Spartans push adversity aside in run to EC crown
FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - The past few weeks, the politics of football kind of pushed the game to the side at North Schuylkill.
Former head coach Rick Geist was accused of misconduct when he yelled at his team during halftime of a game. He was subsequently suspended with the expectation he'd be fired, then beat the school board to the punch when he resigned from the position.
Lost in the shuffle was that the Spartans overcame a bunch of injuries and put together a pretty good season. They missed the District 11 playoffs, finishing the regular season at 7-3, but did earn a berth in the Eastern Conference Class II (AA) playoffs.
Last week, in a semifinal, they rolled over Elmer L. Meyers High School of Wilkes-Barre, 65-19, and this week they'll square off at home Friday night against a 6-5 Carbondale team for the conference championship.
Through it all, assistant coach Anthony Fanelli says the team has maintained its focus.
"Our kids are tough," Fanelli said Tuesday night following one of the team's final practice sessions. "The seniors are the glue.
"They've held it together pretty good. They come every day to practice and work hard like nothing's been going on. To win this thing would mean the world to them. It's a chance to be a champion."
Fanelli has become a sort of spokesman for the team and coaching staff in the midst of the turmoil. He says everyone involved has remained upbeat.
"The kids are really having fun with this (the playoffs)," Fanelli said. "Even though it's the EC, they look at it like we're playing for a championship."
That championiship likely won't come easily.
Carbondale, Fanelli says, is a good team.
"They lost two games by one point, and another by four points," Fanelli said. "We look at it like we're playing a 9-2 team.
The Chargers advanced to the championship game with a 28-10 victory over Palisades last week in the other semifinal.
In that one, tailback Brandon Sales, a 5-foot, 5-inch, 155-pound senior speedster led the way with touchdown runs of six and eight yards.
He's been solid for Carbondale all season, leading in rushing with 849 yards and nine touchdowns on 144 rushes. He's also caught 18 passes for 181 yards.
Joining Sales in the Chargers' backfield is fullback Remington Heddon, a smallish 5-7, 165-pounder, who has been nearly as effective with 457 yards and nine scores on the ground to go along with 17 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Among the true receivers, wideout Jason Martin, a 6-3, 160-pound junior, leads with 17 catches for 327 yards and six touchdowns.
Joe Gugliotti, a 5-11, 190-pound senior runs the offense and has been successful both as a thrower and runner. He's completed 77 of 155 passes for 1,067 yards and ten scores. He's only been picked off five times. On the ground, he's rushed 62 times for 218 yards and three scores.
"We exchanged film with them," Fanelli said. "We've been watching them and they're a quality team, a good team.
"No. 36 (Heddon) is a good kid and does a lot of things for them, and Sales has some speed."