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Keith Groller’s predictions, outlook on Nazareth-Parkland, and the Becahi and Whitehall PIAA games

Parkland's Luke Spang, shown here in a game against Emmaus on Oct. 27, was injured in last week's game and his status for Friday's game against Nazareth is up in the air. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)
David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ
Parkland’s Luke Spang, shown here in a game against Emmaus on Oct. 27, was injured in last week’s game and his status for Friday’s game against Nazareth is up in the air. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

Will he or won’t he?

It has been the question of the week in Lehigh Valley high school football.

Will Parkland senior quarterback Luke Spang be able to play in Friday’s much-anticipated District 11 6A title game against Nazareth after he went out with an injury in the first half of last week’s semifinal game against Emmaus?

The Trojans were able to survive and advance with a 21-14 win, but the Green Hornets ended up a 6-6 team. The Blue Eagles are 11-1 and ranked among the top-10 teams in 6A in the state.

It would be a major challenge to win even at full strength. Without Spang, the task would be significantly more difficult.

“It’s up in the air,” Parkland coach Tim Moncman said Wednesday afternoon. “… It’s a decision that has been ongoing all week and not so much by coaches. Obviously whether he plays or not impacts the game. He’s a huge part of what we do.”

Nazareth coach Tom Falzone expects Spang to play.

“It is what it is,” Falzone said. “He’s a senior and this could be his final game so we’ve expected to see him on the field from Day 1. We were in a similar situation last year when we lost Sonny Sasso in our last regular-season game. He was outstanding and unfortunately for us, Sonny couldn’t play. But we expect to see [Spang] out there. We know what he’s all about.”

No matter what, Falzone knows his team will see a lot of No. 22, the jersey number of star running back Trey Tremba, who leads the EPC in rushing and scoring.

“He’s the offensive player of the year in our league, voted unanimously by the coaches,” Falzone said. “Every time he touches the ball he can take it to the house. You know everyone is trying to stop him and yet he’s done what he has done. He has had an amazing season and an amazing career. Hopefully, we can prevent him from taking the game over.”

The excellence of Tremba could have been predicted as far back as last spring or even after the 2022 season ended.

So, too, has the overall success of both Parkland and Nazareth. They were predicted to be No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason and have never strayed from those spots.

“I don’t know how many times it has happened before where the teams that are picked 1 and 2 have actually held those spots all year,” Falzone said. “Usually, there’s some movement and someone slips up or someone falls. But Parkland has held on to No. 1 all year and we’ve held on to the No. 2 spot. As far as expectations go, we’ve met them. Now maybe we can exceed the expectations if we could somehow knock them off. Some years it might be easier to do it. Not this year. This is a special Parkland team as we all know.”

Moncman has equal respect for Nazareth and said both teams have improved over the last two months since Parkland handed Nazareth its lone loss, 31-24, on Sept. 15 in Orefield.

“I think everybody’s expecting another classic and I’m sure you’re going to get that,” Moncman said. “They have an explosive offense and the more you watch Sean Kinney on defense the more impressed you get. He’s just making plays left and right and is very difficult to block and you know that offense is fast-paced and they’re going to put points up. We’re going to have keep pace, but also control the clock as best we can.”

Moncman noted that the two games that his team has faced some adversity were against Easton and Emmaus.

“If we do that in this one, it could be the recipe for danger,” he said, “Our leaders have done a good job in practice all week. We’ve had some lulls here and there, but they’ll be excited and ready to go.”

A look at the playoff matchups involving EPC teams:

District 11 6A championship

Who: No. 1 seed Parkland (12-0) vs. No. 2 Nazareth (11-1)

When/where: 7 p.m. Friday at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium

At stake: A berth in the PIAA Class 6A tournament against the District 12 champion, either Abraham Lincoln or St. Joe’s Prep, on either Nov. 24 or 25 in a game that will be played in the Philadelphia area.

Storylines: It’s the matchup everyone has waited for since they met on Sept. 15 at Parkland, a 31-24 Trojans’ win. These have widely been considered the best two EPC teams all season and they have lived up to their billing. For Parkland, a win would bring a second straight District 11 title and the program’s 12th overall. For Nazareth, it would be the program’s first D11 gold since back-to-back crowns in 2019 and 2020 and fourth overall.

Players to watch: If Parkland quarterback Luke Spang can’t play, look for junior Osmany Guzman to get his share of snaps. Whether it’s Spang or Guzman or freshman Blake Nassry at QB, expect Trey Tremba to get the ball a lot. He’s the EPC’s leading rusher with 1,736 yards and the leading scorer as well with 29 touchdowns for 174 points. Nazareth has its share of playmakers as well led by sophomore quarterback Peyton Falzone, who has thrown for 2,192 yards and 17 TDs and has been intercepted just twice in 231 attempts. Look for Parkland’s Jake Beidleman and Nazareth’s Sean Kinney to be among the defensive standouts.

What to expect: Potentially, the game of the year. It’s hard to imagine a game living up to the hype, but the first Parkland-Nazareth game did and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this one did as well with a high-scoring contest decided by who has the ball last. Remember, the last time they met in a district final, 2019, it produced an all-time classic won by the Blue Eagles 22-21 on a trick play on a two-point conversion in overtime. Just maybe this one will have something to top that.

Keith Groller’s prediction: Parkland 27-24

PIAA Class 5A First Round

Who: Whitehall (District 11 champ, 8-4) at Delaware Valley (District 2 champ, 9-3)

When/where: 7 p.m. Friday at Delaware Valley HS, Milford, Pike County

At stake: A berth in the Class 5A quarterfinals against the District 12 champ, either Imhotep Charter or Roman Catholic, on either Nov. 24 or 25 at a site in either District 2 or 11.

Storylines: Whitehall is trying to beat Delaware Valley for the second straight year in the first round of states after posting a 34-13 win last year. In that one, Nigel Linton ran for three touchdowns and the Zephyrs outscored Del Val 24-0 in the second half after trailing 13-10 at halftime. Del Val lost its first three games this season to Selinsgrove, Harrisburg and Downingtown East and hasn’t lost since.

Players to watch; The Zephyrs are led by senior Trey Dogmanits, who has thrown for 1,912 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jack Kocher is the leading receiver with 43 catches for 681 yards and 5 scores. Del Val has a potent ground game led by Ryder Machado, who has run for 1,338 yards and 24 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Logan Olsommer, the son of head coach Keith Olsommer, has thrown for 1,002 yards and 8 TDs.

What to expect: Whitehall rose to the challenge to stop Southern Lehigh’s potent offense and will have to do the same here to advance. Del Val has run for 3,100 yards and passed for 1,298 so the Zephyrs’ focus will be on stopping a rough, run-oriented attack and also getting big plays out of the passing attack.

Keith Groller’s prediction: Delaware Valley 28-23

PIAA Class 4A First Round

Who: Bethlehem Catholic (District 11 champ, 7-5) vs. Selisgrove (District 4 champ, 11-0-1)

When/where: 7 p.m. Friday at Catasauqua’s Alumni Field

At stake: A berth in the Class 4A quarterfinals against either Meadville or Juniata on Nov. 24 or 25.

Storylines: The Golden Hawks are district champs and in the state playoffs for the first time since 2018 when they reached the semis before losing to Imhotep Charter. Selinsgrove has been in the shadow of Jersey Shore in District 4 in recent years, but beat Jersey Shore for the D4 gold 44-19 last week.

Players to watch: Becahi sophomore Cayden Vassa is coming off a stellar performance against Allentown Central Catholic and has thrown for 1,410 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior Jacob Sutton leads the ground attack with 956 yards and 6 TDs. The Seals are led by senior Tucker Teats who averages 162 yards on the ground per game and has 1,948 yards total and 28 touchdowns.

What to expect: The Seals will want to run the ball and control the clock against the Golden Hawks. After shutting out Central last week, the Becahi defense will have to be even better this week and win on first and second down to force the Seals to the air. Becahi is playing with a lot of confidence and would love to keep an up-and-down season going, but must take advantage of all red-zone scoring opportunities, something that didn’t happen last week despite the big win over ACCHS.

Keith Groller’s prediction: Selinsgrove 28-20

Note: Keith Groller’s EPC picks were 2-2 last week. His record is 82-20 this season. 

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