By Michael Bullock:
Only Pine Grove slated to open up this weekend
With its regular-season schedule juggled yet again just last week by COVID-19, Frank Gaffney’s Pine Grove Cardinals will begin their 2020 campaign Friday night at home against Notre Dame-Green Pond instead of traveling to former Tri-Valley League playmate Williams Valley. And while this weekend’s dustup between Gaffney’s Schuylkill League newcomers (8-3 in 2019) and an experienced Crusaders group (7-4) doesn’t carry any conference implications, it could be an early look at a District 11 Class 3A confrontation — since both squads reached postseason play a season ago.
While Pine Grove returns dual-threat QB Josh Leininger, WR Shea Morgan and a pair of running backs in Brody Robinson and Ayden Ney that should see their touches increase dramatically. Athletic junior newcomer Dalton Geesey, a large target at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, could draw attention away from the explosive Morgan. What Gaffney is most concerned with is a reconstructed offensive front anchored by Ty Reynolds that could feature two sophomores and two freshmen. All of the youngsters possess size, but occupying defenders just long enough could provide the Pine Grove skills enough space to break off long-gainers or go yard. NDGP also returns some impressive skill-position players, as junior QB Collin Quintano (65-108-3) threw for nearly 900 yards and seven touchdowns in just five outings. Senior Matt Frauen racked up 1,155 rushing yards and 14 scores, logging eight 100-yard contests while averaging just south of 10 yards per attempt.
Three of Quintano’s top five receivers also return — junior Derek Berlitz (48-746, 3), senior Joe Galle (24-259, 2) and senior Izzy Rodriguez (23-248, 1) — to Phil Stambaugh’s high-octane attack. Stambaugh’s Crusaders also sport plenty of experience up front, but the defense should be in good hands since linebackers Jake Hull and Joey Rivituso totaled 96 stops apiece in 2019. DE William Jordan is another dandy. Should be a telling early-season contest for two teams anxious to get going, but Gaffney’s Cards are looking to prove something after relocating to the Schuylkill League. “Why not us?” said Gaffney, Pine Grove’s third-year skipper. “I’m not saying we’re going to go out and go undefeated, but I guarantee you we will play every week. When we went up to North Schuylkill (for the District 11 playoffs), we didn’t back down.”