Local College Football: Monarchs, Colonels Set For Matchup
King’s football’s senior class, featuring one of the program’s best offenses, has one more game to add to its lofty totals.
On to its third quarterback of the season, Wilkes counters with an offense that’s beginning to click and looking to end the year with its first victory.
No matter who raises the Mayor’s Cup at the end of today’s 22nd edition of Wilkes-Barre’s cross-town rivalry game, expect plenty of points. Offenses have hardly looked better than in recent chapters of this head-to-head series, and that shouldn’t stop with the personnel both sides will play with at noon.
“I’m anticipating a close game. I’m anticipating a critical play here or there that can greatly influence who wins the game,” Wilkes coach Trey Brown said.
Fans of shootouts have never had it better than in recent installments of the Mayor’s Cup game.
The three highest-scoring King’s-Wilkes games have been produced in the rivalry’s last four editions. Wilkes’ 44-32 victory in 2012 has remained No. 1 with 76 total points, and the second-highest total was set the following year when the Monarchs got revenge, 35-28 (63 points).
Last year’s 42-14 King’s victory was not only the series’ third-highest scoring total, it marked the most points the Monarchs had ever scored against Wilkes (their 35 points in 2013 set their previous high-water mark).
“Things change. People go into the spread, tempo type of an offense,” King’s coach Jeff Knarr, wrapping up his eighth season with the team, said. “A few years ago, I think we had five or six guys in the conference that had over 1,000 yards rushing. Now, we have one guy.”
It doesn’t hurt that his offense has included some of the best pass-game producers in King’s history.
Receiver Dan Kempa starred from 2011-14 with single-season and career records in receptions (151 for his career) and yards (2,550). Two years after Kempa etched his name in the King’s record books, quarterback Zach Whitehead and receiver Tyler Marroni began to make their on history.
Entering today’s matchup, Whitehead already owns Monarchs career records in touchdowns (37) and completions (477). He’s also 267 yards and 15 pass attempts behind current running backs coach Tyler Hartranft’s records of 5,943 yards and 846 passes, set from 2012-14.
“We got to contain him, especially with his feet initially,” Brown, the Colonels’ fourth-year coach, said.
“I think it starts with controlling their Q, in my opinion.”
Whitehead has also taken out single-game and single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns, among others. He’s got to throw more and farther than anyone in a King’s uniform with the help of receivers like senior Tyler Marroni.
Marroni, 6-foot-4, is tied with Kempa’s record 151 career receptions and, at 997 yards, is 60 off Kempa’s single-season record of 1,057. He’s likely to surpass both totals Saturday.
“They’ve come in and helped usher in a new era of our offense,” Knarr said. “They’ve...helped continue to push the program forward and close the gap with the traditional powers here.”
Whitehead also has Marquis Miller out wide, another senior who has reached third in career receptions.
So how does Wilkes — a team with its own top-10 career receiver in tight end Garrett Armstrong — combat all that? Brown hopes his Colonels cash in on game-changing plays and don’t give up any of their own.
Brown pointed to defining moments in recent games, both against King’s and this season. The Colonels poured on 17 points in the first quarter of their 24-17 victory in 2015, including a fumble recovery touchdown and a blocked punt that set up a field goal.
But they fumbled three times last week to Stevenson and tossed five interceptions the week before in a 26-23 loss to Albright. The mistakes wiped away a 32-for-44, 307-yard day by freshman QB Nicholas Geimer, the Colonels’ third starting quarterback this season.
Those are extra possessions Wilkes can’t afford to give King’s.
“We got to do better taking care of the ball, making good decisions,” Brown said.
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