The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference produced five different champions for the 2021 football season, and seven teams played in games that could have secured titles.
Northampton won the EPC North title; Parkland won the EPC South.
Freedom beat Emmaus 28-14 for the District 11 6A championship, while East Stroudsburg South made an amazing comeback with a 47-41 overtime win in the District 11 5A final. Allentown Central Catholic had its own thriller, battling Northwestern Lehigh 21-14 from behind in the 4A title game.
But the one thing no EPC team enjoyed in 2021 was a state playoff win. Freedom lost to St. Joe’s Prep, East Stroudsburg South was routed by Erie Cathedral Prep, and Central Catholic’s season ended by Jersey Shore.
When the first official steps of the 2022 season are taken on Monday, with the start of the heat acclimation phase, the goal for all 18 teams in the EPC is not only to compete for league and district championships, but also to progress as far as possible, possibly as far as Parkland did it 20 years ago when he won the PIAA Class 4A crown in 2002.
It’s a long way from August 8th to August 8th/9th/10th. December is the weekend of the six state championship games being played for the first time at Cumberland Valley High School. No school time is longer. But with a mix of talent, hard work, perseverance and some luck, this four-month trail could offer many great memories.
Here are five things you should know about EPC Football 2022:
1. Plan for week 1 revised. With the EPC formed in time for the 2014/15 school year, the Week 1 football schedule featured nine cross-divisional games. Most of those games last season were won by the South teams, and most of them in a one-sided manner.
In 2021, the South teams went 7-1, with the only North win coming from eventual North League champions Northampton. The Concrete Kids beat Bethlehem Catholic 17-14. The Parkland-Pleasant Valley game has been canceled by COVID-19.
The other seven games were all South routes, decided by an average of 43.1 points per game.
To give North a slightly more successful start to the season, the week of nine cross-division games in the schedule was moved to Week 6 in late September. Week 1 will now feature several big matches between traditional powers. For example, Emmaus will play at Freedom in a rematch of last year’s 6A District Finals. Easton plays Catholic Visits in Whitehall in Parkland and Bethlehem. The only cross-divisional match – and there will be at least one each week – will see Nazareth travel to Allentown to face Dieruff.
2. Ranking shake. Every two years, the PIAA reclassifies teams based on changing enrollment numbers and their formula for success. The new two-year cycle begins this fall with 96 schools playing football in Grade A, 94 in 2A, 88 in 3A, 93 in 4A, 99 in 5A and 88 in 6A.
In terms of EPC/District 11 football, the biggest change is that 6A will now be a sub-region that includes District 4’s Williamsport and District 2’s Wilkes-Barre Area and Hazleton. They will rank in the top 8 with 10 EPC members Advance to the postseason tournament via the power ranking system.
From Class 6A to 5A, Pleasant Valley and Pocono Mountain West dropped, giving 5A six schools, with East Stroudsburg South, Pocono Mountain East, Southern Lehigh, and Whitehall being the other 5A teams. The first four rise in this classification. The 4A classification also only has six teams, half of which are EPC members – Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic and East Stroudsburg North, and Bangor, Blue Mountain and Pottsville. There, too, the top 4 are advancing.
3. No changes at the top. As far as we know, as heat adaptation begins, all 18 head coaches will be returning from 2021, which is highly unusual. The league usually features at least one change. In fact, there were four freshman coaches last season, at least in terms of attendance at new schools: Mel Thomas (Allen), Kyle Haas (Bethlehem Catholic), Shawn Daignault (Liberty) and John Toman (Northampton). The coach who has been with his current school the longest is Jim McCarroll of Pocono Mountain West. He’s the only coach the Panthers have ever had and he’s entering his 21st season.
4. Giant of yards. Last season, the EPC consisted of six 1,000-yard rushers led by Freedom’s Deante Crawford, who had 1,719. Parkland’s Dahlir Adams (1,271), Pocono Mountain West’s Jaden Bowens (1,267), ES South’s Ron Blake (1,153) and Pleasant Valley’s Rob Papaleo (1,006) have all had great seasons, but all have graduated. The only 1,000-yard rusher to return is Stroudsburg’s Andre Reames, who had 1,022 yards last season. Reames is also the top returning goalscorer, having hit 15 touchdowns for 90 points last season.
5. Who flies? East Stroudsburg South’s Bobby McClosky threw for a league-high 2,190 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. But he graduated along with the rest of the top six passers in EPC North and three of the top six in EPC South. The top returning QB in terms of yards is Emmaus Junior Josiah Williams, who had 1,893 yards and 18 TD passes last season. But he will be fighting for the QB job with Jake Fotta, who had a great sophomore year in 2019 but sat out all of last season with a cruciate ligament tear. Central Catholic’s Tamlin Ferguson threw for 1,459 yards as a junior last year, but he too will have to fight for a spot.
The best returning QB positioned for a big year is Nazareth’s Sonny Sasso, a senior who threw for 1,877 yards and 15 TDs last year.
The 2022 Eastern Pennsylvania football schedule with all games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted:
FRIDAY, 08.08. 26
Pocono Mountain East near Stroudsburg
Nazareth near Dieruff
Catholic Bethlehem in Whitehall
Pocono Mountain West near Northampton
Emmaus at liberty
Easton in Parkland
Allen in East Stroudsburg South
Pleasant Valley in East Stroudsburg North
SATURDAY, 08.08. 27
Freedom at Allentown CCHS
FRIDAY, SEPT. 2
Dieruff in East Stroudsburg South
Stroudsburg near Northampton
Parkland in Nazareth
Whitehall at liberty
Allen in Pleasant Valley
Allentown CCHS in Emmaus
East Stroudsburg North on Pocono Mountain East
Freedom in Easton
SATURDAY, SEPT. 3
Pocono Mountain West in Bethlehem Catholic
FRIDAY, SEPT. 9
Northampton at East Stroudsburg North
East Stroudsburg South in the Pleasant Valley
Parkland at Freedom
Pocono Mountain East at Allen
Freedom in Stroudsburg
Emmaus at Whitehall
Dieruff at Pocono Mountain West
Catholic Bethlehem in Nazareth
SATURDAY, SEPT. 10
Easton at Allentown CCHS
FRIDAY, SEPT. 16
Whitehall near Easton
Pleasant valley near Dieruff
Allentown CCHS in Parkland
East Stroudsburg North near Emmaus
Stroudsburg on Pocono Mountain West
Catholic Bethlehem in Liberty
Allen in Northampton
East Stroudsburg South on Pocono Mountain East
SATURDAY, SEPT. 17
Nazareth at liberty
FRIDAY, SEPT. 23
Parkland at Whitehall
Easton at Allen
Pocono Mountain West at East Stroudsburg North
Freedom in Nazareth
Dieruff in Stroudsburg
Emmaus in Bethlehem Catholic
Northampton at East Stroudsburg South
Pocono Mountain East in the Pleasant Valley
SATURDAY, SEPT. 24
Freedom at Allentown CCHS
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30
Pleasant valley at parkland
East Stroudsburg South at Liberty
East Stroudsburg North near Nazareth
Freedom for everyone
Easton on Pocono Mountain East
Whitehall on Pocono Mountain West
Stroudsburg near Emmaus
SATURDAY, OCT. 1
Allentown CCHS near Dieruff
Northampton in Bethlehem Catholic
FRIDAY, OCT. 7
Whitehall at Liberty
Pocono Mountain East near Dieruff
Catholic Bethlehem in Easton
Pleasant Valley in Northampton
East Stroudsburg South at Parkland
Freedom at Emmaus
Allen at Pocono Mountain West
East Stroudsburg North near Stroudsburg
SATURDAY, OCT. 8th
Nazareth at Allentown CCHS
FRIDAY, OCT. 14
Easton at Liberty
Stroudsburg near Allen
Freedom in the Pleasant Valley
Dieruff in East Stroudsburg North
Allentown CCHS in Whitehall
Northampton on Pocono Mountain East
Pocono Mountain West at East Stroudsburg South
Emmaus in Nazareth
SATURDAY, OCT. fifteen
Parkland in Bethlehem Catholic
FRIDAY, OCT. 21
Catholic Bethlehem at liberty
East Stroudsburg South near Stroudsburg
Freedom at Parkland
Allen in East Stroudsburg North
Pleasant valley on Pocono Mountain West
Emmaus in Easton
Northampton near Dieruff
Nazareth at Whitehall
THURSDAY, OCT. 20
Pocono Mountain East at Allentown CCHS, 7:30 a.m
FRIDAY, OCT. 28
Pocono Mountain West and Pocono Mountain East
Allentown CCHS in Catholic Bethlehem
East Stroudsburg North at East Stroudsburg South
Stroudsburg in Pleasant Valley
Parkland at Emmaus
Whitehall in Northampton
Nazareth near Easton
SATURDAY, OCT. 29
freedom in freedom, 1
Dieruff at Allen, 1:30
THURSDAY 11 24
Catasauqua at Northampton, 10am
Easton vs. Phillipsburg, 10:30 a.m