Unlike most of the preseason, Week 1 of the Colonial-Schuylkill League football schedule was humid, hot and uncomfortable.
It led to lengthy games because of extra water breaks and cramping galore.
But what the opening weekend showed, among other things, is that Northern Lehigh’s identity is changing thanks to graduation and injuries.
Starting quarterback Ayden Oswald did not make it to the first game. He suffered a season-ending injury at practice the week leading up to Friday’s 48-22 loss at Catasauqua.
The Bulldogs also didn’t have fellow junior Reese Lipsky, who would have started in the secondary and helped offensively.
And they lost two-way starter Bailey Smith in the first half to injury.
That combined with cramping issues left coach Joe Tout’s club unable to finish off a comeback that saw it rebound from a 28-7 hole to get within 28-22, only to fail to finish a perfectly executed onside kick and then run out of gas.
One thing Tout is going to do is stick with his younger players, particularly the talented freshman class.
“In the secondary, we get [Lipsky] back,” the Northern Lehigh coach said. “[Chris] Frame and [Colin] Karetsky, two freshmen, they are bypassing people weekly. We’re going with them right now because, to be honest, some of our older guys look shaky. The freshmen are champing at the bit.”
Frame is the younger brother of standouts Nick and Matt Frame, who led the Bulldogs to consecutive District 11 championships. He and sophomore Grady Newhard showed a lot of promise on offense Friday with their speed and elusiveness.
Tout also is not pulling the plug on freshman quarterback Garrett Smoyer, younger brother of 2021 record-setting quarterback Dylan Smoyer, after the QB completed as many passes to Catasauqua defenders as to his teammates.
“I didn’t set him up real well,” Tout said. “Second-and-3s are where we’re going to take our shots this year. There’s a reason we’re going with him. We have older kids who have played quarterback. He’s going to be all right. We just have to make sure his head doesn’t go down.”
Northern Lehigh’s offense will be limited this year based on inexperience and personnel. It has a solid offensive line that will look to impose its will on opponents.
That group will be tested again Thursday against a super talented Northwestern team that roughed up Tamaqua 49-6 in its opener.
Here’s a look at four other things we learned in Week 1 as players and teams enter the week most coaches say the most progress is made: between Weeks 1 and 2:
Welcome back (from injuries)
Catasauqua senior Chad Beller, the league’s leading tackler last season, got banged up Friday against Northern Lehigh and missed a few plays. Not many, because he made 23 tackles, including two for loss.
But when Beller missed, head coach Travis Brett turned to quarterback Aiden Hess. Brett needs to keep Hess healthy so that the Rough Riders offense continues to run smoothly. That’s tough when you need a linebacker and Hess loves contact.
Brett almost turned to senior Hunter Reitz, a stellar linebacker but a player who has missed all but a handful of games the previous two seasons due to injuries.
Brett avoided temptation. He also showed restraint in using Reitz at running back. The 6-0, 195-pounder didn’t get on the field until the first minute of the second quarter.
His first carry: 19 yards.
“I thought I was going to go into the game earlier, so I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ ” Reitz admitted. “I was a little confused. But then it was awesome.”
Reitz ran it 11 times for 86 yards, then left Alumni Field without crutches or a doctor’s escort. He ran it twice last year and 18 times as a sophomore before injuries wrecked those seasons. He’s taking nothing for granted, but he was all smiles after his body survived Week 1.
“I feel very accomplished, very proud that I was able to make it,” he said. “I just take things slow, make sure I’m not pushing too hard in practice. I feel really good, actually. I don’t even think about [the injuries]. I just play my game.”
Catasauqua’s offense is much better when Reitz is able to play in games. It was really good Friday night.
The Warriors have a new coaching staff and a new offensive philosophy that Zach Bergstresser brought with him after five seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame-Green Pond.
They entered 2023 with a 13-game losing streak. Three returning starters did not come out: A.J. Rooks, Jackson Millen and Seth Kissel. First-year head coach Lloyd Brooks has taken a leave of absence due to a family medical issue.
Wilson then gave up touchdowns the first seven times host Pen Argyl got the ball in Saturday’s season opener — a 49-21 loss.
But Bergstresser, who is interim head coach until Brooks returns, said the Warriors will get past all the adversity and soon taste success.
“I’ve had a lot of friends here and other coaches from around the school,” he said, “and they said, ‘You have a great offense. It’s just about them jelling.’ It’s new. They are not used to the no-huddle system, to what I call. It did look good, but we need to be better as a team.”
Pen Argyl’s starters racked up 340 yards offense in the first half and had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown before backing off.
Thankfully for Wilson faithful, the Warriors kept pushing through the tough times.
“The seniors really, really helped me out,” Bergstresser said of the transition. “They stay together. They fight. We have great practices. I know we’re better than what we showed today. Way better.”
More than just Tyminski
Brad Rissmiller saw something on Pen Argyl’s second offensive play that he’s going to see plenty of this season.
“I saw the safety went to Damian [Tyminski],” the senior quarterback said. “So, I knew [Alex] Moser was 1-on-1. I trust Moser 1-on-1.”
Moser credited Rissmiller for throwing a perfect pass. He went up and got it, then took it the rest of the way for a 90-yard touchdown.
Tyminski managed only 52 of Pen Argyl’s 340 offensive yards in the first two quarters of its win over Wilson. That spells trouble for Green Knights foes.
Moser accounted for three touchdowns. Rissmiller threw two TD passes and ran it well.
“We have Damian,” Pen Argyl coach Brady Mutton said. “We have Brad. We have to feed Alex the ball, too. He’s just as talented. I truly feel we have three or four spots on the field where we can get them all the ball and feel good about it.”
Sophomore Caiden Faust also had two rushing scores to give the Green Knights offensive balance that will make them tough to defend.
Southern Lehigh trailed into the second half of its season opener Friday against visiting Quakertown but scored 21 points in a row to win its debut at the remodeled middle school stadium.
Cade Sawyer’s 37-yard touchdown run gave coach Phil Sams’ team the lead late in the third quarter. His 50-yard interception return for a TD a minute later turned out to be the difference in a 28-21 victory.
Notre Dame-GP trailed Saucon Valley 20-12 before scoring 36 points in a row to win. Josh Ludlow’s two-point conversion tied it in the third quarter. His punt return for a touchdown gave the Crusaders the lead for good. His interception on the next series put coach Phil Stambaugh’s club in position to start pulling away.
Notre Dame-GP and Southern Lehigh, two of the league’s best teams, meet Friday night in Center Valley.
Morning Call reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at email@example.com
Colonial-Schuylkill League standings
Team Overall, Division, PF, PA
Bangor 1-0, 0-0, 36, 8
Blue Mountain 1-0, 0-0, 35, 0
Northwestern 1-0, 0-0, 49, 6
Southern Lehigh 1-0, 0-0, 28, 21
Lehighton 0-1, 0-0, 30, 54
Pottsville 0-1, 0-0, 13, 68
Saucon Valley 0-1, 0-0, 20, 48
Wilson 0-1, 0-0, 21, 49
North Schuylkill 1-0, 0-0, 34, 27
Notre Dame G.P. 1-0, 0-0, 48, 20
Palmerton 1-0, 0-0, 54, 30
Jim Thorpe 0-1, 0-0, 0, 35
Northern Lehigh 0-1, 0-0, 22, 48
Salisbury 0-1, 0-0, 12, 20
Tamaqua 0-1, 0-0, 6, 49
Catasauqua 1-0, 0-0, 48, 22
Minersville 1-0, 0-0, 38, 34
Panther Valley 1-0, 0-0, 20, 12
Pen Argyl 1-0, 0-0, 49, 21
Pine Grove 1-0, 0-0, 20, 17
Palisades 0-1, 0-0, 8, 36
Schuylkill Haven 0-1, 0-0, 0, 27
Marian Catholic 1-0, 0-0, 27, 0
Nativity BVM 1-0, 0-0, 28, 14
Shenandoah Valley 1-0, 0-0, 51, 26
Williams Valley 1-0, 0-0, 28, 0
Mahanoy Area 0-1, 0-0, 14, 17
Tri Valley 0-1, 0-0, 34, 37
Week 2 games (at 7 p.m. unless noted)
Bangor at Jim Thorpe
Northern Lehigh at Northwestern, 7:10 p.m.
Blue Mountain at North Schuylkill
Saucon Valley at Salisbury
Palmerton at Catasauqua
Notre Dame-GP at Southern Lehigh
Schuylkill Haven at Nativity BVM
Minersville at Marian Catholic
Tri-Valley at Panther Valley
Shenandoah Valley at Upper Dauphin
Wyomissing at Pottsville
Lehighton at Tamaqua, 7:10 p.m.
Palisades at Wilson, noon
Mahanoy Area at Pen Argyl, 1:30 p.m.
Schuylkill Haven vs. Nativity BVM (at North Schuylkill)
https://www.mcall.com/2023/08/28/high-school-football-five-things-we-learned-from-week-1-in-colonial-schuylkill-league/ 5 things learned in Week 1