Strong trio atop EPC South
Little surprise that Nazareth, Easton, Freedom battling for division title
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.
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?
Cole Transue, center, has provided quality play at quarterback for Easton.