Breaking down the matchup: Easton at Emmaus football (Lehigh Valley Live)

September 10, 2015

By Greg Joyce  

Both of these teams cruised to blowout wins in Week 1 against EPC North opponents. Now is when the schedule gets interesting.

The Red Rovers (1-0) won last year’s matchup 35-7 behind its defense. But the entire Green Hornets’ offensive line returns, plus they have more of a passing threat than they did last season to complement the rushing attack.

“Last year, you knew it was going to be run 90 percent of the time,” Easton coach Steve Shiffert said. “This year, they seem to be throwing a little bit more. … Our secondary’s gotta read their keys before they come up. When you play a team like that, your secondary can get lured into coming up all the time and then they get you with the play action.”

Emmaus (1-0) will have to find an answer for the Red Rovers’ multiple weapons on offense. Nysir Minney-Gratz and Katrell Thompson both showed off some explosive speed in the opener, finding more success in the second half when the offensive line clicked and Easton went to a sprint draw series.

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Senior linebacker Sal Pagano is in the middle of the Green Hornets defense and he’ll look to lead the way in stopping the Red Rovers. He doesn’t have the size that Andy Davidson brought last year, but Pagano learned from the workhorse now at Army.

Easton’s player to watch: Senior RB/DE/LB Isaiah Walker. The Red Rovers benefit from Walker’s versatility, and not just on both sides of the ball. He can switch between defensive end and linebacker, spelling whoever needs a break and making his presence known wherever he lines up. “He’s an athlete,” Shiffert said. “He probably plays as much as anyone even though he’s not in the starting lineup.”

Emmaus’ player to watch: Senior RB Kyle Boney. He missed a chunk of last year due to injury, but appears to be making up for lost time as he found the end zone six times last Friday. He’s got good size too, at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds. “People hit him and he just picks up three, four, five yards every time,” Shiffert said.

Easton will win if … It takes care of the ball on offense and gets a good push up front. The Red Rovers are still working in three new starters on the offensive line and they seemed to pick it up as the opener went on. But facing Emmaus will be a tougher test in what should be a physical battle in the trenches.

Emmaus will win ifIt rides off the strength of its offensive line. They believe it can be one of the best in the area and this is the time show it against Easton’s tenacious front seven. Quarterback Derek Sheaffer could play a key role here with the Red Rovers gearing up for the run. The passing game isn’t a luxury the Green Hornets had last year, but it could be the difference in some games this year.

Greg Joyce may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GJoyce9. Find  Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.