Finally! The 2018 high school football season is making its way to Saucon Valley. The Panthers (2-0) are off to a great start defeating Southern Lehigh in the Week 1 opener and beating the Pen Argyl Green Knights by mercy-rule last week. Saucon returns home to scrap with the Palmerton Blue Bombers (0-2). Don’t let the Bombers winless record fool you, they are much, MUCH better than advertised. They are a very good football team with a ton of athleticism and skill. Palmerton stumbled out of the blocks and came up short against Palisades and Southern Lehigh the past two weeks. Last year, the Blue Bombers overcame a 28-14 deficit to defeat the Panthers on their home turf by a score of 29-28. With a little payback on Saucon’s mind, this is shaping up to be a knockdown, drag-out battle.
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…..
Expect to see Palmerton swarm to the ball and bring a ton of pressure from their base 4-4 defense. Certainly more quicker and tougher than they are big, the Blue Bombers defensive linemen only average about 200 pounds each. Palmerton will likely crowd eight or nine defenders into the box and challenge Saucon by matching up man-to-man on the Panther receivers.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody in the Lehigh Valley that the Panthers are a run-first football team. Senior Ian Csicsek (#28) has, so far, proven to be the primary workhorse for Saucon Valley. He has carried 40 times for 323 yards and 5 TD’s this season. Csicsek is a grinder who runs patiently with great vision. Joining Csicsek in the backfield will be a trio of Panther seniors in Justin Kyra (#22), Kelvin Gallard (#27) and Christian “Mongo” Alling (#33). Kyra averages over 5-yards per carry while Alling and Gallard do most of their heavy lifting as blockers.
Sharing the pigskin with his teammates and calling the signals for Saucon will be freshman quarterback Dante Mahaffey (#12). Mahaffey is off to a solid start in his first season completing 11 of 17 passes for 174 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He has proven to be a dual-threat guy and has no problem keeping the ball and running with it on option plays. When Mahaffey throws, his favorite target is 6’2″, 215 senior tight-end, Patrick Morrissey (#80). Morrissey averages 17.2 yards per reception and has logged four catches this year. Through the air, Mahaffey has found Dane Csencsits (#32) and Ryan Holub (#13) in the end zone for scores this season.
2018 Panther Play-Makers
- QB: #12 Fr. Dante Mahaffey, #16 Sr. C.J. Stump
- RB: #22 Sr. Justin Kyra, #27 Sr. Kelvin Gallard, #28 Sr. Ian Csicsek, #32 Jr. Dane Csencsits, #33 Sr. Christian “Mongo” Alling, RB: #38 Sr. Curtis Clifford
- WR: #6 Sr. Justin Clements, #11 Fr. Ty Csencsits, #13 Sr. Ryan Holub, #18 Fr. Eternal (E.T.) Aris, #21 Sr. Reily Hudak
- TE: #80 Sr. Patrick Morrissey, #44 Jr. Dale Sorensen
Leading the way for the Saucon Valley ground attack are the 2018 Hogs. Seniors Tim “Boss Hog” Weaver, Aidan Redding and Jared Harka along with junior Evan Deily and sophomore David Osman are solid up front with a little bit of nastiness and size. Nick Warnke (#70) at 6’1″, 275 is becoming another Hog in the Panther rotation. Saucon Valley is very good in the trenches and it is with great pride that they play their brand of “bully ball”.
The 2018 Hogs: Week 3
- Left Tackle: #77 Sr. Tim Weaver 6’5″, 285
- Left Guard: #61 Sr. Jared Harka 5’9″, 210
- Center: #60 So. David Osman 6’0″, 225
- Right Guard: #65 Jr. Evan Deily 6’1″, 225
- Right Tackle: #73 Sr. Aidan Redding 6’3″, 290
When the Blue Bombers have the ball…..
Palmerton runs a shotgun, spread offense that is based on quickness and speed. Expect to see a lot of motion and quick running backs along with a quick-strike passing attack. The Blue Bombers have shown that they will take an occasional shot down the field with a long pass, but it seems as if they lack a little confidence with their pass protection. They aren’t very big in the trenches, but they have a lively stable of dangerous ball carriers and receivers. The Bombers like to get to the perimeter in a hurry with an assortment of jet sweeps, swing passes and bubble screens. Overall, their offense is wildly inconsistent, but they do have the talent to create big plays.
The Bombers Up-Front
- Tackle #66 Sr. Mason George 5’11”, 175
- Guard #57 Jr. Braden Gower 5’10”, 200
- Center #61 Sr. Eric Keck 5’9″, 190
- Guard #79 Sr. Daniel Howard 5’10”, 290
- Tackle #68 Sr. Austin Heydt 5’11”, 225
It is interesting to see that Palmerton does not have a single quarterback listed on their roster. Rather, they claim 20 wide-receivers and three running-backs. Nonetheless, in two games the majority of snaps have been taken by dual-threat freshman Lucas Heydt (#30). Heydt is very athletic and listed at 5’8″, 160. Passing 6 of 9 for 118 yards and a touchdown and rushing three times for 15 yards, he put up some solid stats in their 49-14, Week-One loss to Palisades. However, in the Week-Two contest against Southern Lehigh, he struggled with his throws completing only 8 of 28 attempts and tossing four interceptions. Heydt was, however, able to run the ball effectively against the Spartans as he carried 20 times for 93 yards and a TD. As a unit, the Blue Bombers have only completed 37% of their passes and have thrown a total of six interceptions so far this season.
There are plenty of weapons around Heydt including Aaron Stasko (#1), Andrew Sabo (#5) and Jordan Nelson (#6). Stasko, a senior, sometimes lines up as the Bombers quarterback and is very good with the ball in his hands. Listed at 5’7″, 175, Stasko possesses the speed and elusiveness that makes him the big-play type. Stasko is averaging 32-yards per catch this season. Sabo and Nelson are juniors who are also of the big-play variety. Sabo, who usually lines up in the backfield, runs with a purpose and is listed at a solid 5’10”, 195. Nelson, a wideout who hauled in 32 catches last season for the Bombers, is a nice target at 6’2″, 185.
Senior Eli Rivera (#81) is also a Blue Bomber to watch out for. He is on the roster at 5’7″, 155 but brings some more big-play potential to the field for Palmerton. Rivera is averaging 22-yards per reception this season and on Week 2 had three catches for 92 yards against Southern Lehigh.
2018 Panther Defense
- DE’s: #65 Jr. Evan Deily, #80 Sr. Patrick Morrissey, #44 Jr. Dale Sorensen
- DT’s: #61 Sr. Jared Harka, #77 Sr. Tim Weaver,
- ILB’s: #32 Jr. Dane Csencsits, #33 Sr. Christian “Mongo” Alling,
- OLB’s: #28 Sr. Ian Csicsek, #27 Sr. Kelvin Gallard, #5 Jr. Aiden Renninger, #38 Curtis Clifford
- DB’s: #13 Sr. Ryan Holub, #21 Sr. Reily Hudak, #22 Sr. Justin Kyra, #11 Fr. Ty Csencsits
A key matchup will be the speed of the Blue Bombers against the perimeter of the Panther defense. If the Saucon Valley defensive ends and outside linebackers can contain the Bomber rushing attacking and keep the ball inside of them with consistency then the Palmerton offense will have trouble getting traction. That being said, the Blue Bomber passing attack is a concern. Palmerton has not been very efficient throwing the football, but a few big completions to the dangerous Blue Bomber receivers will keep Palmerton in this contest.
It will be no easy task for the Panthers. This very well could be the best all-around team that the Panthers have faced so far. Palmerton has a number of talented and dangerous players that play fast. If the Panther defense gets caught flat-footed and out of position, they could find themselves in some trouble. Perhaps even more concerning is that Palmerton is desperate. They are a solid program starving for their first win.
- Friday Night Football Forecast:
- Light winds with temperatures in the low 70’s. 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms.
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!