By The Daily Item
Where are all the big-time rushers, smashing records, running for thousands of yards and making a run at All-State bids?
Well, it looks like they are playing quarterback.
As Valley football teams enter the final week of the regular season on Friday night, not a single back among the 15 teams has reached the 1,000-yard mark. A year ago eight Valley runners eclipsed the mark, with Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia having two each and Line Mountain coming within 50 yards of have two.
Seven of those eight did graduate, with Danville fullback Sam Dressler the only returnee of the bunch. Dressler is now among a handful of players on the cusp of 1,000 yards but not quite there yet. Dressler enters Friday's game against Selinsgrove with 811 yards.
Others who are close to the 1,000-yard mark entering the regular-season finale are Mount Carmel's Luke Klingerman (923 yards), Southern Columbia's Adam Feudale (866), Shikellamy's Dwayne Pepper (823) and Lewisburg's Brandon Smith (737). Those four, plus Dressler, are all locked into playoff games, so they have at least two games to reach the mark.
On the other side of the coin, five quarterbacks have already thrown for at least 1,000 yards and Bloomsburg junior Ricky Klingerman hit the 2,000-yard mark in Friday's win over Danville.
Klingerman, the first Valley QB with 2,000 yards in the regular season since Danville's Andrew Shoop did in back-to-back seasons (2007-08), enters Friday's finale with Central Columbia with 2,058 yards and 20 TDs. Central's Jordan Thivierge (1,448), Mount Carmel's Zach Wasilewski (1,179), Milton's Brady Chappell (1,077) and Lewisburg's Nick Costagliola (1,041) all have more than 1,000 yards passing and three others, Danville's Weston Baylor (960), Shamokin's Tucker Yost (956) and Warrior Run's Garrett Moser (953) should hit the mark this week.
The top passer in the Valley a year ago was Southern Columbia quarterback Brad Fegley, who threw a little more than 1,700 yards in 16 games as he led the Tigers to the state final.
GETTING THEIR KICKS IN: It seems like field goals come in bunches in high school football and Friday was one of the nights when a handful happened.
Of the 10 games with Valley teams participating in them on Friday night, half of them had field goals. Danville freshman Shayne Riley, Mifflinburg's Victor Suquet, Shamokin's Jon Deitrick and Selinsgrove's Kaelan Sullivan all booted short field goals.
HELPING THE CAUSE: Southern sophomore wide receiver/cornerback Luke Rarig came close to scoring his team's first touchdown on Friday against Central Columbia, but got knocked out of bounds at the one after a 34-yard pass from Taylor Young.
"That's OK," he said. "It helped the team out and that's all that mattered.
The Tigers scored, and a two-point conversion gave them their first lead.
MEANINGFUL "W": Rarig, who admitted breathing a big sigh of relief when they finally stopped the Blue Jays from tying the game in two fourth-quarter red-zone trips, said, "(Beating Central) is pretty special. Central, Mount Carmel, Shamokin, they are our biggest games because we all have a lot of friends on the teams and we know everybody. They are good rivalries."
EFFECTIVE PLAY: The Blue Jays got a key first down, and came close to scoring, on an inside screen pass from quarterback Jordan Thivierge to running back Dain Kowalski.
"That's a play we made against Milton and it was a 30- or 40-yard gain. Tonight, we gained seven (actually 12). That's the difference. Southern has some really great athletes to make the plays," said Central Columbia coach Jason Hippenstiel.
BATTLE TESTED: Hippenstiel said his team, which lost for only the second time and came into Friday leading the District 4 Class AA point standings (and still does), said the Blue Jays would learn from the loss to rival Southern and grow from it.
"We've been a lot of wars this year. We haven't scored a ton of points, but we played good defense, and this is the type of game we have to win," he said.
He also said, "(Southern Columbia) brings a lot of pressure and you can't replicate that in practice. They have some great athletes over there making plays."
His Southern counterpart, whose Tigers beat the Jays for the 16th year in a row, agreed that the defenses were outstanding.
"It was one of those games where, (when) you look at it right after it's over and you're kind of disappointed, but you see a lot of positives, and the big one is he way the defense played. And that was a point of emphasis all year. That was one of the best performances (on defense) all year," he said.
BRINGING THE HEAT: Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth said it isn't always necessary to sack the quarterback, but getting pressure is the key. He noted that on their two late red-zone stops, the Tigers gave Thivierge no time, and took away his line of sight to his receivers.
"We were able to get pressure and he wasn't comfortable. He couldn't step into the throw and he didn't have real good vision either because we were getting close to him."
Roth added, "Hopefully we grow from it and move on from here, continue to ploy the way we played (Friday) night defensively, and try to get a little sharper on what we are trying to do offensively, and get a little better up front."