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Touchdowns & Home Runs

Most are fully aware, but just for the record, the annual arrival of fall officially occurs this Thursday at 9:04 p.m. While that will not be surprising, the sudden realization that this weekend also marks the halfway point of the 2022 high school football season may catch some fans a bit off guard.

As we approach week five, the biggest news from the scholastic gridiron action has been Loyalsock’s convincing 27-10 win over five-time defending Class AA state champion Southern Columbia. Most likely, no one outside the Lancer camp thought the hour ride to the Tiger’s den would result in anything less than the same fate every other team has experienced in the Catawissa catacomb since Montoursville’s win on the same field eight years ago.

But make no mistake, this victory was no fluke. All three phases of the game — offense, defense, and special teams — were dominated by the motivated Lancers. Southern had not lost a regular season home game since 2010 and has 11 state championship trophies crowded into its expansive trophy case. As one diehard Southern fan remarked after the game, “This was just a beat down. Loyalsock definitely earned this win.” He uttered the words most Tiger supporters never thought they would hear.

This column was written before last Friday’s Lancer challenge with Danville. Still, should they arrive at week five undefeated, they could have smooth sailing until late season meetings with Troy and Montoursville.

The early season has featured impressive showings by Jersey Shore and Canton as the two powerhouses have rolled over their opposition. The Bulldogs destroyed perennial nemesis Selinsgrove in week three 63-0, allowing the Seals no first downs and 14 yards of total offense. In their first three games, they outscored opponents 188-18.

Canton, featuring a senior-laden team ranked as the state’s top Class A team, hosts South Williamsport this Saturday as they seek to defend their District 4 title earned last season. Whatever the outcome, fans will eagerly await a late-season scheduling treat when Jersey Shore visits Canton on October 21.

While some exciting games have been played, a number of contests have been blowouts, with several games being decided by 50 points or more. The PIAA mercy-rule clock doesn’t kick-in in until one team has a 35-point lead in the second half. There are pros and cons pertaining to the mercy rule, but the underlying factor is these are teenage youngsters playing a game they enjoy. Getting blasted by such wide margins can be a blow to the ego. Yet, at the same time, shortening games when the outcome is no longer in doubt reduces the opportunities for substitute players to experience some playing time.

In such cases, the rationale and sportsmanship of the coaching staffs involved play an important factor. Is taking a knee on all three offensive snaps in the third quarter or throwing a touchdown pass in the waning minutes of the game necessary objectives? When sports are played, the objective is to win the game, but once that outcome is in hand, it might be important to consider how one would feel if your team was on the long end of such lopsided games.

As the football season forges ahead, the MLB season is winding down with the eyes of baseball fans are focused on the home run exploits of the Yankees Aaron Judge and the Cardinals Albert Pujols, both chasing milestone records. Judge is trying to catch the Yankee record of 61 long balls in a season set by Roger Maris in 1961, while Pujols is seeking to join Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth as the only players in baseball history to top the 700-career home run mark.

In what is believed to be his final season of a sure-to-be Hall of Fame 22-year career Pujols is entering his final games with a touch of class and professionalism.

In a recent weekend series in Pittsburgh, Pujols hit a double and was seen engaging in conversation with Pirates rookie second baseman Rodolfo Castro who had hit a home run earlier in the game and enjoyed a triumphant stroll around the bases. Pirates’ broadcasters later asked Castro what was the subject of his conversation with Pujols was about.

Castro somewhat sheepishly responded, “He congratulated me on hitting the home run and told me the next time I hit one, I should just run around the bases.”

Two games later, Pujols hit his 697th home run rallying St. Louis to a come-from-behind win. In the stands, Matt and Samantha Brown retrieved the ball and wanted to present it to Pujols after the game. Pujols met with the couple and told them to keep the ball.

“It’s just a baseball. They deserve to have it. It went out of the ballpark,” Pujols said. “We play the game for the fans. So whether they want to give it back or they want to keep it, I don’t have any problem with that.”

Pujols also gifted the couple two signed baseballs to go along with the game ball. The memento came on a surely emotional day for Samantha Brown, as one year ago to the day, her father passed away.

“I think it means more for that girl than me having it in my trophy case,” Pujols stated.

One needs to look no further for a true definition of class.