Strong trio atop EPC South

Lit­tle sur­prise that Nazareth, Easton, Free­dom bat­tling for di­vi­sion ti­tle

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Stephen Miller

Fall just started Mon­day, but the high school foot­ball reg­u­lar sea­son has al­ready hit the half­way mark.

Con­sider this the per­fect time to take stock of the EPC South.

How does the di­vi­sion race look? Which play­ers who weren’t well­known be­fore this sea­son have ar­rived?

Let’s dive in. The di­vi­sion race: Nazareth (5-0 over­all, 4-0 EPC South) and Easton (5-0, 3-0) both went per­fect through their first five games. Free­dom (4-1, 3-1) is the di­vi­sion’s only one-loss team.

His­tory says some­one from that trio will win the di­vi­sion ti­tle. No one has won an EPC South ti­tle or Le­high Val­ley Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship — the LVC was the EPC’s pre­cur­sor — with more than one di­vi­sion loss. The LVC be­gan play in 2002.

Best re­main­ing games

Nazareth at Park­land, Fri­day: Park­land is the last team with a win­ning record that Nazareth plays un­til its reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale against Easton. Park­land scored 24 fourth-quar­ter points to rally past the Blue Ea­gles 45-35 last sea­son.

Free­dom at Easton, Oct. 4: Free­dom coach Ja­son Roeder could be chas­ing ca­reer win No. 100 when he takes the Pa­tri­ots to Cot­ting­ham Sta­dium. Two dy­namic lineback­ers, Easton’s Tamir Jack­son and Free­dom’s Jalen Ste­wart, will share the field.

Em­maus at Free­dom, Oct. 11: Free­dom shocked Em­maus with a late rally to win last sea­son’s reg­u­larsea­son meet­ing in over­time be­fore rolling past the Green Hor­nets in the Dis­trict 11 Class 6A fi­nal. Can Em­maus turn the ta­ble on the Pa­tri­ots?

Easton at Nazareth, Oct. 25: The

best-case sce­nario for fans without a root­ing in­ter­est is this — Easton and Nazareth head into Week 10 un­de­feated and tied for the di­vi­sion lead. Should that hap­pen, this game could also de­ter­mine the top seed for the Dis­trict 11 Class 6A tour­na­ment.

Emerg­ing play­ers

Jared Groller, Em­maus: The sopho­more line­backer has be­come one of the Green Hor­nets’ de­fen­sive dis­rup­tors. He leads Em­maus in tack­les (54), sacks (three) and tack­les for loss (11).

Cole Tran­sue, Easton: The Red Rovers’ sopho­more quar­ter­back fin­ished the first half com­plet­ing 66.7 per­cent of his passes, with nine touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Ma­lik Thomas, Beth­le­hem Catholic: The se­nior run­ning back is av­er­ag­ing 6.3 yards per carry and has scored six touch­downs, pro­vid­ing a com­ple­ment to class­mate Tavion Banks.

Chase Holmes, Easton: The se­nior has be­come a big-play threat in the Red Rovers’ pass­ing at­tack by av­er­ag­ing 19.8 yards per re­cep­tion.

The MVP race: Nazareth quar­ter­back An­thony Har­ris (825 pass­ing yards, 64.2 com­ple­tion per­cent­age, seven touch­downs, two in­ter­cep­tions) and Free­dom quar­ter­back Jared Jenk­ins (901 pass­ing yards, 68.3 com­ple­tion per­cent­age, 11 touch­downs, two in­ter­cep­tions) both de­serve con­sid­er­a­tion.

Easton’s Nah­jee Adams (1,033 rush­ing yards, 13 TDs) has been the top play­maker and a leader for one of the di­vi­sion’s two un­de­feated teams.

Don’t dis­count two-way stand­outs Nathan Ste­fanik (Nazareth) and Jalen Ste­wart (Free­dom). Ste­fanik leads the EPC South with 28 catches and 449 re­ceiv­ing yards. He has also in­ter­cepted nine passes.

Ste­wart has av­er­aged 9.9 yards per carry while rush­ing for 556 yards and nine touch­downs.

He also tops the Pa­tri­ots with 27 tack­les and two in­ter­cep­tions.

One ques­tion for ev­ery EPC South team

■ Will Beth­le­hem Catholic win enough games to grab the top seed for the Dis­trict 11 Class 4A play­offs?

■ Can Cen­tral Catholic (9.7 points per game in its first three EPC South con­tests) score enough to se­cure a .500 over­all record?

■ Will Adams main­tain his first-half pace for Easton and push for a 2,000-yard rush­ing sea­son?

■ How will Em­maus han­dle what may be the di­vi­sion’s tough­est clos­ing stretch — at Free­dom, Beth­le­hem Catholic and at Park­land?

■ Can Free­dom end its twogame los­ing streak to ri­val Lib­erty in Week 10?

■ Will Lib­erty win enough di­vi­sion games to se­cure a spot in the Dis­trict 11 6A tour­na­ment?

■ Can Nazareth keep its de­fense fresh through the sec­ond half?

■ Will Park­land’s of­fen­sive line re­turn to health and de­velop the con­ti­nu­ity to chal­lenge for a dis­trict ti­tle?

■ Can White­hall avoid a win­less di­vi­sion record?

AMY SHORTELL/THE MORN­ING CALL

Cole Tran­sue, cen­ter, has pro­vided qual­ity play at quar­ter­back for Easton.

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