Football preview: Williamsport at Coughlin

Williamsport facts: The Millionaires are hoping to bounce back after last week’s 55-17 loss against undefeated Delaware Valley. That decision likely means Delaware Valley will have homefield advantage throughout the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA playoffs, but the Millionaires can secure a first-round home game with a strong finish. Williamsport is second in the standings but Scranton and Hazleton are close behind. Williamsport overcame double-digit deficits to win its last three games, but fell behind by 24 at halftime last week and never recovered. Some of the bad habits Williamsport developed in those close wins, specifically poor tackling, especially haunted it last week. The defense has made some big stops in comeback wins but also has struggled mightily the last few weeks and surrendered 503 yards against Delaware Valley. Williamsport snapped a six-game losing streak to Coughlin last year, dominating the second half, erasing a halftime deficit and winning, 49-28. Quarterback Joe Fagnano leads the area in yards (1,562 yards) and touchdowns (18) and Marcus Simmons leads the area in catches (44), yards (636) and touchdowns (7). Running backs Latrelle Jackson and Blaze McClements have combined for four 100-yard games but Williamsport could generate no running game last week and, with sacks added in, was held to eight yards. Four-year starting guard Kurt Danneker will play at Ohio next season and has been one of the area’s best linemen this decade. Tucker Kreisher and Chance Bower also are returning starters and Bower has added four sacks defensively. Williamsport is seeking its first win at Coughlin since 2009.

Williamsport player to watch–Ethen Stryker: The senior tight end is having one of the best receiving seasons by an area tight end this decade. Stryker is second in the area in catches with 35 and is making an all-state case. Stryker caught a career-high nine passes, including a touchdown, two weeks ago when Williamsport overcame an 18-point second-half deficit and won, 38-34.

Coughlin facts: The Crusaders have won four of their last five games and have not had a losing regular season since 2006. Comparing Coughlin to an area team, it is a lot like South Williamsport. The Crusaders are a physical, smash-mouth team which will try and run the ball at will. That is something they have done well against Williamsport this decade and especially over the last five weeks. Jake Cole is closing in on his second straight 1,000-yard season and ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns at Williamsport last year. He has 744 yards and nine touchdowns, is averaging 6.1 yards per game and has topped 100 yards in four of his last five games. Cole went over 200 yards in wins against Crestwood and Wyoming Area and ran for 1,237 yards last season. Quarterback Vincent Todd is a mobile threat who has run for 440 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown. Salem Diop is a big-play threat in the passing game and has caught a 70-yard touchdown. The defense has played well over the last five games and and shut down Wilkes-Barre Meyers in last week’s 35-7 with Todd returning an interception for a touchdown. Janssen Wilborn added a sack for a safety and linebacker Eric Sovan has topped 10 tackles three times. Coughlin is opportunistic on defense and has nine interceptions.

Coughlin player to watch–Jake Cole: As the senior leader goes, so likely goes Coughlin. Expect Coughlin to test what has been a porous run defense early and often with Cole getting a lot of carries. He also is a defensive leader and is averaging a team-best 10.4 tackles per game while adding three interceptions.

Outlook: This essentially comes down to how Williamsport performs along the line on both sides of the ball. If Williamsport hopes to win, it has to slow the run. It also has to play more clean offensively and keep the Coughlin offense off the field. Expect a battle.

–by CHRIS MASSE

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