October 14 — MONT CARMEL — John Darrah doesn’t want to talk about the past.
The Mount Carmel head coach and his players are only focused on the present.
That’s the message Darrah sent to his team as the undefeated Red Tornadoes (7-0) prepared to visit rival Southern Columbia (5-2) in a non-conference game of title contenders. Class AA from District 4 tonight in Catawissa.
The defending District 4 and PIAA Class AA champion Tigers have beaten Mount Carmel 14 straight since 2011 and hold a 30-8 advantage in the series dating back to 1996.
Last season, South Colombia handed Mount Carmel two of its three losses, winning 40-14 in a Week 5 regular season contest and then 41-7 in the district’s Class AA final. 4.
It doesn’t matter, Darrah said. It’s a new year.
“The past really has nothing to do with the (tonight) game,” Darrah said Thursday. “It’s the 2022 version of each team playing against each other.
“We are only concerned with the execution of our missions, not with the past or what the future holds for us.”
The 2022 version of Big Red football has been dominant so far, winning seven in a row by an average margin of 44-12. Mount Carmel toppled North Schuylkill in their opener, routed District 2 powerhouse Dunmore in Week 2, then swept their five Heartland Conference Division III opponents en route to the dividing crown.
The Red Tornadoes did it with a balanced offense that relied on the solid play up front of a gigantic, veteran offensive line and the solid run of a paced back committee by junior Xavier Diaz. (38-397, 5 touchdowns) and second Luke. Blessing (41-335, 6 TDs).
Big Red is averaging 430 yards per game (260 rushing/170 passing) and has scored over 40 points in six straight games. The Red Tornadoes have scored 310 points in seven games; only Mount Carmel teams in 1921 (315) and 2008 (314) scored more.
Mount Carmel also overcame adversity under center after junior Cole Spears suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5. Sophomore Matthew Balichik came on and excelled, completing 21 assists on 34 for 507 yards and six touchdowns without interceptions in two-plus plays.
Seniors Garrett Varano (21-308, 4 TDs) and Michael Farronato (11-200) and junior Jacob Schultz (11-226, 5 TDs) were the Tornadoes’ top receiving targets.
“Matthew did a great job for us,” Darrah said. “He had an opportunity and raced with it. What he may lack in experience he makes up for in tenacity and competitiveness. rallied to him.”
The South of Colombia opened the season with impressive wins over Berwick and Shamokin but were knocked down 27-10 in Week 3 by Loyalsock. The Tigers then suffered a second loss in Week 5 when they were mauled by Danville 49-14.
Senior running back Braeden Wisloski is the star for the Tigers, with 861 yards and 11 touchdowns so far. The speedster has rushed for over 100 yards in six of seven games, including 184 in the loss to Danville. He also caught nine passes for 160 yards and two scores.
Southern No. 2 running back Wes Barnes has missed the past two games with injury after rushing for 490 yards and five touchdowns in the first five. Junior quarterback Blake Wise is 30 for 58 for 433 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Playing error-free football on offense and containing the Tigers’ t-wing offense are Mount Carmel’s main goals.
“We have to protect the ball in attack and tackle well in defence,” Darrah said.
The Week 8 schedule features 16 games involving local teams tonight and another Saturday when Pottsville travel to Easton to take on Wilson Area at noon.
Here’s a look at the rest of the local schedule this weekend:
Blue Mountain (4-3)
in Saucon Valley (2-5)
Players to watch: Blue Mountain — LB Vern Kleckner. Saucon Valley — QB Travis Riefenstahl
Breakdown: After two home wins, the Eagles travel to Hellertown looking for a third straight win as they continue their pursuit of a District 11 4A playoff berth. Kleckner is the lead tackle in a defensive unit that held Wilson to 75 total yards last week. The Eagles will need to contain Riefenstahl, who passed for 979 yards and rushed for 347.
at Southern Lehigh (6-1)
Players to watch: Lehighton – QB Brady O’Donnell. Southern Lehigh – RB Cade Sawyer
Breakdown: The Indians will try to slow down a Spartans team that has won six straight and beat Saucon Valley 42-7 last week. O’Donnell is closing in on 1,000 passing yards for the season. Sawyer rushed for 152 yards in the Week 5 win over Blue Mountain.
Palmerton (5-2) at North Schuylkill (5-2)
Players to watch: Palmerton — QB Matt Machalik. North Schuylkill — OL/DL Steven Davis
Breakdown: The Blue Bombers’ powerful offense against the Spartans’ stingy defense is the story of this Red Division game. Led by Machalik, who threw for a District 11 record with 1,661 yards and 23 touchdowns, Palmerton has scored 40 or more points in six of seven games, including 53 and 51 in the past two games. North Schuylkill allowed just under 13 points per game with three shutouts.
Jim Thorpe (3-4) at Notre Dame-Green Pond (5-2)
Players to watch: Jim Thorpe – QB Cole Lazorick. Notre Dame-Green Pond — WR AJ Lozano
Breakdown: Lazorick stepped in at quarterback last week and starter Brett Balliet’s status is uncertain for tonight’s game. The Olympians will have to slow down the Crusaders’ passing game, which features QB Danny Darno throwing numerous passes at Lozano.
Tamaqua (3-4) at Northern Lehigh (6-1)
Players to watch: Tamaqua – RB/LB Bradley Whalen. Northern Lehigh—QB Nick Frame
Breakdown: The state-ranked Bulldogs are averaging 356 yards per game and have scored 32 or more points in every game except their loss to North Schuylkill. Difficult task for the defense of Tamaqua.
Pine Grove (1-6) at Salisbury (0-7)
Players to watch: Pine Grove – WR/DB Owen Hannevig. Salisbury—WR Jacob Gibbons
Breakdown: The Cardinals can take a big step toward securing a berth in the Class 3A District 11 playoffs with a victory over the winless Falcons. Two similar teams: Pine Grove were outscored 294-76, while Salisbury were outscored 288-44.
Catasauqua (4-3) at Panther Valley (2-5)
Radio/TV: WMGH 105.5 FM
Players to watch: Catasauqua – RB Jyzaiah Bonilla. Panther Valley – QB Michael Pascoe
Breakdown: The Panthers host a Rough Riders team that has won four consecutive games in impressive fashion. Pascoe, who leads the zone in rushing attempts, needs 40 yards to top 1,000 for the season.
Pen Argyl (2-5) at Schuylkill Haven (2-5)
Live Updates: Follow Republican Herald correspondent Chuck Curley on Twitter @ChuckCurley
Players to watch: Pen Argyl – WR Damian Tyminski. Schuylkill Haven—RB Aiden Myers
Breakdown: The Hurricanes will look to build on last week’s win over Panther Valley when they host the Green Knights. Myers had a big game against PV, rushing for 275 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, Haven will need to contain Tyminski, who leads District 11 in receptions.
Minersville (4-3) at Palisades (5-2)
Players to watch: Minersville – LB James Dube. Palisades – RB Steven Lilly
Breakdown: Two teams are heading in opposite directions as the Miners have lost two in a row and the Pirates have won three in a row. For Minersville to succeed, they will need to contain Lilly, who scored five times in the win over Palmerton and rushed for 211 yards in the win over Haven.
Mahanoy Zone (4-3) at Tri-Valley (7-0)
Live updates: Follow Republican Herald sportswriter Leroy Boyer on Twitter @pubsportsboss
Radio/TV: WAVT 101.9 FM
Players to watch: Mahanoy region – RB/DB Colm McGroarty. Tri-Valley – RB/LB Reese Huntzinger
Breakdown: Golden Bears lost standout lineman David Sanchez to injury last week; how they recover in the trenches will be key. Dawgs’ defense, led by Huntzinger, allowed just 65 points but must prevent big plays from Mahanoy’s offense.
Marianne (4-3) at Williams Valley (5-2)
Radio/TV: WLSH 1450 AM
Players to watch: Marian — OL/DL Rawlin Melendez. Williams Valley — OL/DL Ezriah Hite
Breakdown: The Vikings are looking to give head coach Tim Savage his 100th career victory when they host the Colts in a Blue Division contest. Foals coming out of the Shenandoah Valley Saturday night.
Nativity (2-5) in the Shenandoah Valley (1-6)
Radio/TV: WPPA 1360 AM, 105.9 FM, www.wpparadio.com
Players to watch: Nativity – RB Sam Spolski. Shenandoah Valley – RB/LB Hunter Teter
Breakdown: Both teams are looking for a win to end losing streaks. Green Wave have gone down three in a row, while Blue Devils haven’t scored in more than eight quarters.
Shamokin (3-4) at Central Columbia (2-5)
Players to watch: Shamokin – QB Brett Nye. Central Colombia – QB/RB/LB Greyson Shaud
Breakdown: The Indians are aiming for their third win in four games and hope to bounce back from last week’s Jersey Shore loss to the Blue Jays. Central’s two victories were over Shikellamy and Lewisburg, two teams that Shamokin also defeated.
Schuylkill Valley (5-2) at Hamburg (6-1)
Radio/TV: UEO 830 AM
Players to watch: Schuylkill Valley – RB Dominic Giuffre. Hamburg — RB/LB Pierce Mason
Breakdown: The Hawks went to the 48th Frost Bowl with several key injuries while the Panthers are on a five-game winning streak in which they scored 31 or more points in every game. Giuffre (960) and Mason (860) are the top two runners in Berks County. The Hawks lead the rivalry series 24-22-1, winning the last two meetings.
Juniata (5-2) at Haut-Dauphin (5-2)
Players to watch: Juniata — RB/LB Waylon Ehrenzeller. Upper Dauphin – RB/LB Brady Morgan
Breakdown: Morgan scored on his three runs in the Trojans rout of James Buchanan last week. It won’t be so easy against former Tri-Valley League rival Juniata, who have won four straight by a combined score of 152-7.
Pottsville (3-4) at Wilson (0-7)
Live updates: Follow Republican Herald sportswriter Eli Doyle on Twitter @iamelidoyle
Radio/TV: WPPA 1360AM, 105.9FM; www.wpparadio.com
Players to watch: Pottsville – QB Tejay Allen. Wilson – QB Jeremy Cressman
Breakdown: Crimson Tide look to even their record when they take on the winless Warriors on an afternoon matinee. Allen threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another in last week’s loss to Northwestern Lehigh.
Contact the author: [email protected]; 570-628-6026; @pubsportsboss on Twitter