The Saucon Valley Panthers (2-0) will load up the bus on Friday and travel north to Palmerton for their first roadtrip of the 2017 season and take on the Blue Bombers (1-1). The Panthers are coming off two lopsided victories against the Bangor Slaters and the Pen Argyl Green Knights. The Bombers started red-hot with a 42-14 thumping of Northwestern Lehigh, but got smacked around in a 44-0 shutout by Southern Lehigh. Last year, the Panthers shot down the Bombers 35-7. With a Friday night forecast in the low 60’s and light winds, it should be another great night to take in some Panther football!
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…
Offensively, Saucon Valley has, so far, unleashed a lethal rushing attack that has demonstrated some big-time, big-play capability. The Panthers have scored twelve touchdowns running the football. Nine of those rushing scores were from at least 20 yards out. Six were from over 30-yards and three were from over 50 yards away.
Dual-threat quarterback Alstan Wolfe has been nothing short of amazing. Wolfe averages almost 16 yards per carry. He has only nine totes, but they went for 141 yards and four TD’s. His, often super-freaky, touchdowns were from 5, 16, 34 and 55 yards out. The senior has also completed 63% of his passes going 10 of 16 for 164 yards. He has a 14-yard TD pass to Steven Rose on his stellar gridiron resume as well.
As good as Wolfe has been, it is Zach “Lightning” Petiet who leads the Panthers rushing attack. Petiet averages 14 carries and 132 yards per game. He has scored six touchdowns. Five are rushing TDs from 14, 21, 26, 35 and 46 yards away. Petiet also has an interception that he returned 65 yards for a score. It is worth mentioning that “Lightning” has struck a few other times on long runs that have been called back due to penalties.
Petiet and Wolfe certainly provide a ton of offensive punch for the Panthers. But, senior Steven Rose and junior Kelvin Gallard can bring the big play as well. Each has a 50+ yard touchdown run to their credit this season. In addition to his TD reception from Wolfe, Rose hit a big run in the season opener against Bangor while Gallard popped a trap up the Green-Knight’s gut last week for a 59-yard score.
Palmerton will likely try and smother the Saucon Valley offense and suffocate the Panthers immediately after the ball is snapped. The Blue-Bombers mix it up with what looks like a 3-4 and 4-4 defense. They also seem to like a 4-2-5 “nickel” package. Palmerton is not afraid to go man-to-man; “Cover-0” with no safety help over the top. They often bring the blitz. The Bombers did show a little 3-deep look on occasion, but look for them to mostly crowd the line of scrimmage with 8 or 9 bodies. Palmerton likes to “draw the line” right at the line of scrimmage and try to tie you up before you can execute your offense.
The Blue-Bombers don’t look very big, but they are fast, aggressive and like to blitz. This might cause the young Hogs a little trouble up front. This will be the smallest, but quickest, defensive front that the Panthers have faced so far. Keep your eyes on the battles taking place in the trenches. It will be interesting to see how the Hogs hold up.
When the Blue-Bombers have the ball…
The Palmerton offense most certainly revolves around dual-threat quarterback, Tekoah Guedos. He is a 6’0, 200 senior who is a powerful runner and very good thrower. In the Bomber victory over Northwestern Lehigh, Guedos earned his wings passing as he went 20 of 39 for 223 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed an impressive 18 times for 136 yards and 3 TD’s. However, in the loss against Southern Lehigh, Guedos went stone-cold going only 11 of 22 for 49 yards with no TD’s and two interceptions. Guedos was also bottled up running the football as he only managed 14 yards on seven carries.
The Bombers like to run a “shotgun-spread” using mostly 3×1 and 2×2 sets out wide and a lot of motion. They looked very sharp against Northwestern Lehigh forcing the Tigers to defend the perimeter against jet sweeps, swing passes and bubble screens. Guedos does have the ability to throw the long ball at times, but they were very effective with the quick pass game.
Guedos has a bit of a supporting cast that consists of a couple of capable receivers. Mike Eckhart (#24) is 6’0″,165 and Aaron Stasko (#1) who is a junior listed at 5’8″,170. Eckhart had six catches for 123 yards and a TD opening night against Northwestern Lehigh. Stasko has produced consistently getting about seven touches per game.
Sophomore Andrew Sabo (#5) is also someone to keep an eye on. He measures 5’10”,185 and, aside from Guedos, is the Bombers featured ball carrier. He averages about nine carries per game and earns himself about five yards per carry. Sabo is also a weapon receiving out of the backfield getting about four catches per game. Most of his grabs were on swing passes.
Guedos seems to be the only legitimate run threat between the tackles. One of their favorite plays is when Guedos takes the snap, flashes a quick fake to Sabo and follows his pulling linemen out the back door on a “Q-Counter Trey”.
If you sit back and the Bomber aerial assault is on, they are a difficult team to defend. It looks like you need to go after them and get in their face with pressure. The goal would be to pressure Guedos and don’t give him room, don’t let him get comfortable. Against a “vanilla” defense, Palmerton will attack the perimeter, hit the short pass, pound Guedos on Q-Counter and take calculated shots down the field with skinny posts, wheels and fades. They are not afraid to throw the deep-ball on first down.
Southern Lehigh probably learned from the Northwestern Lehigh tape. If you just sit back against the Bombers, they will keep you off balance and pick you apart. But, it seems as if an attacking defense pays better dividends against Palmerton.
Palmerton is an interesting team. Which team is going to show up? They are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who are the Panthers going to get? Will the Bombers come out slinging, sharp and polished, like they did against the Tigers? Or, will their offense bog down and sputter like it did against the Spartans. Make no mistake about it though, if the Blue Bombers can muster their “A-game” against Saucon Valley on Friday night, then the Panthers will have to answer with an “A-game” of their own.
Saucon Source will be making the trip to Palmerton for another fantastic night of high school football. We will be on-hand to support the Panthers in their quest for a fourth consecutive Colonial League title. We hope to see you there!
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!