Williamsport at Wilkes-Barre Area preview
Williamsport PPG–22.8, PPA–18.5; YPG–312.4, YPA–220.9
Williamsport facts: Saturday afternoon’s game will be played at Wyoming Valley West’s field. Williamsport broke out in a big way last week, snapping a three-game losing streak and thumping Wyoming Valley West, 40-7. Healthier than at any point since Week 3, the Millionaires welcomed back players like Jamaire Harden, Dade Splain and Nasir Hennigan. They thundered out to 21 first-quarter points and played, arguably, their most complete game this season. There is no time for a letdown now against a dangerous Wilkes-Barre team, and with homefield advantage in the District 2-6 Class 6A playoffs a possibility. The Millionaires (4-4) are third in the playoff standings but are within range of overtaking Altoona and State College if they win their last two regular-season games. Williamsport was balanced a week ago with Lajear Whaley and Hennigan forming a strong backfield duo and combining for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback George Whaley continues settling in after becoming the starter at midseason, throwing for a career-high 215 yards and three touchdowns. Harden, Yahzir Slaughter and Sebastian Robinson all caught touchdowns covering at least 50 yards. Harden played for the first time since suffering an injury on the game’s first series in Week 4. The sophomore has caught a touchdown in every game he has completed and has averaged more than 100 yards in those games. Slaughter has caught passes of 83, 55 and 45, and DJ Greene went over 100 yards against Berwick. The defense shut down Valley West a week ago, surrendering 125 yards. Robinson is among the area’s leading tacklers and was in on 11 as was fellow linebacker Riley Bower. Roman Morrone added eight tackles. Whaley, Charles Crews and Alonzo Rice set the tone early with three first-quarter sacks. Sophomore Nariq Burks leads the team with five sacks. Williamsport and Wilkes-Barre have split two games the past two seasons.
Williamsport player to watch–Dade Splain: Having its all-star center back up front provided the offense a big jolt. Splain is a difference-maker on both sides of the ball and a strong senior leader. He played a large role in Williamsport gaining a season-high 463 yards and also made three tackles while freeing up the linebackers to make plays.
Wilkes-Barre PPG–22.8, PPA–30.5; YPG–291.3, YPA–342
Wilkes-Barre facts: Like Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre has been up and down at times. The Wolfpack bounced back from a three-game winning streak by winning their next three games before losing, 29-10, against Hazleton last week. Wilkes-Barre has played well in pressure situations, winning thrillers against Valley West and Tunkhannock by six combined points. They stopped a potential game-tying 2-point try against Valley West in the final seconds before erasing a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and downing Tunkhannock, 35-31, two weeks ago. Sophomore running backs Mekhi Nelson and Howie Shiner both do damage and each has gone over 500 yards this season. Nelson has topped 100 yards three times; Shiner once and they have combined for 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Javant McClary has added 124 yards and three scores while throwing for 601 yards and six touchdowns. Nelson also has thrown the ball at times, completing 10 of 18 passes for 156 yards. Javon Goodwin caught a 17-yard touchdown and helped Wilkes-Barre take a 10-8 halftime lead against Hazleton. He is averaging 24 yards per catch. Defensive end Jace John ignites the defense and averages seven tackles per game, making five tackles for loss. He also has a team-high three sacks.
Wilkes-Barre player to watch–Naquan Johnson: Another exciting sophomore, Johnson makes an impact on both sides of the ball. The wide receiver has a team-high 19 catches for 205 yards and went over 100 yards in the Tunkhannock win. The linebacker also is second on the team with four tackles for loss, made seven tackles against Valley West and has broken up five passes.
Outlook: With both teams have been on roller coaster rides throughout the season, this is not an easy game to gauge. If Williamsport plays with the intensity it did last week, though, it has a shot to move back above .500.