PIAA “AAA” State Championship – Selinsgrove Preview
Written by: Josh Funk on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Picture someone standing outside a locked door, knocking, knocking, and knocking some more, waiting for the opportunity to get a chance to get inside. That person knocking on the doorstep used to be the Selinsgrove Seals’ football program. Prior to last season, the Seals had been on the doorstep of the “AAA” semi-finals only to fall short and watch good season after good season come to an end.
So, last year, Selinsgrove took matters into its own hands and kicked the quarterfinals door in. Now, in a matter of days, Selinsgrove has arrived on the state championship stage, bringing with it one of the most explosive teams District 4, and the state, really, has ever seen.
Selinsgrove (15-0) will meet Manheim Central (15-0) for the “AAA” state championship Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium. Kickoff of this very highly anticipated state title game is slated for 7 p.m.
The past two years, under head coach Dave Hess, who replaced 300-game winner Bill Scott between the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Selinsgrove has gone 28-2. Since 2000, the Seals have posted an impressive overall record of 113-21 (.843). Since the turn of the decade, the Seals have only failed to win 10 or more games in a season once – 2002 – when the red and blue finished 8-4, losing the Eastern Conference “AAA” final to Wyoming Area, 27-24.
Selinsgrove has appeared in the “AAA” quarterfinals, be it eastern or western, in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Two quarterfinal losses came at the hands of Friday’s opponent, Manheim Central, as the Seals were gaining their PIAA playoff legs. Three losses came to Thomas Jefferson, including a 20-14 heartbreaker in 2004. The other loss came to Franklin Regional in 2005. Selinsgrove managed to keep things close with the WPIAL, but couldn’t quite crack the win column.
Now, in consecutive quarterfinals, the Seals have knocked off Berwick and Allentown Central Catholic. With its 28-0 victory over Archbishop Wood, Selinsgrove won District 4’s first-ever “AAA” Eastern Final. Prior to 2008, only Shamokin Area had represented D4 in a “AAA” Eastern Final, and the Indians lost to Conestoga Valley, 28-20. That was 1991.
Selinsgrove is looking to bring District 4 its 11th PIAA title. But a win for Selinsgrove is far from a guarantee. Only Southern Columbia and Mount Carmel have won PIAA titles for the district, which total 10 in all. District 4’s other state title game reps besides MCA or SCA (Montoursville, 1989; South Williamsport, 1993 & 1997) are winless, going 0-3.
Selinsgrove can reverse that Friday night, and certainly has the team to do it. This edition of the Seals is a scoring machine – 670 points in 15 games, to be exact – which is 2nd in District 4 and a tie for 7th all-time in state history with the 2008 Schuylkill Haven Hurricanes.
The Seals are highlighted by a talented senior pass-and-catch duo. Cory Briggs, who will attend Harvard, is the passer, and has thrown for 2,081 yards and 30 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. The receiver, Ryan Keiser, who will walk on at Penn State, had snagged 57 passes for 1,057 yards and 16 touchdowns, surely All-state caliber numbers when all is said and done.
In his career, Briggs has thrown for 4,329 yards and 60 touchdowns in just two years’ time. Manheim Central faced a quarterback earlier in the playoffs – John Montiero from Daniel Boone – who finished his two-year varsity career with 5,054 yards and 62 touchdowns. (As an aside, Briggs and Montiero are two of the 24 quarterbacks in state history that have thrown for 4,000+ yards starting only for two varsity seasons – two of the 24 have thrown for more than 5,000 yards.)
Selinsgrove’s ground game features many different faces and players. All told, 14 different Seals have registered a carry this year, led by junior Kyle Reinard’s 1,199 yards and 14 scores. In the last two years, Reinard has tallied 2,329 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. The Seals also get contributions on the ground from Grant Fleetwood (519, 5), Matt Wenrich (427, 7), Cameron Benner (389, 6), and Seth Lauver (253, 5). The red and blue’s ground game chalks up an average of 215 yards per game.
Defensively, Selinsgrove boasts a number of playmakers. Ryan Keiser, Bryant Troutman, Dylan Elliot, Dakota Wolf, Matt Wenrich, Seth Lauver, and Spencer Myers all have season tackle totals ranging between 51 and 70. Myers adds 7 sacks, and Cameron Benner has picked off a team-best 3 passes.
Selinsgrove’s first string defense and reserves have combined to only allow 89 points on the season. Only Southern Columbia has scored more than 20 points against the Seals. The Tigers’ comeback bid in a Week 7 meeting ended just short, 35-28. The only other team to score double-digits on Selinsgrove’s first string unit was Allentown Central Catholic. The Vikings scored a whopping 10 points, all in the first half.
The Seals’ defense, which has produced 30 sacks, 34 turnovers and blocked 5 punts, is on a six-quarter scoreless streak. Selinsgrove has held 13 opponents to seven points or less and tossed six shutouts.
So, will Selinsgrove become the first District 4 team not named Southern or Mount Carmel to win a PIAA title? Can the Seals’ offense hit the 700-point mark – something only four other teams in state history have ever done?
Find out Friday night.
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