What to watch: Philo’s physicality, Pantaleo’s burst


Jordan Pantaleo scored three touchdowns against Zanesville, but can he repeat that game against a stout Philo defense?

By Nick McWilliams, Sports Director

Tri-Valley versus Philo is the biggest game anywhere in Muskingum County Friday night. Rarely does a mid-season contest carry this much weight, but both sides have more than just bragging rights to play for.

On one side, the Scotties are looking to keep pace with a Sheridan team that has dominated all opponents placed in front of them for the lead of the Muskingum Valley League. Across the field are the Electrics, sitting at 3-1 with the chance to bring Tri-Valley into the middle of the conference race, away from the top of the MVL where they normally reign.

Philo brings the kind of defensive attack that is not afraid to meet running backs at the line of scrimmage, along with an offense that is built on old-fashioned power running. That philosophy of not being afraid to get their hands dirty has thrust Philo into a string of recent successes, including a share of the 2016 MVL title with the Scotties.

Philo practices hard and plays even harder, a style fans familiar with Dirk Lincicome and his staff would not be surprised to see during the week. But there’s nothing about that kind of approach that is unfair or harsh by any standards.

It’s just the way football is for the players who live in Duncan Falls.

Lincicome agreed his team shows more grit than most, and used the old adage “knowledge is power” to explain what makes his team play just a little bit harder.

“I think our kids are pretty tough,” he said Wednesday. “It’s kind of a mindset we try to preach into them all through the summer and even back into the spring time. To outwork and out prepare people, work on the things we can control and not get too caught up in the things we don’t control. It’s just kind of going out and playing smart, playing fast and the physicality usually comes when you know what you’re doing. If you’re in the right spot and you know what your assignment is, then you can do it at a fast pace and you can start focusing on your technique rather than worrying about where (you’re) supposed to be or what (you’re) supposed to be doing.”

Philo will certainly need that extra toughness against Tri-Valley, and more specifically, sophomore running back Jordan Pantaleo. Reeling off a pair of 100-yard games in back-to-back weeks, it’s unexpected to see such agile running from a player who is barely old enough to have his driver’s license.

Perhaps his best performance to date came against Zanesville in the biggest challenge yet for the Scotties, finishing the game with 126 yards on 19 carries and three total touchdowns. Without Pantaleo, Tri-Valley might not have its unblemished record to this point.

Scotties’ coach Kevin Fell likes what he sees out of his young running back, and talked about a decision to make him one of the featured backs early in the season.

“He’s improved, week to week,” Fell said. “At the beginning of the year, we have a couple of senior running backs that played last year. And we basically moved them to defense simply because we knew he was a potential running back. He’s played well and he has a knack for finding a hole.”

That field vision and quick decision making of Pantaleo fit perfectly into a zone-run offense like Tri-Valley uses, and the results are showing.

The clash between Philo’s no-nonsense defense and Tri-Valley’s young running back could be the biggest storyline moving forward, given that the weather forecast is predicting a game powered by the run. If the Scotties are forced to put the ball on the ground more often than normal, this could be a game that comes down to the final play.

Keep a close eye on No. 33 for the Scotties and how the Electrics handle him on defense.