When Northampton plays East Stroudsburg South on Friday night in the most anticipated Eastern Pennsylvania Conference North Division game of the regular season, some may want to dub it “Waiting to Prove.”

That’s because both teams feel they have something to prove.

Despite a 4-0 record and outscoring opponents 230-18, Northampton has plenty of naysayers scoffing at a schedule that features four opponents with a combined 4-12 record.

East Stroudsburg South won the District 11 5A title last year, and despite going 39-17 over the past six years, the Cavaliers still feel overlooked when it comes to excellence on the football field.

Neither team may change perceptions even after Friday night’s impressive win, but this is the biggest game either team has played to date and presents the best chance for both to make a midseason statement.

“We’re very excited to be challenged,” Northampton coach John Thoman said. “We understand that we are judged on what we do against EPC South, but East Stroudsburg South is one of the best teams in the North and every year there is a North championship between us, South and Stroudsburg. … It’s a big game and our kids are excited to be out there on Friday night.”

East Stroudsburg South is 3-1 after a 7-6 loss to Pleasant Valley on Sept. 9. The Cavaliers snapped a 15-game winning streak against other Monroe County teams.

Northampton hasn’t lost to any other team in the division since a 34-26 loss to Stroudsburg on Oct. 5, 2018, when Kyle Haas was in his first season with Concrete Kids and Toman was still at Southern Lehigh.

But the K-Kids lost to Easton in the District 11 6A playoffs in both 2018 and 2019, and after failing to qualify in 2020, they lost to Freedom in the semifinals last year after defeating another North Division participant Pleasant Valley in the quarterfinals.

The South game kicks off the toughest stretch of the regular season for the K-Kids, with Bethlehem Catholic and Pleasant Valley next.

“We haven’t been challenged yet; “I don’t think our starters have played a complete game yet,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Jaylen Richardson said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re fit and everybody’s ready to go for four quarters.”

As for those who question the K-Kids schedule, Richardson said, “There’s nothing we can do about it. We play football for 10 weeks and then we go to the playoffs and play those south [Division] teams. If we’re going to make a run, it starts now.”

Senior lineman Christian Bandra said he’s used to hearing negativity.

“No matter what, they’re going to say the same thing over and over again,” Bundra said. “They said that last year; they say it this year. They will say next year. We don’t focus on what people say about us. We do our thing. We come out here and play ball. We do what we do.”

Northampton has certainly earned the respect of South coach Matt Walters.

“The EPC North has gone through Northampton the last couple of seasons, and any time you have Northampton on your schedule, you’re playing a championship game,” Walters said. “You’re trying to take them off that pedestal. But just watching the tape, this is probably the best Northampton team we’ve faced. They are great from the front. They have athletes everywhere. They don’t have many inclinations. Their coaching staff makes it very difficult to prepare and you add those athletes and size up front and they’re going to be a challenge for everybody.”

Walters said Northampton can compete with anyone in the EPC South this year, and a win Friday night would be a big moment for his program.

“We want to be competitive with the teams down there, and we have an opportunity Friday night and for two weeks after that,” Walters said, referring to the upcoming games against Liberty and Parkland.

“We don’t like the stigma that’s put on you that EPC North schools can’t compete there, and the numbers obviously support that statement, but we’re trying to do everything we can to reverse those numbers,” Walters said. said. “Not only do we want to compete, but we’re in a scene and culture with our program that we want to beat in the Lehigh Valley schools. So we definitely have a lot to prove on Friday night.”

The game is important not only in terms of the EPC North title chase, but is also crucial to the power rankings, which determine who will advance to the District 11 tournament. Northampton is a 6A team and is in a sub-district with three non-member schools to District 11 — Williamsport from District 4 and Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre from District 2.

The Konkrete Kids are ranked third in a complex ranking that measures not only wins, but also strength of schedule and the classification of the teams you beat. Eight teams will qualify for 6A.

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South is in a much more crowded 5A bracket this year, which now includes Pocono Mountain West and Pleasant Valley, which dropped from 6A. South is ranked third behind Pleasant Valley and Southern Lehigh. Only four teams made it to the 5A D11 tournament.

The Cavaliers changed things up this year after trying completely different methods last year when they had plenty of offensive weapons. They went for 2-point conversions and often went for it on fourth down rather than punts. This year, the team is more focused on defense.

South’s defense has given up just one touchdown in four games. The rest of the opponents’ touchdowns were scored on special teams.

“We’re going to have to play differently, and we’re OK with that,” Walters added. “It’s not a college program where you can recruit the kids you want at certain positions that fit your system. You have to be able to adapt to the children you have. So we may play differently than in recent years, but you don’t get points for style in football. You only get a win or a loss, and it doesn’t matter if you win 49-0 or 14-7. This is the approach we should take.”

In retrospect, Walters said the loss to Pleasant Valley was good for his team.

“PV deserved to win this game,” he said. “It was better that we didn’t run away with the win because our kids have been so much more focused since then. We needed humble pie. It forced the coaching staff to go back to the drawing board and got the kids to refocus. I felt that it was necessary. Coaches hate to lose and I hate to lose. But there’s a bigger picture in all of this.”

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