Falcons face Jim Thorpe in EC football playoffs
The last time Salisbury won an Eastern Conference football championship was back in 2006. Current special teams coordinator and offensive/defensive line coach Chris Kretzman was a senior lineman on that Falcons team.
Now, 13 years later, the Falcons are returning to the Eastern Conference stage in hopes of bringing home more hardware to Salisbury High School. Salisbury (6-4) will take on Jim Thorpe (7-3) on the Olympians’ home field Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“For a Salisbury football team to be in a championship game, it hasn’t happened very often,” head coach Andy Cerco said. “We’d like that to be more often than not moving forward, whether it be Eastern Conference or districts. That’s our goal and vision—to get to be that kind of a team to be in the mix year in and year out.”
The Falcons will look to get back on track against an Olympian team that is coming off a 21-7 win over Lehighton in Week 10. Lehighton has qualified for the District 11 Class 4A tournament.
Jim Thorpe’s offense is fueled by the running of tailback CJ Selby. The Olympians’ workhorse has carried the ball 191 times for 1,423 yards and 15 touchdowns in 10 games, so it’s evident who figures to get a majority of the carries on Friday night.
But Dom Madera has also been a nice second option in the backfield. He’s tallied 389 yards and six touchdowns on 60 carries for the Olympians.
“That’s been their primary back,” Cerco said. “They’ll hand it off directly to him. They’ll run him in some jet motions. They’ll also put him back at the quarterback position and run some wildcat situations. He’s a pretty good runner.
“They do a good job getting off the ball and blocking for him. They’ve done some things against some pretty good teams [that are in the district tournament].”
Jim Thorpe also ended the season losing two of its final three games, but both were to district-qualifying teams in the respective Class 3A and 4A fields: Tamaqua and Pottsville.
Leading the Olympians’ offense is signal caller Davier Calcano. While a primarily run-based team (2,083 rushing yards compared to 902 through the air) Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger won’t be afraid to take chances down the field. Calcano has completed 51-of-101 passes for 854 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The opponent may be a bit of an anomaly for Cerco and the Falcons now, but they’ll certainly grow accustomed to one another with the Schuylkill League and Colonial league scheduling cooperative beginning in 2020. Friday night will be the first test to see how Salisbury fairs against its new foe.
“That’s another thing of being able to play in this championship game,” Cerco said. “We get to see a new team from what we traditionally play. And this new team is going to be on our schedule next year. At least we get to experience what that is like, and traveling that far, and those kinds of things. That’s a whole new learning process, too.”
The Falcons will welcome Jim Thorpe in Week 4 of next season and will travel to the Carbon County seat to take on the Olympians in 2021.