Sun-Gazette power poll: Area sends 11 to districts
1. Williamsport (9-1): Millionaire fans have been waiting a long time to see a home playoff game. Williamsport is having its best season in decades, but can really make it special if makes a playoff push, starting tonight. The Millionaires already have won more games than any Williamsport team this century as well as a league championship. Ending a long playoff victory drought would provide another feather in their collective cap.
2. Wellsboro (10-0): Wellsboro has been to defense what Williamsport has been to offense this season. Putting the Hornets regular season in perspective, it is highly this area ever sees a team record seven shutouts in 10 games and allow just 33 points during that span. So just imagine how motivated Hughesville will be tonight, trying to dent that imposing green wall.
3. South Williamsport (9-1): Tonight’s playoff game against Mount Carmel has a 1990s feel to it, back when both teams produced heavyweight teams and state finalists. South entered the season determined to silence critics who wondered how well they would handle a demanding schedule. What started as a chip on their its collective shoulder might now be a boulder because, despite its tremendous season, the Mounties still know some (looking at you, Dr. Masse) are picking Mount Carmel tonight.
4. Loyalsock (8-2): The Lancers and Danville played a memorable semifinal game three years ago and tonight’s game might be even better. Keep an eye on Loyalsock cornerback Sam Newton. He has given the secondary a big lift since joining the lineup and came up big last week against Montoursville.
5. Montoursville (8-2): The Warriors are competing in the district playoffs for a sixth straight season and for the 15th time in the 2000s. There have been other fantastic teams and strong area programs during that time, but Montoursville’s consistency has set the standard. Here’s thinking the current Warriors do not care about that. They want that championship that just barely eluded them last year.
6. Jersey Shore (7-3): Coach Tom Gravish has done a masterful job since taking over in 2012, but this might be his best coaching job yet. The Bulldogs lost most of last year’s starter and have been hit hard by injuries and yet here they are, entering tonight as District 4 Class AAAA’s top seed. Expect Thompson Street Stadium to be rocking tonight. That is one of the area’s best environments and features big and boisterous crowds each week.
7. North Penn-Mansfield (8-2): The Panthers have had some good wins this year but are really in search of a signature victory. They have a shot to earn just that tonight against Line Mountain. This is also is an excellent opportunity to erase the memories of last week’s game against Wellsboro and create some lasting memories on their home field.
8. Hughesville (5-5): The Nos. 5-7 seeds are as dangerous as any in Class AA in recent memory. Hughesville is surging into the postseason and deserves a lot of credit for not folding after starting 2-4 and losing a gut-wrenching Week 6 game. By the way, I am not a betting man, but I guarantee a quarterback the last name Henry wins tonight’s Hughesville-Wellsboro game. Any takers?
9. Lewisburg (4-6): Should we just pencil Lewisburg-Montoursville in for a playoff rematch next November. This is the fourth time in five years these rivals are meeting in the postseason and two of those games have come down to the last play. Quick trivia question. After Southern Columbia anyone know who has the longest district playoff streak going. It’s Lewisburg which is making its ninth straight appearance.
10. Central Mountain (3-7): The Wildcats came a long way from Week 1 and built a could foundation for the coming years. Replacing Justin Neff, however, will be tough. The four-year starter topped 1,000 yards rushing this season and returned 12 kickoffs for touchdowns the past three years.
11. Muncy (4-6): The future is bright at Muncy, but the Indians have the talent to win a championship this season. Tonight is a big challenge but the experience, win or lose, should provide a big lift entering 2017.
12. Warrior Run (4-6): If the Defenders can win a postseason championship against Bloomsburg it would be quite a sendoff into the 2017 season. Warrior Run has taken some lumps down the stretch, but is building something solid.
13. Canton (3-7): The Warriors have the defense that gives it a shot to pull an upset tonight. If the offense gets something going, they will really make it interesting. A team that has been ravaged by injuries still has a shot at carving out its own niche and becoming the first Warrior team in the 2000s to win a playoff game.
14. Cowanesque Valley (3-7): The Indians improved a lot this season and a good core returns next season. This could be a sleeper next season and has a chance to win at least four games for the first time since the program was reinstated in 2004.
15. Montgomery (1-9): The Red Raiders ended their season on a high and took a big step forward next season. They are learning how to win and look like a potential Class A district title contender in 2017.
16. Milton (0-10): There’s nowhere to go but up in 2017.
17. Bucktail (0-10): The same applies for Bucktail which has a lot of its starters returning next season and could make a run at winning at least four games for a fifth time this decade.