Friday night the 8-1 Saucon Valley Panthers will welcome the 7-2 Palisades Pirates to Hellertown after last week’s epic victory at Notre Dame. The Pirates will by no means be an easy out and the Panthers must be ready to be all-in for this rivalry game. Palisades represents the one last hurdle for the Panthers to clear before claiming sole ownership of the 2016 Colonial League title. It would be the third consecutive Colonial League title for the Panthers. A loss would force Saucon to share the title with Palisades and most likely Notre Dame. A loss may also eliminate the Panthers from District XI and PIAA playoff contention.
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…
Offensively, the Panthers like to showcase their powerful rushing attack. Junior Zach “Lightning” Petiet (#23) leads the way with 19 TDs. He currently has 1,265 on 160 carries, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. “Lightning” is a threat to strike from anywhere on the field at anytime.
Dual-threat senior quarterback Brandon Holub has some good wheels as well. Holub has rushed 69 times for 351 yards and 5 touchdowns. In addition to running option, Holub is perhaps most effective when he drops back to pass and then tucks the ball and runs creating positive plays when no better option is available. He is a proven dual-threat quarterback.
The Panthers will also have the services of their original starting running back, Nate Kehs. Kehs, a senior, suffered a lower body injury in week 3 against Palmerton and last week finally made his way back onto the field against Notre Dame. Last week he saw limited action, rushing 4 times for 39 yards. For the year, Kehs is averaging 11 yards per carry. Having Kehs available certainly makes Saucon Valley a stronger team. His skillset along with his leadership is a big shot of adrenaline for the Panthers.
The Panthers aerial attack seems back on track as well. Through the air Holub has completed 45 of 74 of his passes for 11 touchdowns. With only 3 interceptions, he has completed 61 percent of his passes. In the big game against Notre Dame Holub completed 7 of 8 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Holub’s main man is 5’10”, 170 Alstan Wolfe (#5). Wolfe has 23 catches for 457 yards and 9 TDs for the year. His 9 TD receptions in one season is a new Saucon Valley school record. Wolfe averages 19.9 yards per catch and has also returned a punt for a touchdown. In addition to Wolfe, Palisades had better keep an eye on the reliable Kory Kemmerer (#4). Last week the Panther senior stepped up in the bright spotlight to grab 4 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Kemmerer has proven he can deliver in big games.
Of course, the Hogs (Steven Good, Ryan Meyers, Trey Polak, Tim Weaver and Cody Zrinski) need a little slop thrown their way too as they are a HUGE reason the Panther running attack is so effective. Teams have done everything they can to keep Petiet & Company from moving the chains and scoring touchdowns. Aside from Northwestern Lehigh, where the game was played in a big mud puddle, the Hogs have been superior. The Hogs certainly have something to do for the Panthers, averaging 36 points per game.
Palisades is undersized up front but they are a quick, scrappy bunch. A determined set of Hogs firing out low, and getting powerfully off the ball will be a major challenge for the Palisades defensive line to overcome.
The Pirates give up an average of 20 points per contest from their base 5-2 defense. As a team, Palisades seems to be lacking overall size, but they definitely play fast and feisty. They look to make up for their lack of size with their toughness and tenacity. Saucon Valley will likely try to establish the run early and then open the offense a bit, looking for more of a run-pass balance. Saucon’s rushing attack is their strong suit, but their passing attack can be dangerous as well.
When the Pirates have the ball…
Palisades scores an average of 29 points per game while Saucon’s defense gives up only 13. The Pirates come across as a run-first team, but sophomore quarterback Ethan Brader (#12) shows he can throw the quick, short routes and the intermediate routes with accuracy and precision. He has completed 49 of 90 passes for 762 yards and 9 TDs. Brader stands 5’11”, is 162 and has also shown he can run with the ball. He has carried 72 times for 312 yards and 4 TDs.
The Pirates’ biggest threat appears to be shifty junior running back Jared Colletti (#1). He measures in at 5’8″, 155 and has 144 carries for 894 yards with 14 TDs. Colletti prefers to bounce to the outside and has a knack for making people miss with his quick feet and change of speed.
The Pirates also dish the ball to sophomore Trey Gretzinger (#44). Gretzinger, too, is listed at 5’8″, 155. He has run 36 times for 297 yards and 2 TDs, averaging a very impressive 8 yards per carry. Both Colletti and Gretzinger seem to take pride in finishing their runs with a pop. They are both physical runners who don’t mind mixing it up. It should be a very entertaining evening.
Look for Palisades to come out in an “I” formation and see if they can pound the ball against the Panthers. They will attempt to beat Saucon Valley with their quickness off the ball and try to out-tough the Panthers. When the Pirates do try to pound the ball, look for Panther linebackers Stephen Good (#65) and Dino Zaharakis (#30) with their combined 144 tackles to corral Coletti and keep him bottled up.
The Pirates will also try to spread the Panthers out and find holes in their defense from a variety of spread, shotgun formations. As mentioned before, Brader has shown he can throw the short and intermediate balls.
It is going to be another magnificent night for high school sports. With two teams coming together and playing high stakes football, you better believe it is going to be an intense atmosphere. If the Panthers come out focused on their individual jobs and execute their responsibilities with a little attitude, they should be able to withstand the Pirate’s pesky push.
Palisades may stick around for awhile with their toughness and desire, but barring excessive turnovers and penalties the momentum should gradually turn the Panthers way. These Pirates are hungry for a championship and believe they have a golden opportunity in front of them. If Palisades gets the win, not only will they earn themselves a share of the Colonial League title, but according to Coach Sams they will also receive the #1 seed in 3A Districts. But, the Panthers will be motivated to come out on top at all costs. These Panthers will refuse to lose.
Saucon Source will be there from kickoff to handshake, and we hope to see you there too! Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!