The post-season begins on Friday night for the #5 seeded Saucon Valley Panthers (6-4) as they travel to J. Birney Crum Stadium to mix it up with the #4 Allentown Central Catholic Vikings (6-4) in the PIAA District XI AAAA playoffs. The Panthers limp into the postseason being down a handful of two-way starters and face a Viking team that seemed to have gotten better and better as the season rolled along. Central defeated Bethlehem Catholic last week 31-24 and fell just short with their comeback effort against powerhouse Freedom 34-31. A win will keep the season alive for Saucon Valley while a loss brings about the end to their 2019 season.
Things Worth Watching:
When the Panthers have the ball…
Defensively, Central Catholic banks on a 3-5-3. They tackle well and are well-coached. In the trenches, the Vikings are huge thanks mostly to sophomore Lavon Johnson (#90). Johnson breaks the scale being listed at 6’4″, 340. He dwarfs his linemates, but Benjamin Carbonetto and John Fifield are hardly small. Carbonetto is a senior who measures 6’3″, 280 while Fifield, a junior, is a solid 5’11”, 225. Their linebackers, who include senior Brian Horoshko and juniors Leroy Johnson and Mason Maxsim, average around 6’0″, 205. The Viking defense likes to blitz, especially off the edge and, as a unit they run to the ball with a purpose. The Panthers, who average twenty-four points per game will have their work cut out for them. The Viking defense has made it a habit to give up 22 points per game.
The proud Panther rushing attack is led by Braydyn Lugardo (#20). Lugardo is a senior who measures a solid 5’7″, 190 and has 125 carries for 638 yards to go along with his 9 TD’s. He is built low to the ground and possesses a whole lot of quickness and power. Lugardo is a tough customer who fights for every yard.
Also carrying the pigskin for the Panthers will be sophomore Damian Garcia (#30) who measures 5’10”, 165. Even though Lugardo has been the hot hand and getting a lot of attention lately, Garcia is the one closing in on his first 1,000 yard season. Garcia has run 111 times for 949 yards so far. He has scored a total of six touchdowns and averages over 8-yards per carry. Three of Garcia’s TD’s are from 50 yards out or more including one from 86 yards away. He has the potential to be a game-changing and explosive runner.
Saucon Valley’s offense is known for its rushing attack, and the field general who leads it is sophomore quarterback, Dante Mahaffey (#12). Mahaffey is talented and of the dual-threat variety. He has completed 25 of 57 passes for 460 yards and six TD’s. On the ground, he is credited for carrying 93 times for 376 yards with ten additional touchdowns. Last week against Palisades, Mahaffey was off to a great start with three carries for fifty yards and a touchdown. However, he left the game in the first quarter with a lower body injury and did not return. With Mahaffey’s status currently unknown for Friday night, freshman Travis Riefenstahl (#14) may be called on to run the Panther offense. Riefenstahl filled in admirably in Mahaffey’s absence completing a couple of key passes and scoring the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but Mahaffey’s on-field presence would be a bonus.
When the Panthers pass, it is likely Alex Magnotta (#8) who will be targeted first. Magnotta, who stands 6’0″, 155, is a nice-sized target for the Panther quarterbacks. He leads the Panther receivers with 9 catches for 108 yards and a TD. In addition to Magnotta, look for senior Kevin Schoch (#82) and sophomore E.T. Aris (#18) to step up for the injury-depleted Panthers.
2019 Panther Play-Makers
- QB: #12 So. Dante Mahaffey, #14 Fr. Travis Riefenstahl
- RB: #20 Sr. Braydyn Lugardo, #30 So. Damian Garcia
- FB: #34 Fr. Tyler Pfizenmayer
- WR: #8 Fr. Alex Magnotta, #82 Sr. Kevin Schoch, #18 So. E.T. Aris
- TE: #80 Sr. Bobby Yovish, #5 Sr. Aiden Renninger
The good news for the Panthers is that the Hogs, led by seniors Evan Deily (#65) and Nick Warnke (#77), should be together for the second week in a row. They will be joined by three-year starter David Osman (#60), Eli Deily (#76) and Cody Swinney (#56). Deily and Osman are juniors, Swinney is a sophomore. When healthy, these Hogs and their rough and tumble brand of “bully-ball” is difficult to stop. They struggled against the pinching pressure brought by Palisades last week, but the consistency of playing together again should bring improvement this week even though they are giving up a little size to the Vikings.
The 2019 Hogs: Week 11
- Left Tackle: #77 . Sr. Nick Warnke 6’2″, 235
- Left Guard: #60 Jr. David Osman 6’0″, 245
- Center: #56 So. Cody Swinney 5’11”, 250
- Right Guard: #65 Sr. Evan Deily 6’1″ , 225
- Right Tackle: #76 Jr. Eli Deily 6’4″, 290
When the Vikings have the ball…
Look for Central Catholic to run a spread-gun offense using mostly 3×1 sets. They seem to lean toward being a run-first team, but they do possess the proven ability to throw. Leading the Viking charge is junior running back Jayden Williams (#24). Williams packs a punch at 6’1″, 220 and is shifty with excellent vision. Williams also has decent hands and is used as a weapon out of the backfield.
- QB: #2 Jr. Matthew Rauscher 6’3″, 210
- RB: #24 Jr. Jayden Williams 6’1″, 220
- FB: #20 Sr. Ryan Walczak 5’11”, 225
- WR: #1 Sr. Jeremy Rivera 6’1″, 195, #3 Sr. George Hlavac 5’11”, 185, #15 Jr. Jack McGorry 5’10”, 185
Feeding Williams the ball is Viking quarterback Matt Rauscher (#2). Rauscher, at 6’3″, 210, is a dual-threat type of guy who will consistently hurt defenses with his arm as well as his feet. Even if the Panthers can cover up the Viking receivers downfield, Rauscher has the knack of finding a crease in the pass-rush lanes and picking up big yardage.
Rauscher has a trio of receivers who seem to separate themselves from the rest of the Viking roster. Seniors George Hlavac (#3) and Jeremy Rivera (#1) along with junior Jack McGorry (#15) are all capable parts of the Central Catholic stable. Hlavac, in particular, has made more than his fair share of spectacular plays. He is fun to watch.
In addition to his wideouts, Rauscher will have the quality services of junior tight end, Christian Spugnardi (#81). Spugnardi is an athletic 6’4″, 225 and could be a matchup nightmare for the Panther secondary.
The Vikings Up-Front
- Tackle #52 Sr. Nicholas Reimer 6’8″, 300
- Guard #77 Jr. John Fifield 5’11”, 225
- Center #51 Sr. Benjamin Carbonetto 6’3″, 280
- Guard #72 Jr. A.J. Colon 5’11”, 245
- Tackle #78 Fr. Michael Crounse 6’4″, 265
After a slow start to the season, Central Catholic’s offense is now hitting on all cylinders. The past two weeks, the Vikings have scored 31 points against both Bethlehem Catholic and the Freedom Patriots who are two of the best programs in the Lehigh Valley. The Saucon Valley defense has struggled at times, especially against the pass, when defending their Colonial League foes. The Panther defense has given up an average of 23 points per game and will be challenged by the Viking offense .
2019 Panther Defense
- DE’s: #65 Sr. Evan Deily, #77 Sr. Nick Warnke
- DT’s: #60 Jr. David Osman, #76 Jr. Eli Deily
- ILB’s: #20 Sr. Braydyn Lugardo, #34 Fr. Tyler Pfizenmayer
- OLB’s: #30 So. Damian Garcia, #22 Fr. Josh Torres
- DB’s: #82 Sr. Kevin Schoch, #80 Jr. Jiziah Davis, #18 So. E.T. Aris
This Friday night football fight will be no easy task for the Panthers. Central Catholic is bigger, faster and has a whole lot more experience than Saucon. It is, however, a great opportunity for the homegrown Panthers to compete with one of the better teams in the entire area and see how they stack up. Saucon Valley will be looking to play assignment perfect and mistake-free football against the Vikings to try and keep this game close into the fourth quarter. If they can do that, then they can possibly shock football fans throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond with an upset victory!
- Friday Night Football Forecast:
- Cold! with temperatures falling through the mid to lower 40’s during the game. Overnight low 32.
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!