FOOTBALL: Northern Lebanon, Palmyra look to build on strong starts
The Northern Lebanon and Palmyra football teams could not have begun the 2015 season much better than they did last Friday.
Unless you consider wins of 52-0 and 27-6 with two defensive touchdowns each to be unacceptable debuts.
Unfortunately for the Vikings and Cougars, their respective standing ovation-worthy opening acts won't mean as much if they can't follow it up with another impressive performance this week in battles with county rivals Lebanon and Elco.
Then again, it beats the alternative by a wide margin.
"It is just one game," said Palmyra coach Chris Pope, whose squad hosts 0-1 Elco on the heels of a 27-6 road triumph over East Pennsboro last week. "We're really pleased with the win, and I feel like we played a quality opponent. So I think that kind of gives you a lot of confidence and affirms what you feel.
"At the same time, you now have to meet an expectation. We did something good there and now we're coming back home in front of our hometown and there's gonna be an expectation of how you're gonna play. You have to elevate yourself and meet that expectation."
Meanwhile, Northern Lebanon set the bar rather high as well last week by pummeling Pine Grove 52-0 to begin its 2015 slate.
The Vikings will have some built-in motivation to avoid a Week 2 letdown when they head to Alumni Stadium to face a Lebanon squad it hasn't had much luck with in recent years. Since the series began in 2010, Northern Lebanon has won just once — a 21-0 decision in 2012.
The Cedars dropped a lopsided 41-7 decision to Cedar Crest in the Cedar Bowl last week, but still boast dangerous weapons in running back Malik Hunter and quarterback Cody Kissinger.
"Lebanon is a very good team, and for whatever reason, they have our number," NL coach Roy Wall said of the Cedars. "And they've decided not to play us anymore — this is the end of the series — so that's motivation."
Palmyra will be facing a dangerous opponent as well in Elco, coming off a somewhat mystifying 30-8 loss to Hamburg but guided by a strong-armed senior quarterback in Jeff Martin.
"There's something there that I don't understand, because they're a good football team, without a doubt," Pope said of Elco. "They're returning a lot of guys, they have depth on the line and they have a great starting quarterback who is very efficient. I'm not quite sure what happened there. But just like when you win, no one cares what happened last week. We have to prepare for a very good football team. (Elco coach) Bob Miller is gonna have that team ready to go."
That said, opponents of Palmyra and Northern Lebanon will have their hands full as well this week.
The Cougars have, in addition to various other standouts, a quality running back tandem in Carl Reigle and Alon Rhette, who both also scored on interception returns last week, while Northern Lebanon boasts a stifling defense led by senior lineman Matt Vines and playmakers on offense in quarterback Isaac Wengert and running back Dylan Weaver, among others.
And despite some notable graduation losses from last season's Section Three title team, the Vikings appear to have picked up where they left off if last week's performance is any indication.
"We don't worry about the people that aren't here, we just coach up the people that are," Wall said. "Hopefully we've been able to establish a program with the next-man-standing mentality. Those guys move on and the next guys are ready to go. And this year I think we do have guys that are ready to go."
Also on tap this week for Lebanon County teams:
CEDAR CREST AT LOWER DAUPHIN, HERSHEYPARK STADIUM>> Cedar Crest is flying high after last Friday's 41-7 beatdown of Lebanon in the Cedar Bowl, and rightfully so.
The question is can it stay in that stratosphere against typically tough customer Lower Dauphin?
LD, also nicknamed the Falcons, isn't exactly scraping the ground, either, after opening with a 35-21 rivalry game of its own over Middletown in the Iron Spike Bowl.
Four touchdown passes from quarterback Tommy Klock keyed the LD win, setting up an interesting matchup with the Falcons from South Lebanon, who relied heavily on Justice Belleman's power running behind a physical offensive line last week.
HAMBURG AT ANNVILLE-CLEONA >> A-C worked overtime and then some last week, enduring a one-hour lightning delay and two overtimes to outlast Biglerville 39-36 on the road.
Whether that much effort will be required this week remains to be seen, but Hamburg should not be taken lightly after upending Elco 30-8 last week behind a big night from running back Ignacio Reynoso.
A-C had a prime time performer in its own right last week in senior quarterback Adam Fox, who ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns and took an interception back for another score en route to earning Section Three Back of the Week honors from the Lancaster-Lebanon Quarterback Club.