For the fourth year in a row the Saucon Valley Panthers (7-4) will square off against the Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks (9-2) in the District XI finals. The No. 3 Panthers stole the show (and the ball) last week to advance with a lopsided victory over No. 2 Allentown Central Catholic. No. 1 Bethlehem Catholic thumped No. 4 Pottsville 48-7. This year the showdown will take place at Nazareth Area High School with a 7 p.m. kickoff. A victory will keep the hopes for a PIAA state championship alive for one of these teams while a loss will bring the 2017 season to a close for the other.
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…
The dynamic duo of Zach Petiet (#23) and Alstan Wolfe (#5) continue to do most of the heavy lifting for the Panthers. Both seniors are coast-to-coast threats when the ball is in their hands. Zach “Lightning” Petiet has carried 171 times for 1,113 yards. “Lightning” has struck for 17 TD’s. Wolfe, from his quarterback position, has rushed 143 times for 1,252 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has also thrown 95 times for 991 yards and 10 TD’s.
When Wolfe throws, it is most often to classmate Steven Rose (#34). Rosie has 21 receptions for 368 yards with 5 touchdowns. Rose can also be used as a weapon coming in motion from the slot and running jet sweeps. If Rose is covered, Wolfe has no problem targeting juniors Patrick Morrissey (#80), Christian “Mongo” Alling or senior Chris Smith (#9).
For as much as the ball carriers get recognition for their offensive contributions, the Panther offensive line should be given their due. This relatively young and inexperienced group was a bit of a concern coming into the season. But, they have held up admirably. The 2017 offensive linemen include senior Kyle Malone (#58), juniors Tim Weaver (#77), Jared Harka (#61), Aiden Redding (#73) and freshman center David Osman (#60). These now seasoned Hogs have paved the way for an average of 380 yards of offense per game and a total of 63 touchdowns.
Bethlehem Catholic looks like they will mix it up between a 3-3 and 3-4 defense. They are big and strong up the middle with quite a bit of speed outside. Up front they are led by 6’1″, 277 nose guard/defensive tackle Brandon Gill (#51). Gill plays with power and makes his living penetrating through the offensive line and being disruptive. Gill will occasionally bounce out to defensive end and be a force on the edge. Gill is the guy that you have to always account for noted Coach Sams.
Coach Sams also praised Bethlehem Catholic’s linebackers. “All three are big and fast- they can all move.” Senior Peter Iselo (#34), measuring 5’11”, 220, will be found at the middle linebacker position while Paul Carreras (#7) and Carson Badamo (#10) are on the outside. Carreras is a 6’0″, 210 junior and Badamo is a senior that is listed at a hulking 6’3″, 230.
The Hawks give up an average of 20 points per game while the Panthers are accustomed to scoring 40.
When the Hawks have the ball…
Bethlehem Catholic will charge opposing defenses with a spread-gun attack led by quarterback Javon Clements (#12). Clements is a solid 6’2″, 205 and has completed 105 of 182 passes for a remarkable 1,919 yards and 17 touchdowns. Daizhun Rhodes (#5) leads a trio of senior receivers that Clements has helping him out. Rhodes is 5’11”, 165 and has 39 catches for 714 yards and 5 TD’s. Shamus Williams (#2) at 6’1″, 160 also has impressive numbers with 22 snags for 523 yards and 7 scores. That is an average of 23.8 yards per catch. Christan Drayton III (#3) also averages over 20 yards per catch. His 15 grabs for 308 yards earned him a couple of TD’s.
“We need to be prepared for the fact that they will take shots deep often”, said Coach Sams. “They have the speedy receivers to make big plays downfield and their quarterback has the arm to get it there.”
Bethlehem Catholic has a formidable rushing attack as well. The Hawks like to pull guards and their H-back to get them out in front of the ball carrier to block. It is running-back by committee with senior Matt Bisko (#4) leading the way. Bisko is 5’11”, 200 and has 120 carries for 725 yards and 15 TD’s. He is more of the power-back type.
Zaheer Seabrook (#28) is a quick and shifty junior who stands 5’9″, 180. He has rushed 80 times for 520 yards and 5 TD’s.
Finally, sophomore Tavion Banks (#8) plays with a little power and finesse. Banks stands 5’9″, 180 and has run 105 times for 639 yards. Banks is also a very capable receiver snagging 7 of Clements’ throws for 119 yards. He has found the end-zone eleven times this season.
Bethlehem Catholic puts up 41 points per game on average. The Panthers have their work cut out for them to keep the Hawks around their 22-point average. Coach Sams shared, “They are definitely a good team with great size and athletic ability. They are very dangerous. We have to limit our mistakes in all phases to be successful.”
Leading up to this game, much has been said about Bethlehem Catholic being bit by the injury bug. Some say the Golden Hawk faithful are whining and making preemptive excuses should things go south against the Panthers. They go on to say that with BECA’s ability to recruit, it is unlikely any significant holes could exist in their lineup.
Whatever the situation, each team can only field eleven players at a time. Whether the Panthers have enough homegrown firepower to overcome the regional fusion that BECA has created remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however. Coach Sams along with his players and staff will not be intimidated. The Panthers will take the field intent on playing hard with the goal of winning the game and advancing into the state playoffs. Saucon Valley is in this to win it.
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!