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Gratitude and Gridiron

Happy Thanksgiving. Take the time to say thanks and enjoy all your blessings and the simplest of things that may be taken for granted.

Remember in your prayers those who may be going through a tough time presently. Maybe they recently lost a loved one or still have that empty chair at the table no matter how much time has passed. Maybe it’s an illness or one of life’s problems they’re dealing with. The holidays can be tough on folks, offer your love and kindness where needed.

Also remember our military men and women serving at home and abroad to protect our freedom. Without these folk’s commitment the world would be a much different place and not for the better. There is also an empty chair at their families table.

Let’s take a break from the problems facing our Country and enjoy family, friends and all the good things going on this time of year. Whether it’s hunting or shopping, maybe a family card game or hike. My favorite is the Thanksgiving Day family football game, The Turkey Bowl as so many call it. What a great way to make room for dessert. Make some time to go visit family especially the most senior members, you will make their day. Get out and live and enjoy today. Thank God for the present and pray for the future.

We have been blessed locally with a great high school football season. Great teams, great players and some great games. South, Sock and Montour are still playing at press time.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like football. I hope you appreciate my special Turkey Day approach to recap the season to this point.

Who do I seat first at our Thanksgiving table? The Jersey Shore Bulldogs. I know there is some “what ifs” and “I’m not hungry right nows” on how the season ended. Let it go. Head Coach Tom Gravish and his staff did an outstanding job. What they have done for their community is priceless; an undefeated regular season that will be remembered forever, a quality football program that has so long been wanted in Bulldog Land, a bond between players and coaches that will never be forgotten, forged at the hand of athletic competition.

A special time at a place that hasn’t had much to cheer about until last year’s unexpected District Championship so I have cooked up a new ending for the Bulldogs season.

Made from a little bit of this and a little pinch of the Dawg that bit so many. I’m proclaiming the Orange and Black’s season officially began with last year’s District Title and ended upon their return this year’s championship game.

Thus, I have the Bulldogs 12 and 0 and Brody Smith intercepting the pumpkin pie ahead of Coach Alex Jackson. Enjoy the holiday season boys and your perfect season!
Next up, the South Williamsport Mounties. Wow! Where do I start? With the main course, of course, the turkey. Dominick Bragalone. And no, I’m not calling him a turkey. Opposing defenses have been fed a steady diet of his rushing ability, no one has yet figured out how to stop this thoroughbred. Yes I am calling him a horse but in a good way.

Next, your sides. Pass the mashed potatoes please. To me these anchor the plate. A simple dish but most important, just like the Mountie “O” line of Connor Rutan, Anthony Caruso, Reilly Barnes, Sam Buck and Cody Nelson. They have enjoyed mashing and smashing anything in front of them all season. Remember, you are only as good as your mashed potatoes.

A little stuffing you say? Filling, as many call it. Coached up breadcrumbs seasoned to the chef’s taste. Versatile, can be served hot or cold. Covered with all the fixings or alone on the side. John Smith, oops I mean John Peters is the stuffing for the Hillsiders. Offense, defense, special-teams. He is a great hunter of the ball carrier and not afraid to knock the stuffing out of them.

Corn anyone? The thing about corn is it often goes unnoticed when it is there, but forget that bowl in the microwave and everyone notices. Sorry honey didn’t mean to tell everyone our corn comes from the Green Giant and in a bag.

Matt Boone plays this role for Coach Eiswerth. He plays QB and is the maestro of the offense. He accepts his role and directs his team. When called upon is a great runner and passer. On a normal football Friday he is the coach on the field and you might forget he’s out there. If he wasn’t there everyone would realize just how important and talented he is.

Booney also enjoys frogging on a warm summer night as seen on Duck Dynasty. I know this because Jimmy is by his side along with Caleb Robbin and Ryan Orgitano. So just for these boys I’m going to add a plate of double battered pan fried frog legs. I’ll pass but you are more than welcome to try them.

Cranberry sauce, to many a holiday garnish. I like mine with a little orange zest and blended but not puréed. It adds color and a little jazz to the plate. Sort of like Riley Thomas does for the Blue and White. Just when Booney makes you think he’s just going to hand it off, Bam!, a big pass play to Riley for a score.

Riley also kicks up the Mountie return game a notch. He has had a record-setting receiving season for South, breaking the previous records set by my cousin-in-law, pal and Hunter’s baseball coach Sammy Esposito. Coach John Zalonis was guiding the Mounties back then. Boy did I enjoy watching his teams play. Coach Z led South to the brink of a State Championship. Before that he was my defensive coordinator at Sock back in the day.

All we need now is a little gravy to cover our feast. Gravy can cover the chef’s mistake of over cooking the bird. A little dry, just a little more gravy please.
Tyler Schonewolf is on the ladle for the Mounties. He does a great job of covering the field and hiding defensive mistakes. He also covers South’s blocking needs on the edge and is a receiving weapon that could pay big dividends during the State Tournament.

Room for dessert or too full? Maybe some pumpkin or coconut cream pies or a piece of carrot cake? Dessert Mountie style is Gideon Green and Ashton Martin. The freshman have been the icing on the cake. I knew both would be outstanding high school football players someday. But Gideon has been darn good this year and Ashton has provided depth and speed. Both are contributors on Friday nights.

Coach Chris Eiswerth and his staff may have the best ingredients in the area, but prepare them wrong and ruin the result. Chris and his head coaching success come as no surprise to me. No coach locally has logged more miles driving. See, Chris teaches at Troy and whether it has been Warrior Run, Williamsport, Loyalsock or now South his coaching day begins with his thoughts of drives for touchdowns while driving to practice from the Northern Tier.

With the support of his family and some downright hard work and dedication Chris worked his way up the coaching ladder and has become an outstanding head coach. Keep on working on and moving on Coach Eiswerth.

I haven’t forgotten the Lancers and Warriors. Just like the Pilgrims and Indians, who thought they would be sitting across from each other at a District Final?
Coach JC Keefer is flat out a football coach. His team is fundamentally sound and prepared. They have improved the most of any local team. He has faced his share of coaching headaches and found the Advil for all of them. I would have never thought at mid season he would be coaching for a district crown.

Brycen Mussina has improved since week one more than any other signal caller in our area. With a season now under his belt he’s no longer a rookie and those early-season miscues have become late-season big plays. He throws a beautiful catchable ball. You receiving folks out there know what I’m talking about. He has been the musket added to the running of Keith Batkowski that has helped the Warriors turn the corner.

Let’s not forget the “O” line and what job they have done. I’ve said it before Mikey Signor is a beast. Wyatt Entz continues to make big plays. Curtis Miller returned from injury and has been a playmaker and gave the team an emotional lift.

These Warriors are also young and gaining great experience. Josh Dinges, Nolan Ott and Mitchell Rothrock are names to remember. They will be a team to be reckoned with next year. If they keep improving they may play into December this year.

The first go around Sock and Montour played the “Tale of two halves.” The Warriors held on after the Lancers rallied late. Sock has followed a similar path to the Warriors. Things didn’t look so good early in the season. Pocahontas could have scored on Maroon’s defense. Coach Justin VanFleet and his staff rallied the troops.
He also has the right ingredients; it has been his ability to be patient and mix his veterans with his young bucks that has been most impressive. He knew there would be mistakes and troubles but the Lancers have improved and persevered.

Kyle Datres and sophomore Marty Clark have been a great one-two punch by ground. Fletcher Quigley has made big plays receiving and in the return game. Young folks Larry Vanstavoren, Marcus Williams and Nate Krizan can make plays by air.

The number one improvement has been by Coach Tim Thompson’s defense. They can now stop people. A close second is the play of the offensive line. They have overcome injuries and other problems, most notable losing the Big Fella Jake Glavine for the season, to become a key factor in the Lancers late season success. This was most evident when the Maroon and White made leftovers out of Mount Carmel’s defense.

Dan Harrison has been solid all year, Justin Wood has made himself a good football player. Kaden Strensland’s return from injury has been key. Crae McCracken is as tough as nails. Other lineman like Brennen Moodie, Pat Swink, James Jenks have stepped in and stepped up. Amazing, the only word to describe Coaches Don Kinney’s and Joe DiFrancesco’s efforts with the line.

Who will win the Montour/Sock game? I would never bet against Kyle Datres. He can now smell that gold medal. Kyle is “The Man” but it isn’t just his ability to run or pass that makes him special, it is his drive to win.

Whoever wins, what a great matchup to have. Indians versus Pilgrims, I mean Warriors versus Lancers winner moves on to the State Tournament. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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