LEHMAN TWP. – More than one high school football team has had its season unravel with the loss of a key player or players to injuries.
Scranton Prep and Lake-Lehman found themselves among the six District 2 finalists remaining this weekend because of their ability to cope with potentially devastating injuries.
Both teams spent significant time without their projected top rushers and starting quarterbacks this season, but still managed to win regular-season titles and open the district playoffs with home-field victories.
The formulas for managing that trouble were similar.
Both teams are built around dominant lines that have made the loss of “skill” players less damaging and in each case, quality players were more than ready to step into more demanding roles.
Ricky Morgan, a junior from Shavertown, was one of the key players in Scranton Prep sharing the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 title and advancing to the district Class AAA championship game with a 28-2 romp over Dallas Nov. 14.
Nick Eury and Trey Borger increased their production to help Lake-Lehman win the Wyoming Valley Conference Class AA Division title, then roll over Lakeland, 35-8, in the district Class AA semifinals Nov. 13.
Morgan hoped potential league realignment in response to the state’s move from four classifications to six for football next season might give him a chance to play against some of his former teammates. That opportunity came early when Dallas won its final four regular-season games to grab the last available district playoff berth.
“I’d been waiting this game for a long time now,” said Morgan, who learned the game with the Kingston Township Junior Raiders and played in the junior high program at Dallas as a seventh and eighth grader.
Morgan made the most of the opportunity. He broke a 31-yard touchdown run just 2:29 into the game, added another touchdown in the second quarter, used his 24 carries to pick up 102 yards in the game and went over the 1,000-yard mark on the season in the process.
All this from a player who projected as number-two tailback, then missed the first two weeks of the season after suffering a separated shoulder in a scrimmage against Crestwood.
Justin Weckel, the team’s top returning rusher, went out with an ankle injury in the season opener and has made just two very brief appearances since.
Scranton Prep went the second half of the opener and the second week of the season without its top two tailbacks. The Cavaliers managed a championship season despite playing their clinching game and the playoff opener without their top two quarterbacks because of season-ending injuries.
With opposing defenses stacked against the run the last two weeks, Morgan has remained productive while leading receiver-turned-quarterback Kevin Holmes has hit 16 of 17 passes and the line has continued to control games. Scranton Prep’s defense did not allow a score for a third straight week, despite two of the games being against playoff opponents.
“We play next man up,” said Morgan, who has thrived in that role. “Whoever’s ready for that spot is going in.”
Borger, a sophomore at Lake-Lehman, found himself in a similar spot when the Black Knights twice lost two-time, 1,000-yard rusher Joey Vigil to injury, this time likely for the season.
Instead of being the third halfback/wingback in a rotation to fill two spots in most formations, Borger became one of the regulars.
Borger showed he is ready for that responsibility while Nick Eury and the line, led by Connor McGovern and Cole Spencer, improved on what was already a high level of play.
“When Joey went down earlier in the year and Nick was out, too, against Meyers, Trey had almost 200 yards in the same situation,” Lake-Lehman coach Jerry Gilsky said.
With Eury and Borger handling 41 of the 43 carries until the reserves came on for the final series, Lake-Lehman piled up 450 yards rushing. Eury carried 19 times for 302 yards. Borger ran 22 times for 146 yards. Each ran for two touchdowns.
As Gilsky pointed out, fullback Luke Hummel, tight end Zach Burcher and the entire line “did an excellent job.”
“We went from a three-headed dragon to a two-headed,” Gilsky said. “We’re going to have to find variations to get other people involved.”
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