Zephs set for WVW to open up states
The next step for Whitehall on their journey to win a state football title will be against a team that’s riding a hot streak when they come into Zephyr Stadium this Friday.
While Wyoming Valley West is only .500 for the season (6-6), the Spartans are now on a roll. They’ve won five out of their last six games, manhandling both district opponents en route to the title, outscoring Abington Heights and Wallenpaupack by a 98-21 margin.
Much of their offense goes through quarterback Rob Dwyer. The senior signal caller is a dual threat in the backfield, and has emerged as their primary ball carrier this season. Dwyer ran for 110 yards, scoring four rushing TDs and threw for another in their 35-7 win over Wallenpaupack in the District 2 AAAAA championship. The game was played last Thursday to avoid the inclement weather scheduled for Friday, so both Southern Lehigh and Whitehall were aware of the winner when they took the field at Northampton.
The Spartans also feature running back Sean Mikovitch who scored two touchdowns in their semifinal game. He went over 200 yards in their October win over Abington Heights, rushing for 212 on 14 carries in their 38-7 victory over the Comets. Joining him in the backfield is Zach Davies who can also pile up the yards.
The Spartans also rely on a big offensive line that’s been the key to their midseason reversal The line is anchored by UCLA recruit Chris Bleich. Bleich is 6’6” and 315 pounds and they like to run behind the soon-to-be Bruin.
They are led by head coach Pat Keating who was quoted as saying that they’re playing their best football right now.
The Zephyrs last played Wyoming Valley West in 2010 when they defeated the Spartans in the district playoffs, 41-27. That means much has changed since these two teams met.
Whitehall head coach Brian Gilbert said that Wyoming Valley West is the best 6-6 team he’s seen. He said their turnaround began up front and believes that has fueled this second half run.
“I think they’ve just kind of figured out how to own the whole line of scrimmage,” said Gilbert.
After watching them both in person and on film, Gilbert said that what stands out is their size. He said that they’ll want to be physical so it’s important that they ready at the point of attack. That also means focusing on their running game.
“We have to definitely make sure we stop the run,” said Gilbert.
As for what Whitehall will look to do on Friday, they won’t deviate from what’s brought them to this point.
“On offense we want to spread it out and be able to run the ball effectively and get our athletes in space,” said Gilbert.
The Zephs ran the ball effectively in the district championship game, piling up 295 yards against the Spartans which paved the way for the title. For the season, Braxton Marrero leads the way with 1,025 yards, while quarterback Ethan Parvel, an outstanding dual threat on his own, has rushed for 947. Des Boykin can also do extensive damage in the running game and has amassed 460 yards this season, while Dabriel Ayala has run for 196.
Parvel has also demonstrated his proficiency passing the ball. The junior has completed 112 passes for 1,931 yards, including 29 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 13 more.
Boykin has been on the receiving end of 58 of those passes for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns. Additionally, Joe Herman III has 14 catches for 310 yards and five TDs, while Allen Negrete has 12 receptions for 309 yards and six touchdowns.
The Zephyrs also rely on their experienced line as well and that group will once again look to dominate the line of scrimmage. Their potent running game owes much of its success to Jacob Hudak, Markes Cruz, Bret Legath, Ian Kulp, Mike Smith, and Justin Santiago.
Gilbert said that having one more home game means so much to the team, especially the seniors.
Gilbert said it will be important to get his playmakers out in space on offense, and contain their running game on defense. If they can do both, they’ll be advancing to the next stage of the PIAA 5A playoffs.