GAR coach Tony Khalife kept using one word to describe his Grenadiers – resilient.
“There was a maturation process with our younger kids and older kids who didn’t have a lot of experience,” Khalife said of his team’s battle back from two losses to end September. “They’ve come along really well. They’re resilient and played with great character.
“They came back against Hanover. We beat a tough Lake-Lehman team who kept the pressure on us and we were able to withstand them pushing us in the final quarter. Resilient. They have lot of character. Resilient. They keep coming back.”
Now GAR (6-2) will have its resolve tested again, as it travels to Crestwood (4-4) for a 7 p.m. Wyoming Valley Conference interdivisional game today.
Crestwood has much more at stake than GAR, which clinched a District 2 Class 2A playoff berth with a victory last Saturday. The Comets were third in the D2-3A standings when September ended. Since then, they played three consecutive overtime games and lost two to drop to fifth.
Since only four teams qualify for the D2-3A playoffs, Crestwood is in a must-win situation if it is to make up a gap of 70 state points between itself and fourth-place Coughlin. Plus, Coughlin would need to lose either tonight vs. Berwick or next weekend vs. Wyoming Valley West.
“We know they are going to pull out all stops and come ready to play,” Khalife said. “Coach (Greg) Myers and his staff do a great job. They have a senior-oriented team that could do some good things in the playoffs.”
GAR can’t fall farther than the eighth and final D2-2A playoff berth, but the scenario for that to happen is about as close to impossible as it gets. The Grenadiers’ goal today and next week is to move from fifth place to fourth and secure a home playoff game.
“Crestwood is triple-A and that would be 160 points at this point,” said Khalife, whose team is 30 state points behind Lakeland in the D2-2A standings. “That would put us in position for a home game and that’s what we’d like to have.”
GAR’s defense has played well since a 20-14 loss to Wyoming Area to end last month. The unit has allowed 14 points per game since then and forced six turnovers. Its main concern will be Crestwood tailback Rob Murphy, who leads WVC Division 3A with 965 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Veteran quarterback Evan Guignet and his experienced receivers such as tight end Kyle Bogumil and wideouts Joe Chrismer and Nick Giarratano give Crestwood an advantage in the passing game.
The Grenadiers will counter with their rushing attack that features tailback Ryan Womack, who is second in WVC Division 2A with 959 rushing yards. Quarterback Rob Lucinski is third among WVC signal-callers with 421 yards on the ground.
GAR also has a couple big-play receivers in seniors Breon Phillips, who is an excellent leaper, and Akiel Gary, who will be one of the fastest players on the field. The Grenadiers, though, haven’t been able to get the ball to either of them consistently.
“I didn’t think defensively it would be much of a problem because of our team speed,” Khalife said. “Offensively, we had to get better because of, obviously, a new quarterback situation. Robbie didn’t get many snaps last year. We moved Ryan to tailback and he really hadn’t played there since (he was) a freshman. Plus, we replaced four of the six offensive linemen.”
Berwick at Coughlin
Central Dauphin at Williamsport
East Stroudsburg South at Hazleton Area
GAR at Crestwood
Nanticoke at Lake-Lehman
Pittston Area at Wyoming Valley West
Tunkhannock at Hanover Area
Meyers at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Northwest at Carson Long, 2:30 p.m.
Wyo. Seminary at Lawrenceville School, 2:30 p.m.
Wyoming Area at Holy Redeemer, 7 p.m.