SOUTHERN LEHIGH HIGH SCHOOL – Tomorrow night, the Southern Lehigh football program will go where it has never gone before: the District 11 3A Championship Game. In Pottsville last week, head coach John Toman’s staff and players broke barriers by winning the first football playoff game in school history. Now the program’s berth in the district championship has gotten players excited. “We’re playing for a championship,” said Toman, who has coached alongside staffers such as offensive coordinator Mike Feifel and defensive coordinator Derek Bleiler for five years at Southern Lehigh. “It feels good.”
Toman said his staff and players “understand it’s a good football team” they’ll meet Friday night. The Harrisburg Patriot-News currently ranks the undefeated Allentown Central Catholic Vikings the number one 3A team in Pennsylvania. The Vikings won state titles in 1993 and 1998, won this year’s Lehigh Valley Conference crown, and are the defending District 11 3A champions. After defeating Southern Lehigh 42-7 in last year’s district semifinals, Central Catholic lost 31-10 to eventual state champion Selinsgrove High School in the state quarterfinals.
The Vikings come loaded with lots of talent on both sides of the ball. According to www.MaxPreps.com, junior quarterback Brendan Nosovitch has scored 36 touchdowns this season – 23 in the air, and 13 more on the ground. Because the quarterback rushed for around 1,000 yards this year, Toman said he wants to “take his feet away and make him throw the ball.” If the Spartans do, they’ll still have to stop sophomore running back Colin McDermott, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. When Nosovitch does throw the ball, Toman said, he has more than one receiver to go to. Junior wide receiver Kevin Gulyas leads Viking receivers with 656 yards and 9 touchdowns. Toman said he looks to confuse Central Catholic by moving around his defensive players Friday night.
Southern Lehigh’s linemen are more experienced than they were the last time they met the Vikings, said Toman. He hopes to have more success running the ball this time. When it’s time to throw, “I like Jeff Smillie against anybody,” said the coach. Toman described Central Catholic as a “very aggressive” 3-5 defense that blitzes often. Like last week, Toman said Southern Lehigh will have an edge in the kicking game. Senior kickers Sam Terlingo and D.J. Williams give the Spartans the ability to kickoff and punt deeper, and kick field goals and extra points more accurately, than their competition.
Exuberant and focused, Toman looks forward to having to reschedule Thanksgiving plans in order to practice next Thursday morning for the state playoffs. After last week’s win, Southern Lehigh isn’t just a school for other sports anymore, Toman said. “We’ll definitely open a lot of eyes if we can pull this off.”
The 9-2 Spartans will face 11-0 Central Catholic at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown Friday night at 7 p.m.