Easton football team eager for crack at Parkland

Editor's note: Each week during the regular season, Stephen Miller will examine four Lehigh Valley Conference football topics in this space. Here is his look back at Week 1 and ahead to Week 2.

1. Easton hasn't forgotten its last meeting with Parkland. When these teams played in a Districts 2-11 Class 4A subregional quarterfinal last season, they headed to halftime at Cottingham Stadium tied 10-10. Parkland proceeded to rip off 31 straight points in the second half to blow out the Red Rovers.

Some coaches would dismiss that result as old news. Easton coach Steve Shiffert isn't.

"Oh definitely, we're reminding them what happened to us at home last year," Shiffert said. "We had a terrible third quarter, and off it went."

The Red Rovers and Trojans both return a bunch of players from their postseason meeting last November. Easton, however, will have a newcomer of sorts in junior running back Shane Simpson. A leg injury sidelined him for the playoffs last year, but he started this season with a 195-yard, four-touchdown performance against Pennsbury.

To beat the Trojans, Easton needs to avoid another lapse like it had in the second quarter last week against the Falcons. The Red Rovers turned the ball over three times in that frame, leading to 21 points and a 28-21 halftime deficit.

This game doesn't carry the weight of a playoff matchup, but it could play a pivotal role in postseason seeding and the LVC title race. The winner will be 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league.

2. It's a big week for the league's smallest programs. Central Catholic dispatched Allen with ease last week. Bethlehem Catholic also rolled, turning three turnovers into touchdowns in a rout of Pocono Mountain West.

How will the Vikings and Golden Hawks follow up their Week 1 wins?

Central Catholic opens league play by hosting Freedom. It's one of the LVC games the Vikings have to win to have a good chance at returning to the District 11 Class 3A playoffs. The Patriots managed only seven points in their opening-week loss to East Stroudsburg South, and Central Catholic may be able to capitalize on catching a young team early in the season.

Bethlehem Catholic is striving to play more competitive games in the LVC after being overmatched most of last season. The Golden Hawks get their first chance against Emmaus, which collected a rain-shortened mercy-rule win against them last season.

Bethlehem Catholic coach Joe Henrich wasn't pleased with his team's play against the Green Hornets last year. He felt mistakes and turnovers turned the game into a giveaway.

This year Bethlehem Catholic will have to contend with an Emmaus team stinging from an overtime loss at Pennridge. The Green Hornets will also be playing their home opener. Those are two reasons to like Emmaus on Friday night.

If the Golden Hawks can pull a surprise on the road, however, it would go a long way toward showing they are making the progress Henrich wants to see in his third year as coach.

3. Playing without K.J. could be a plus for Liberty. Liberty should have standout wide receiver K.J. Williams back for this week's league opener against Whitehall. His return will aid a receiving corps that showed promise without him in Saturday's win over State College.

Junior Izaiah Avent was the busiest receiver Liberty had Saturday, snagging four passes for 41 yards. A sophomore, Victor Santiago, raced behind the Little Lions defense and snared a 54-yard touchdown pass for the Hurricanes' first score of the season.

Juniors Josiah Wright and Darius Jones, and sophomore Joey Curzi also saw extra snaps at wide receiver with Williams out. Considering the defensive attention Williams will command when on the field, Liberty's other receivers should have chances to contribute going forward.

"For them to be a part of that atmosphere [last week], it's nothing but positive," Liberty coach John Truby said earlier this week. "Avent played a positive game. The one fourth down, the ball was a little underthrown, but he was able to make the play, scoop it up and get the first down for us. That was very reassuring, to know we do have other players that can do things for us."

4. Gray has a good game. After ending the 2012 season on the bench for violating team policy, Nazareth junior running back Jordan Gray started 2013 with a strong effort. He ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and also turned a screen pass into a 60-yard touchdown in the Blue Eagles' 31-9 win over Pleasant Valley.

A great season from a running back can carry a high school football team a long way. The Blue Eagles need a big year from Gray if they want to return to districts after falling short last year.

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