Nov. 10—FOUNTAIN SPRINGS — There are advantages and disadvantages to playing a team twice in one season.
North Schuylkill and Palmerton, we'll see which team benefitted the most from their first meeting tonight.
The Spartans (9-2) host the Blue Bombers (7-4) in a District 11 Class 3A semifinal at Ghosh Orthodontics Field at Spartan Stadium. The game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but moved to tonight due to heavy rains in Friday's weather forecast.
North Schuylkill defeated Palmerton 35-21 in a Schuylkill/Colonial Red Division game Oct. 14 in Fountain Springs. The Blue Bombers led that contest 14-0 in the first quarter before the Spartans scored five straight touchdowns to take control.
"Playing an opponent for the second time in a year has advantages and disadvantages," North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall said. "Every game is different and the most important one is the game this week with Palmerton. Playoffs ... everyone is going to be motivated. We know we will face adversity throughout the game. Important thing is how we handle the adversity and how we respond."
Palmerton is led by junior quarterback Matt Machalik, who has completed 145-of-254 passes for a whopping 2,472 yards and 31 TDs while running 148 times for 1,112 yards and 19 touchdowns. He's thrown for more than 300 yards four times and four or more touchdowns in a game three times.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Machalik guides an offense that averages 399.5 total yards and 39.1 points per game. Daniel Lucykanish (47-831, 11 TDs), Kendall Robinson (35-559, 7 TDs) and Dalton Drake (33-604, 6 TDs) are Machalik's top receiving targets.
In the Oct. 14 game against North Schuylkill, Machalik was 18-of-42 for 345 yards and three TDs, but was picked off twice by Collin McGee. He threw touchdown tosses of 73 and 69 yards to Cole Serfass on the Bombers' first two possessions gave them a quick 14-0 lead.
"He is a very gifted athlete," Hall said of Machalik. "He has an incredible awareness and elusiveness on the field that you cannot teach to a quarterback. He extends many offensive plays with his legs and pass. In order to contain him we need to tackle him when we have our opportunities.
"Also have to give credit to the players that surround him and also Palmerton's coaching staff. They all have adapted and coordinated to his abilities."
North Schuylkill countered the early deficit in the first meeting with the combination of senior tailback Jared Tinari and junior wide receiver Joey Flail.
Tinari rushed 22 times for 125 yards, scoring on runs of 2 and 11 yards that tied the game. Flail caught six passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Trevor Minalda, scoring on passes of 43, 45 and 47 yards.
Tinari has rushed for 1,218 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while Minalda is 134-of-220 for 1,669 yards and an area-best 23 touchdowns.
Flail, who has 47 receptions for 697 yards and an area-best 13 touchdowns, has scored multiple times in five straight games and seven of 11.
"Joey is a threat offensively every play," Hall said of the All-State wideout. "Our opponents know his ability which does bring a lot of attentions to himself. That attention makes our offense more effective and certainly not one-dimensional."
The one disadvantage of playing a team a second time in one season, especially if you won the first meeting, is being overconfident. Hall and his staff, which do an excellent job staying focused week to week, will have to keep their players from looking ahead to a possible rematch with Notre Dame-Green Pond (9-2), which takes on Northwestern Lehigh (9-2) in the other semifinal.
The District 11 Class 3A final is set for Friday, Nov. 18, at a neutral site, most likely Lehighton. North Schuylkill has appeared in the last four District 11 Class 3A title games, winning three of the four, including two straight.
"Our players have been incredibly focused the whole season," Hall said. "From Day 1 to this point of the season they embraced the challenges and are still on their journey. The focus is on the day-to-day preparation and each game."
Contact the writer: Lboyer@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6026; @pubsportsboss on Twitter