’s loss to Northwest. The problem has been putting together a solid 48 minutes.
The Trojans led Tunkhannock 20-16 midway through the fourth quarter and lost 30-20. They were up 22-7 late in the third against Meyers and fell 42-28. Last Friday, they led Northwest 8-7 into third quarter and lost 36-15.
“I think it comes with a bunch of young guys playing together for the first time,” Bruza said. “We have a lull in the game that hurts us and it’s been hard for us to come back from that.”
The red flag has been the run defense, which has surrendered seven touchdown runs of 49 yards or more in those opponent comebacks. Crestwood will definitely run the ball. The Comets — who have been minus Lance Blass, one of the top players in the WVC, the last two games — run the ball 80 percent of the time.
Lehman also faces a running team in Tunkhannock. Quarterback Logan Cywinski leads the WVC with 13 rushing TDs and is second in rushing with 745 yards. However, he injured a hamstring in last Friday’s loss to Western Wayne.
Wins are important for Lehman and Nanticoke because they meet Thursday at Lehman. A loss Friday and another Thursday would all but eliminate that team.
“Right now, we’re looking at it game by game rather than the big playoff picture,” Bruza said.