By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
PECKVILLE -- There was a lot of talk in recent weeks about whether Southern Columbia, despite its unbeaten mark, would be able to get past Old Forge in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
That is mere conjecture now, because Dunmore beat the Tigers to the punch, eliminating the Blue Devils 7-6 in last week's District 2 Class A title game.
Few saw that coming, knowing that, in week four, Old Forge rolled the Bucks 21-0.
Dunmore coach Jack Henzes Jr., will now lead his 11-1 Bucks to take on the 12-0 Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday, ironically, in Valley View High School's Jack Henzes Memorial Stadium in Peckville. The stadium was dedicated to the current Dunmore coach's late father, who had a great career at Valley View.
Both Roth and Henzes Jr., who have combined for 68 seasons and 710 wins, agree that the Dunmore team that won last week's rematch with the Blue Devils is much improved. In the first match-up, both junior fullback Daiqwon Buckley and senior tailback Austin Seamon missed the game with injuries.
The pair returned for the playoffs and these Bucks (11-1) playoff-worthy.
"I think most of the people here expected (our opponent) to be Old Forge because of the year they had and (because) they handled Dunmore in the first game," Roth said. "But we knew there were some issues, especially with injuries, with Dunmore in that first game. They certainly came out last week and turned the tide and played a much different game than the first time around."
Henzes said, "We have had a tremendous amount of injuries that we didn't have in the past. We dressed 26 or 27 in some games. I have to give our younger kids credit for staying in there and now we finally started to get healthy and the kids started doing the things we needed to do."
He said that, in the first game with Old Forge, the Blue Devils ran 35 plays to the Bucks' 12 as they fell behind 6-0 at the half. "We couldn't throw the ball and in the fourth quarter we got down 14-0 and then 21-0, without our (top two) running backs there. The holes were there, but the young kids were not mature enough to hit the holes like the boys we have now."
Roth said that Dunmore's big, physical line and the return of their two quality backs makes the Bucks a challenging opponent as they try to advance to play the winner of Saturday's Williams Valley-Bristol contest.
"The physical nature of the way they run the ball...they come right at you and (Buckley) is about 215 (pounds) and runs hard with some strength," Roth said.
Despite the lost time, Buckley has rushed for 1,240 yards and 17 touchdowns (averaging 9.47 yards a carry). Seamon has 884 yards and 10 TDs (6.36 average).
Roth said what the Bucks do -- run a power I and come right at you -- is not something the Tigers see often. But that it just happened last week versus South Williamsport, is a plus.
"It's a positive that we are facing another team that has the same kind of emphasis on offense, and the same kind of philosophy as far as a power running game," Roth said.
On the other hand, Henzes finds himself coaching against a Delaware Wing-T offense, something the Bucks rarely see in their region.
However, they did face that offense two weeks ago in the district semifinals versus Lackawanna Trail.
"We have not played a lot of total wing-T teams and that is a great concern. They are very well-coached, Jim and his staff do an outstanding job and their record speaks for itself.
"They have exceptional running backs and some of their kids played in the state final game last year, so they are experienced. They don't hurt themselves, they block well and run that wing-T the way it should be run," Henzes said.
He also said the Tigers will be a challenge on defense because they are physical and aggressive, and get a lot of people to the ball.
"The big thing in this game: we have to make big plays. In games like this, that is something that can turn the game around. We think we are very well prepared and we have been watching tape on them. You have to be well-prepared because as soon as you let your guard down one time, they come at you and it starts to steamroll as their kids get some confidence," Henzes added.
Roth said that in addition to the running backs, his biggest concerns are being able to control the play in the line, and handling Dunmore's multiple-look defenses.
"With the type of running game they have, if you don't hold your ground and control your gaps properly, the physical nature of the way they do things, they are going to get yards after first contact," Roth said. "So it is real important we do a real good job up front."
He said being able to handle the Bucks' defense is also a challenge. "They run primarily a four-man front, but they do a lot of moving around with their personnel, sliding their front a lot, and they give you a three- and sometimes a four-linebacker look, and they roll a cornerback onto the line."
When those things happen, Roth said, his defense needs to be concerned more with their areas of responsibility and not get confused trying to play their man. "We cannot get flustered with them moving around. They do some blitzes and some things that are risky, and if you get your guys comfortable with that, and pick up on our blocks, we can get some big plays off of that," he said.