By Michael Bullock:
1. Tri-Valley ready to get going … finally: Those passionate football fans that call the Hegins-Valley View Metroplex home figure to be as wound up as possible — given the COVID-19 limitations on those able to watch live — when their beloved Tri-Valley Bulldogs open the 2020 campaign Friday night against Schuylkill 2 playmate Shenandoah Valley (0-3, 0-2). Despite sporting just three seniors on his roster, third-year skipper Jeff Sampson’s ‘Dawgs return nine starters on defense and eight on offense from a still-youthful yet experienced group that last season played for a District 11 Class 1A championship. Three Bulldogs — versatile senior back Chase Herb, burly fullback Jacob Scheib and interior lineman Cameron Carlin — remain entrenched in the lineup on both sides of the ball after landing on the Tri-Valley League’s final all-conference unit. Herb rushed for nearly 1,500 yards in 2019, but also will serve as a likely target for many of second-year quarterback Jonas McGrath’s pass attempts. Tri-Valley also can offer a terrific change of pace in the offensive backfield in sophomore Kameron Wetzel. One sizable hole that must be filled is the one left by Tyler McGrath, an all-state defensive back who swiped 14 passes during his Tri-Valley career. Shenandoah Valley opened with a 49-7 loss to Tamaqua and has subsequently fallen to Williams Valley (54-0) and Marian Catholic (24-7). “On Friday night, when we open up, Shenandoah will have played three games and a scrimmage, where the only thing we’ve had was [Sept. 24] when we had an intrasquad scrimmage,” Sampson said. “We have no game-time experience and there’s a lot to be said with that, because of timing, and you don’t get the normal look as you get from a scout offense or a scout defense that you’re gonna get on a Friday night. We may look good in practice and the timing’s down and so forth, but when you’re on a football field on a Friday night and the coaches aren’t behind you, things are a lot different. I think we’ll be alright. The kids are really ready to play, and they’ve made that point clear to me.”
2. Williams Valley facing another dangerous opponent: Surviving a late field-goal attempt that sailed wide right and resulted in a 35-34 victory, Williams Valley (2-1, 2-0) hopes to maintain the momentum generated by a come-from-behind victory at Nativity and carry it into a Schuylkill 2 road date at Mahanoy Area (2-1, 2-0). Bryce Herb’s 1-yard quarterback plunge midway through the fourth quarter pushed Tim Savage’s club in front, yet the Vikings didn’t prevail until they made a red-zone stop in the final seconds. Herb also threw for 246 yards (12-for-27, 1 interception) and a pair of touchdowns — Jesse Engle (4-47) hauled in both scoring tosses — as Williams Valley erased an early 21-0 deficit. Logan Williard added two short scoring runs, while Hunter Wolfgang cranked out 90 rushing yards on 15 attempts and Brady Evans racked up 117 receiving yards on four catches. Williard also amassed 14 tackles defensively, three more than Engle. Mahanoy Area began the 2020 season by dropping a 50-21 decision to North Schuylkill, but the Golden Bears rebounded the past two weeks by defeating Schuylkill Haven (31-20) and Minersville (48-12).