H.S. Football Week 7 preview: Inside Crestwood's major resurgence

Oct. 7—Crestwood won the District 2 Class 4A football championship in 2020. Then the Comets won just three games the following season.

A diagnosis was made of the abrupt slide. The remedy was in the locker room.

"I was looking for us to come together as a football team," Crestwood coach Ryan Arcangeli said. "Last year, we had the talent. That wasn't the issue. We were a fractured bunch. I don't think I did a good enough job getting our kids to play as a team.

"In the offseason, we said if we play as a team, with a team-first mindset, we'll be right back where we think we belong and that's one of the top programs in the league."

So far so good. Crestwood (5-1) heads to Hazleton Area (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday for a game between two of the top teams in the Wyoming Valley Conference.

Only Dallas (6-0) has a better record than Crestwood or Hazleton Area as the three teams, along with Berwick for the time being, battle for the WVC Division 1 championship.

The first step to respectability came in Week 1 when the Comets defeated defending D2-4A champ Valley View 20-7, a team which they lost to by identical 38-7 scores in 2021. The adversity came a week later in an uneven and mistake-sprinkled 35-14 loss to Dallas.

Resolve followed with three consecutive blowout wins, including last Friday's 45-14 rout of Wilkes-Barre Area. Crestwood ran for a WVC-best 526 yards with running back Noah Schultz rushing for a career-high 353 as he eclipsed 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season.

The Crestwood running game has been so dominant, averaging 351.2 yards per game, and the offense has put up an average of 48.5 points during the four-game winning streak that the defense gets overlooked somewhat. It shouldn't.

"We get overshadowed on that side. That's OK," Arcangeli said. "We have no problem being the second fiddle to the guys on offense who have done an amazing job."

Inside linebacker Cole Kakalecik, a four-year starter, leads the team in tackles with Schultz right behind him. Defensive end Magnus Bibla leads the team in tackles for loss with nine followed by his brother Lincoln, the mike backer, with eight. They are the sons of former NFL offensive lineman Martin Bibla. Arcangeli also cited the play of outside linebacker Logan Rolles.

But perhaps the most unique defensive stat is who is leading the Comets in interceptions — 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive lineman Aidan Jardine. His two interceptions — where he is averaging 32.5 yards on returns — are second most in WVC Division 1.

The defense will be tested by a balanced Hazleton Area offense looking to make amends from last Friday's poor showing. The Cougars turned the ball over four times in the first half against an extremely talented Dallas squad, leading to a 42-6 deficit. A couple late TDs put a tiny bandage on a 42-20 loss.

The Cougars are often credited for having a balanced, high-powered offense and rightfully so. But the defense is also very good.

Senior linebacker Qay'von Minor leads Hazleton Area with 69 tackles and nine tackles for loss. Matt Buchman, Zander Coleman and Ryan Matyas are right behind Minor on the tackle list, with Matyas having seven tackles for loss. Defensive back Matt Cusatis leads Division 1 with three interceptions, but it's doubtful he'll get another vs. Crestwood, which has thrown 23 passes all season.


Due to a technical glitch, the Player of the Week didn't appear last Friday. Wilkes-Barre Area running back Mekhi Nelson took the honors by rushing for 180 yards and four TDs and catching six passes for 78 yards in a 35-21 win over Berwick.

This week brings our first repeat winner in Crestwood running back Noah Schultz, who rushed for a career-high 353 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-14 victory over Wilkes-Barre Area.

Also given consideration were:

—Dallas running back Parker Bolesta, who rushed for 185 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-20 win over Hazleton Area.

—Pittston Area running back Harry Pugliese, who gained 131 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 35-6 win over Nanticoke Area.

—Lake-Lehman's Landon Schuckers, who rushed for a career-high 180 and scored both TDs as the Black Knights defeated Tunkhannock 14-7.

Past winners: Week 1 — Wyoming Area RB/LB Aaron Crossley; Week 2 — Hazleton Area QB Tyler Wolfe; Week 3 — Holy Redeemer QB Jacob Hunter; Week 4 — Crestwood RB Noah Schultz; Week 5 — WBA RB Mekhi Nelson.


Crestwood (5-1) at Hazleton Area (5-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Crestwood's Ryan Arcangeli (23-15), 4th year; Hazleton Area's Dennis Buchman (17-8), 3rd year

Last Meeting: Crestwood 18-10 in 2020

First Meeting: Hazleton Area 36-0 in 2008

All-Time Series: Crestwood 7-6

Scouting Crestwood: The Comets ran for 526 yards — most by any WVC team this season — in a 45-14 victory over Wilkes-Barre Area. RB Noah Schultz had 353 of them and four TDs, the former a career high and the latter tying a career high. The offense has turned over the ball just four times all season. The defense surrendered 257 yards — most since the loss to Dallas in Week 2 — but 74 came on a late-game scoring run.

Scouting Hazleton Area: Hazleton Area lost the battle of unbeatens with Dallas 42-20. A couple late scores made the game look closer. The offense turned over the ball four times in the first half after having only three total in the previous five games. The miscues — and Dallas — threw everything out of sync. The running game managed a season-low 80 yards as the Cougars played from behind all game.

Bottom Line: Crestwood can't count on Hazleton Area coughing up the ball so much.

Dallas (6-0) at Berwick (3-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Dallas' Rich Mannello (59-28), 8th year; Berwick's Mike Bennett (3-3), 1st year

Last Meeting: Dallas 27-0 in 2021

First Meeting: Berwick 42-13 in 1998

All-Time Series: Berwick 15-7

Scouting Dallas: Dallas demonstrated what quality teams do. Make a mistake and pay. The Mountaineers took advantage of four first-half turnovers to build a 35-6 lead on the way to a 42-20 victory. RB Parker Bolesta ran for four TDs and QB Brady Zapoticky made smart decisions. The blocking of WRs Nick Farrell, Mike Lewis and Joe Peters on the perimeter was outstanding. Everything is clicking.

Scouting Berwick: The Dawgs made quick work of winless Wyoming Valley West 41-13. They scored in all three phases of the game with Rowan Slabinski recording the team's second pick-6. The secondary is very good at anticipating and jumping routes, so it will be interesting to see what Dallas has up its sleeve to counter that. Drey Wilk continues to make splash plays, scoring on 10 of the 19 times he's touched the ball.

Bottom Line: Berwick's defense will face a huge task.

Holy Redeemer (3-3) at Wyoming Area (3-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Redeemer's Tyson Kelley (6-24), 4th year; Wyoming Area's Randy Spencer (92-58) 14th year

Last Meeting: Wyoming Area 55-20 in 2020

First Meeting: Wyoming Area 42-7 in 2007

All-Time Series: Wyoming Area 7-0

Scouting Redeemer: The Royal defeated Hanover Area 48-0 to tie the school record for wins in a season and post their first shutout ever vs. a WVC opponent. (Three others came vs. Holy Cross). QB Jacob Hunter threw for five TDs, but all the rain this week and a grass field could make things more difficult. The run defense must be up to the task because it hasn't faced a back like Wyoming Area's Aaron Crossley.

Scouting Wyoming Area: The Warriors fell 38-7 to unbeaten Scranton where they had trouble with dual-threat QB Billy Maloney. They face another in Redeemer's Jacob Hunter, although he's more of a thrower. The game plan will probably be simple — slam RB Aaron Crossley at the Royals, who haven't been particularly stout vs. the run. The secondary will need to be on its toes because Redeemer will throw about 20-25 times.

Bottom Line: Redeemer will get a fourth win ... just probably not Friday.

Montrose (1-3) at Hanover Area (1-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Montrose's Steve Hinds (1-3), 1st year; Hanover Area's Jason Majiros (1-5), 1st year

Last Meeting: Hanover Area 34-7 in 2007

First Meeting: Hanover Area 33-0 in 1991

All-Time Series: Hanover Area 8-2

Scouting Montrose: Montrose is playing an independent schedule in hopes of getting the program on solid footing and has elected not to participate in the District 2 playoffs. The Meteors were 0-10 last season, including two forfeits for the lack of players. Go back a few decades and Montrose had three 10-win seasons from 1991-1994. They defeated Holy Cross and lost 12-0 last Friday to a team from New York.

Scouting Hanover Area: Like Montrose, Hanover Area has some very good seasons in the 1990s, including winning a state championship. The Hawkeyes, though, have fallen on hard times lately and another loss will guarantee an eighth consecutive losing season. Majiros is the third coach in eight years and the rebuild obviously won't happen overnight. Like Montrose, their only win was vs. Holy Cross.

Bottom Line: This one is hard to predict.

Nanticoke Area (2-4) at Tunkhannock (1-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Nanticoke Area's Ron Bruza (49-78), 13th year; Tunkhannock's Mike Marabell (16-30), 5th year

Last Meeting: Tunkhannock 50-14 in 2020

First Meeting: Nanticoke Area 21-14 in 1984

All-Time Series: Tunkhannock 7-6

Scouting Nanticoke Area: The Trojans lost 35-6 to Pittston Area as they surrendered 399 yards, the most this season. Aside from this game and Old Forge, the defense has played well. However, it hasn't created many turnovers. Nanticoke Area will certainly run the ball vs. Tunkhannock because that's what the Trojans do best and, in reality, only do. Plus, Tunkhannock is allowing nearly 6 yards per rush.

Scouting Tunkhannock: Tunkhannock hasn't finished with a winning record since 1993 and the current four-game losing streak might mean another losing record. The alarming thing has been the lack of offense the last two games where the Tigers have scored just seven points. They enter off a 14-7 loss to Lake-Lehman, a team which surrendered 35.6 points per game in its prior five contests.

Bottom Line: Tunkhannock needs to break out of its offensive funk.

Pittston Area (3-3) at Lake-Lehman (2-4)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Pittston Area's Nick Barbieri (20-35), 6th year; Lehman's Jerry Gilsky (84-55) 13th year

Last Meeting: Pittston Area 35-6 in 2001

First Meeting: Pittston Area 32-0 in 1972

All-Time Series: Pittston Area 14-0

Scouting Pittston Area: The Patriots equaled last season's win total with a 35-6 victory over Nanticoke Area. RB Harry Pugliese ran for 131 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. The defense shut down Nanticoke Area's one-dimensional offense and now gets a Lehman offense which has trouble finding the end zone. A District 2 Class 5A playoff berth looks good, but it might take a couple more wins.

Scouting Lehman: The Black Knights defeated Tunkhannock 14-7 with their best defensive showing of the season. They'll need another strong defensive effort vs. Pittston Area, which has similar offensive balance as Tunkhannock although the Patriots have run the ball better lately. Lehman's offense remains a concern even with Landon Schuckers running for a career-high 180 yards and two TDs last Friday.

Bottom Line: If Pittston Area can get three TDs, it should win.

Wyo. Valley West (0-6) at Williamsport (2-4)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Valley West's Jack Baranski (8-26), 4th year; Williamsport's Mike Pearson (23-34), 6th year

Last Meeting: Williamsport 40-7 in 2021

First Meeting: Valley West 19-12 in 1972

All-Time Series: Valley West 25-20

Scouting Valley West: The Spartans' rough season continued as they lost 41-13 to Berwick. For the second time in three games, they trailed 35-0 at halftime. The offense hasn't been able to find a groove and has scored one first-half TD in the last four games. The odd thing is they came very close to knocking off unbeaten Scranton before sputtering the past four weeks.

Scouting Williamsport: The Millionaires snapped a three-game slide with a 48-16 victory over winless Central Mountain. The ball finally got into the hands of big-play threat Jamaire Harden and he responded by returning a kickoff and interception for TDs. Veteran George Whaley took the most snaps for the first time and he threw for 166 yards, most by a Williamsport QB this season.

Bottom Line: Williamsport awoke from its scoring doldrums last Friday; WVW didn't.

Wilkes-Barre Area (3-3) at Delaware Valley (2-4)

4 p.m. Saturday

The Coaches: WBA's Ciro Cinti (88-91), 17th year; Del Val's Keith Olsommer (169-97), 24th year

Last Meeting: Del Val 49-10 in 2021

First Meeting: Del Val 54-20 in 2019

All-Time Series: Del Val 3-0

Scouting WBA: The Wolfpack was run over by Crestwood 45-14 in a game that was expected to be much closer. They surrendered 546 yards rushing after allowing 503 through their first five games combined. The offense didn't do much either. RB Mekhi Nelson's 74-yard TD run in the fourth quarter allowed WBA to get over 200 yards on offense. Otherwise, not much else positive happened.

Scouting Del Val: The Warriors find themselves in an unusual position with four losses. However, they are a very good team which played a rigorous schedule and might still be the favorite for the District 2 Class 5A title. (They dropped down a class). RBs Paulie Weinrich and Ryder Machado do most of the heavy lifting. The passing side has been OK, but interceptions have been a problem. Three losses were by eight points or less.

Bottom Line: The odd starting time is because the game is part of Del Val's homecoming festivities.