Teams have shuffled around the Colonial-Schuylkill League’s four divisions. Schools have changed classification based on enrollment figures for the next two-year cycle. And there are four first-year head coaches.
That means nothing is guaranteed in 2022 other than unpredictability may rule.
When the dust settles, however, perhaps many of the same teams will be celebrating championships. Northern Lehigh and North Schuylkill are among two returning District 11 gold medalists who should be in the mix again.
Northwestern and Palmerton, district runner-ups in 2021, aren’t going anywhere. Neither is Notre Dame-Green Pond, Tri-Valley, or Williams Valley.
Bangor is looking to win its first district title since 1987, the third year of the District 11 playoffs. Catasauqua is gearing up for a run at its first in nine years.
Saucon Valley and Marian Catholic have not won one since the district expanded from four to six classifications.
The fun will be watching all of this unfold over the next three months, with perhaps one team making a run at the district’s first state title since Central Catholic in 2010.
There also are standout players to keep track of each week, including Northwestern’s Cade Christopher, Palmerton’s Matt Machalik, North Schuylkill’s Joey Flail, and Jim Thorpe’s Noah Rosahac.
And is there nothing more joyful than seeing a program turn around recent misfortunes to surprise people? Lehighton, Salisbury and Panther Valley would make great stories.
Time will tell. Injuries unfortunately will play a part, too.
It all starts Friday and Saturday with the regular-season openers. Until then, here’s a look at each of the 28 teams:
Coach: Paul Reduzzi, 4th year (10-17, 151-124 overall)
Last year: 7-4, Eastern Conference champion
Impact players: Sr. QB Eric Striba; Sr. OL-DL Ben Engle; Sr. LB Dylan Miller; Sr. OL Jose Fuentes; Jr. TE-DE Jacob Weaver; Sr. WR-LB Ashton Kluska; Jr. WR-DB Greg Campbell; Sr. OL Jose Fuentes; Sr. OL Jayden Vilmenay; Jr. OL Riley Stapp.
Biggest question: Can the Slaters find a way to take the weight off Striba after the loss of Kael Godshalk, their fearless, tireless leader, to graduation?
Outlook: District 11 Class 4A playoffs or bust. The entire offensive line is back. Several key figures return on defense, too. The talent is there; so is the confidence after a strong finish last season. They should have a winning record, but with six quality teams fighting for four spots every victory is crucial.
Coach: Tom Gallagher, 2nd year (4-6)
Last year: 4-6
Impact players: Sr. RB-LB James Seaman; Sr. OL-DL Ian Donohue; Sr. WR-LB-K-P Kreese Stablein; Jr. QB Will Jacobson
Biggest question: Can the Eagles be consistently versatile on offense and limit turnovers?
Outlook: The Eagles have had five consecutive losing seasons after scoring only 57 points in their six losses in 2021. They will have to be more efficient offensively in Jacobson’s second year running the attack.
Coach: Tom McCarroll, 11th year (53-57-1)
Last year: 1-9
Impact players: Jr. QB Brady O’Donnell; WR-LB Ethan Buchert; Sr. RB-DB Ian Rarick; Jr. OL Wyatt Sherer; Sr. TE-DE Luke Blauch
Biggest question: Can the Indians clean up their big mistakes on both sides of the ball and gain early confidence with a win?
Outlook: A tough start with Palmerton, Tamaqua and Pottsville, but the Indians are a committed group of returnees who have gone the extra mile so far to improve. That effort should be rewarded, but they find enough victories to claim one of the eight district 3A berths (among 10 teams).
Coach: Josh Snyder, 11th year (78-32)
Last year: 11-1, District 11 Class 4A runner-up
Impact players: Sr. QB-DB Cade Christopher; Jr. RB-LB Dalton Clymer; Jr. LT-NG Ben Walters; Sr. RT-DE Josiah Gornicz; Sr. RG Cam Shields; Sr. TE-LB Lucas Miller; Jr. C-LB Blaine Snyder; Sr. CB Evan Anderson
Biggest question: Will the receiving corps be able to develop to allow Christopher, Clymer and a veteran OL to be balanced?
Outlook: Devon Hildebrand could emerge as another playmaker for Snyder’s unpredictable offense. Landen Matson, Austin Sosnovik and others will be given a chance to become involved in the pass, which will make Christopher that much more dangerous.
Coach: Tom McGeoy, 10th year (52-46)
Last year: 8-3
Impact players: Sr. TE-DE Joey Palko; Sr. T-DT Jacob Begansky; Sr. QB-S Tejay Allen; Sr. ATH-DB Amaree Bainbridge; Jr. RB-S Parrish McFarland; Sr. G-DT Kiernan Houston
Biggest question: Can the Crimson Tide be a playoff contender despite graduating most of their starters on both sides of the ball?
Outlook: The Tide have a tough schedule early with two state playoff contenders in District 4 Jersey Shore and District 3 Wyomissing. It will be a challenge to find offensive continuity with new skill players against quality foes. But only six teams are bidding for four 4A playoff berths, so McGeoy’s club can find a way even with a .500 season.
Coach: Brad Trembler, 4th year (13-14)
Last year: 5-6
Impact players: Sr. WR-DB Alex Magnotta; Sr. RB-LB Josh Torres; Sr. FB-LB Ty Pfizenmayer; Sr. QB Travis Riefenstahl; So. S Jack Robertson; So. RB-LB Jared Rohn; Jr. ATH Landon Beckowski; So. OL-DL Caleb Grim
Biggest question: Can the Panthers stay healthy? It was a contributing factor for them to miss the district playoffs in 2021.
Outlook: Saucon Valley has the potential to be a good defensive team led by linebackers Pfizenmayer and Rohn. That would give the offense more chances to click with Riefenstahl in his first year as the full-time starter at quarterback. Chemistry is on its side. But the Panthers will have to beat teams they haven’t recently to get into the district 3A postseason.
Coach: Phil Sams, 3rd year (9-9)
Last year: 4-7
Impact players: Sr. QB Avery Koser; Sr. RB-LB Nick Ventresca; Sr. OL-LB Michael Fluck; So. OL-DL Gijs Fooij; Jr. WR-DB Cade Sawyer; Sr. RB-DB Tyler Rizzuto
Biggest question: Can the Spartans build off last year’s four-game winning streak to finish the regular season that allowed them to squeeze into the 5A playoffs?
Outlook: There is enough experience here to be a playoff contender again, but Sams’ club has a tough start to its season (Quakertown, Notre Dame-GP, Bangor) with a first-year quarterback and an evolving offensive identity. But as last year showed (0-6 start), don’t count the Spartans out.
Coach: Michael Fleming, 1st year
Last year: 7-4
Impact players: So. WB-LB Jackson Millen; Sr. OL-DL Kenny Steckel; Jr. OL-DL Seth Kissell; Sr. OL-DL John Ghilon; Sr. ATH Jayden Fields; Sr. QB-DE Chris Weston
Biggest question: Can the Warriors mesh with so many new skill players?
Outlook: Fleming’s Warriors may struggle this season because of inexperience, but they won’t get outhustled and outworked if he has anything to say about it. It will be difficult to wiggle into the 3A playoffs with a challenging stretch (Pottsville, Northwestern, Notre Dame-GP), but stranger things have happened. It will be interesting to watch the transition to a new coach who brings the influence of old-school coaching legends Steve Shiffert and Denny Douds.
Coach: Mark Rosenberger, 24th year (158-97)
Last year: 7-5
Impact players: Sr. TE-DE Bryson Heydt; Jr. RB-DB Salvatore Capria; Sr. QB Brett Balliet; Sr. WR-DB David Fiorito; Sr. OL-LB Dominic Berger; Jr. T-DL Noah Rosahac
Biggest question: Will the Olympians be able to take advantage of their strong offensive and defensive fronts?
Outlook: Jim Thorpe has the makings of a playoff team. It must avoid turnovers and mistakes at crucial times to ensure a district 3A spot. Balliet, Capria and others should give Rosenberger a versatile offense to sustain drives.
Coach: Wally Hall, 10th year (78-25)
Last year: 11-2, District 11 3A champion
Impact players: Jr. RB-LB Jaxson Chowansky; Sr. T-NG Steven Davis; Jr. WR Joey Flail; Sr. OL Jack Dean; Sr. OL-DL-RB Robbie Weitz; Sr. DE Chris Long; Jr. DB Zander McElhenny; Jr. DE Neekoli Carabolla
Biggest question: Will the Spartans reload offensively after the graduation of their explosive QB and RB?
Outlook: Hall’s team will be strong defensively, which may allow it to win games early while its offense finds its traction. The Spartans have a strong four-game stretch later against Northern Lehigh, Notre Dame-GP, Jim Thorpe and Palmerton. No reason to think they won’t be 3A title contender again.
Coach: Joe Tout, 17th year (102-77)
Last year: 11-4, District 11 2A champion; PIAA semifinalist
Impact players: S. TE-DE Austin Smyth; Sr. RB-DE A.J. Jimenez; Sr. T-DT Jayden Krempasky; Sr. TE-LB Ethan Karpowich; Jr. T-DT Sam Frame; Sr. RB-WR-DB Izaiah Ramos; Jr. TE-LB Jack Tosh; Sr. G Lucas Farmer; Jr. C Jackson Van Norman; Sr. QB-S Nick Frame
Biggest question: Can Northern Lehigh be dominant again offensively after the position changes and graduation?
Outlook: The Bulldogs could be very good in the first two levels of their defense, giving the young secondary a chance to gain confidence before facing North Schuylkill and Palmerton later in the season. If Nick Frame, Ramos, Jimenez and others click on offense, Tout’s team could make another deep playoff run — this year in Class A.
Notre Dame-Green Pond
Coach: Phil Stambaugh, 7th year (52-16 at NDGP, 1, 95-35 in 12 seasons overall)
Last year: 7-3
Impact players: Jr. WR-DB Josh Ludlow; Sr. OL-DL Aiden Compton; Sr. OL Mason Ludlow; Jr. QB Danny Darno; Sr DB Anthony Pez; Jr. RB-TE-DL Dainn Vassallo; So. DL Anthony Crisafulli
Biggest question: Can Darno and Co. put up points despite their lack of game experience together?
Outlook: The cupboard is far from bare. The Crusaders expect to be a district 3A participant again. It will be a new cast of characters being counted on to pile up the offensive statistics. Darno started two games last season, so he’s far from raw. Vassallo could be a weapon much like the graduated Logan Castellano was a year ago.
Coach: Chris Walkowiak, 12th year (50-65)
Last year: 9-3, District 11 2A finalist
Impact players: Jr. QB-FS Matt Machalik; Sr. WR-CB Kendall Robinson; Jr. OL-DL Zack Anthony; Sr. SB-DB Daniel Lucykanish; Sr. RB-LB Cole Serfass; Jr. WR-DB Ty Sander; Sr. WR-DB Dalton Drake; Jr OL-DL Clayton Christman
Biggest question: Can the return of Serfass take the load off Machalik and give the Blue Bombers a chance to make another playoff run — this time in 3A?
Outlook: Machalik and Serfass are outstanding. The amount of attention they’ll get from opponents will make the likes of Lucykanish, Sander, Drake and others the chance to make big plays.
Coach: David Shiffer, 1st year
Last year: 1-9
Impact players: Jr. RB-S Lane Lehman; Sr. QB-DB Mason Kroh; Sr. ATH-S Nick Wolff; Jr. OL-DL-LB Xaviar Yeagley; Jr. G Hunter McConnell; Sr. G Carter Raudabaugh
Biggest question: Can the Cardinals’ experience up front offensively lead to better production, especially in the run game?
Outlook: Lehman is an excellent two-way player, but the Cardinals need to minimize mistakes on both sides of the ball to begin to turn the corner.
Coach: Andy Cerco, 11th year (33-68)
Last year: 2-8
Impact players: Sr. WR-DB Josh Brooks; Sr. QB-CB Nick Beck; Sr. G-LB Toby Linn; Sr. TE-DB Jacob Gibbons; Jr. FB-DB George Spann; Jr. HB-DB Jacob Bucchin
Biggest question: Can the many newcomers to the program allow the Falcons to build depth and be strong enough in the second half to finish games?
Outlook: Beck is tough. So is Brooks, who missed all of last season with an injury. Linn is a solid two-way player. Newcomers, including Lucas Graver, Car Dyer, Ryan Ferrell and Zach Bender, will get plenty of opportunities to shine.
Coach: Sam Bonner, 16th year (95-67)
Last year: 3-6
Impact players: Sr. RB-LB Warren Stewart; Sr. FB-LB Isaac Curvey; Sr. WR-LB John Klein; Sr. OL Ryan Snyder; Jr. OL-DL Spencer Dennis; Sr. OL Josh Shelton; Sr. DL Vinny Schlosser; Jr. DL Michael Styka; Jr. DB Connor Dillon; So. QB Luke Kane
Biggest question: Will the Blue Raiders avoid giving up big plays defensively?
Outlook: The Blue Raiders are looking to get past 2021 more than any team. They have new leadership, plus enough experience and talent to have success this season. Stewart and Curvey should give them a solid 1-2 punch in the running game with Klein and others able to help Kane ease into the QB role.
Coach: Travis Brett, 3rd year (9-11)
Last year: 7-5
Impact players: Sr. RB-DT Anthonie Hunsicker; Jr. TB-LB Hunter Reitz; Jr. G-NG Miles Melendez; Sr. QB Christian Fye; Sr. G-DE Javier Sobrado; Sr. WR-DB Wyatt Younes; Jr. DL Dylan Pacheco; Jr. WR-DB Ian Juica; Jr. C-LB Chad Beller; Sr. OL-DL Dylan Kalynych
Biggest question: Are the Rough Riders mature enough to build off last year’s success … and lessons?
Outlook: They are talented. They have a little bit of depth up front. Reitz and Hunsicker are healthy after missing chunks of 2021. Coach Brett’s club should be a district 2A title contender if all of those factors are in play throughout the regular season.
Coach: Justin Frantz, 4th year (15-14)
Last year: 6-5
Impact players: Sr. WR Brock Polinsky; Sr. OL-DL Ron Beach; Sr. WR-DB Ray Snyder; So. WR-LB Logan Hutsko; Jr. RB-LB Luke Stevenosky; Jr. WR-LB Lorenzo Yourey
Biggest question: Can the Miners run the ball?
Outlook: The Miners were entertaining and hard-nosed a year ago, but struggled in the running game and keeping their QB from having to scramble out of the pocket on many pass players. They have 16 returning starters, but will have a new QB.
Coach: Bobby Smith, 1st year
Last year: 2-8
Impact players: Sr. QB Malachi Stiansen; So. WR-DB Greg Borgeson; So. RB-DB John Haubert; Sr. TE-DE Galen Limantour; Sr. OL-DL Sheadon Carr; Sr. C James Mitsch; Sr. RB-LB Steven Lilly
Biggest question: Can the Pirates stay healthy to give themselves a chance to win games?
Outlook: Smith bleeds Pirate purple. He’s been part of the program for nearly two decades. He and his staff aren’t making radical philosophical changes. They are making sure they are building chemistry and continuity. The rest will take care of itself.
Coach: Mark Lavine, 1st year
Last year: 0-8
Impact players: Sr. QB-LB Michael Pascoe; Sr. RB-DE Austin Hadley; Sr. OL-DL Riley Hoben; Fr. WR-DB Brody Breiner; Sr. WR-DB Trey McAndrew
Biggest question: Can the Panthers stay healthy and mature fast enough to be competitive deep into most games?
Outlook: With a staff of former Panthers led by Lavine, there is comfort and stability in the program, something it needs to rebuild it. It may take time, but this year’s group should be improved.
Coach: Brady Mutton, 3rd year (2-15)
Last year: 0-10
Impact players: Jr. WR-LB Damian Tyminski; Jr. QB Brad Rissmiller; Sr. TE-LB Gian Greggo; Sr. RB-LB Kris Kessler; Jr. WR-DB Alex Moser; Jr. OL-DL Kael Grim; Sr. OL-DL Cody Long; Sr RB-LB Colton Keat; Jr. WR-DB Evan Keat
Biggest question: Can the Green Knights gain confidence with an early season?
Outlook: Pen Argyl opens with fellow reloading program Wilson, so that present Mutton’s club with a chance to get off on the right foot. Rissmiller must stay healthy. The Green Knights must find a way to run the ball, which includes having an offensive line give Kessler and Co. a chance.
Coach: Mike Farr, 18th year (119-81)
Last year: 3-7
Impact players: Sr. RB-LB Connor Goehring; Jr. RB-LB Aiden Myers; Jr. QB Travis Richie; Sr. TE-DE Tayshaun Smith; Jr. WR-DB Aidan Clauser; Sr. C-DE Ryan Sisko
Biggest question: Can the Hurricanes’ relatively inexperienced offensive line give Goehring and Myers a chance?
Outlook: Goehring and Myers are an excellent 1-2 punch. If they produce big numbers, the Hurricanes will rack up more wins. Farr’s defense also will need to limit big mistakes to take the heat off the offense.
Coach: Paul Babinsky, 3rd year (8-12)
Last year: 4-7
Impact players: Sr. RB-LB Ben Manley; Sr. T-DT David Sanchez; Jr. QB-S Colm McGroarty; Sr. T-DT Louie Frye; Jr. RB-S Kadin Styka; Jr. G-DE Cael Quick;
Biggest question: Can all the experience (21 of 22 starters returning) pay off for the Golden Bears?
Outlook: If the Golden Bears can get a consistent offensive performance — they scored 45 points total in their seven losses in 2021 — they will be in the district Class A playoff hunt.
Coach: Stan Dakosty, 43rd year overall (315-166 in two stints)
Last year: 4-7
Impact players: Jr QB-DE Bruce Hopeck; Sr. T-DT Rawlin Melendez; Sr. RB-LB Matt Martin; Jr. WR-DB Michael Silliman; So. QB-DE Dylan Rodino; So. TE-DB Michael Gelatko; Jr. WR-DB Brandon Klitsch; Sr. RB-LB Joey Walko; Jr. OL-DL James Rodino
Biggest question: Can the Colts build off their four-game winning streak to finish the 2021 regular season?
Outlook: If the Colts can generate more offensively to ease Martin’s load, they can continue their upward trend. Melendez could have a monster year defensively.
Coach: Pat Mason, 6th year (31-23)
Last year: 5-6
Impact players: RB-LB Sam Spolski; WR-DB Noah Dolbin, OL-DL Kyle Kenton
Biggest question: How fast can the many newcomers grow?
Outlook: The Green Wave graduated all but five starters, so this will challenge Mason’s program building that he’s done well at since taking over.
Coach: Ed Moran, 3rd year (3-16)
Last year: 2-7
Impact players: Sr. RB-DE Hunter Teter; Jr. WR-DB Nick Ryan; Jr. QB-S-P Ben Dempster; Sr. G-DT Lucas Zelinsky; Sr. WR-LB Erick Hernandez; Jr. ATH-LB Alex Kozlosky
Biggest question: Can the 16 returning starters build on last year’s growing experience and play .500 ball?
Outlook: Dempster is a returning starter, but moves to quarterback to replace the graduated Owen Kosar who threw for 1,441 yards a year ago. If the defense continues to improve, so too will the Blue Devils’ chances of winning games.
Coach: Jeff Sampson, 5th (29-13)
Last year: 9-2, District 11 A runner-up
Impact players: Sr. FB-DL Jake Scheib; Jr. WR-DB Layne Yoder; Jr. QB Hunter Troutman; Sr. RB-DB Kam Wetzel; Sr. OL-DT Justin Troutman; Sr. OL-DT Beau Strause
Biggest question: Can the Bulldogs offer a passing game to go with the Scheib/Wetzel running tandem?
Outlook: Scheib and Wetzel combined for 1,597 rushing yards and 21 TDs in 2021. Yoder caught a team-high 23 passes. If there is a dual threat offensively, the season finale against Williams Valley will have plenty riding on it again.
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Coach: Tim Savage, 11th year (94-27)
Last year: 9-3, District 11 Class A champion
Impact players: Jr. RB Alex Achenbach; Sr. WR Brady Evans; Sr. QB-LB Isaac Whiteash; Sr. FB Logan Williard; Sr. OL-DL Ezi Hite; Sr. OL-DT Cruz Banda
Biggest question: Can the Vikings keep it rolling with Achenbach, Whiteash and Co.?
Outlook: Evans caught a team-high 46 passes last season, including 13 for scores. Savage also has a trio of four-year starters on the offensive line, so the Vikings will be a formidable offensive threat again in Class A.
Morning Call reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at email@example.com
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