Northampton Legion head coach Mike Bodnar knew his challenges this season would be different than last year.
Mainly, health and depth are on his side this year.
But Bodnar’s biggest challenge will come down the final stretch of the season that began Monday night when his team (7-2) was faced with the predicament of playing eight consecutive games in as many days and nine games in 10 days.
“It is about to get really interesting,” said Bodnar. “No one likes to play early. Everybody keeps pushing games off. We are all in the same boat.
Last season, Northampton took the first step after making a historic run to the District 11 Class 6A championship game the previous campaign.
Now, it’s time for phase two with 14 returning players back.
The Konkrete Kids recently begun their new journey in the Cedar Beach Summer Basketball League.
“I am impressed on the effort they have given in these summer league games,” said Kids’ head coach Coy Stampone. “It’s early and it’s summer, but I do sense a lot of confidence in this team.
All games have been played inside because of weather. It’s hard to tell.
Northampton’s Hunter Werkheiser and Nate Bendekovits truly cherished the moments and the overall experience with the recent 49th annual McDonald’s Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic at Nazareth’s Andrew S. Leh Stadium.
The senior linemen along with Kids’ running back Ethan Deater represented the Gold team – comprised of players from Northampton County, Phillipsburg and Palisades – that lost to the Red team - players from Lehigh, Carbon, and Monroe counties - 28-14, as the Red team claimed its first victory in the series since 2015.
Northampton’s Legion team ended last year’s campaign in the opening round of the state regional playoffs with nine healthy players.
Unless injuries arise again, that shouldn’t be a problem for them this season.
Depth won’t be an issue for Northampton, as it has an abundance of players from the EPC champion high school team as well as some recent graduates who are playing on the collegiate level.
As a result, Northampton won five of its first six games (5-1), suffering its first loss to Banko’s (7-2) Sunday.
Northampton head boys’ basketball coach Coy Stampone has told me several times that he now expects his team to make districts every year.
Kids’ head baseball coach Mick Sugra was sitting at home on a recent Sunday afternoon, but he expected his team to be playing in the second round of the district playoffs.
NHS head football coach Kyle Haas revived a life support program and led the team to nine wins and their first district appearance since 2003.
What do they all have in common?
It is about regaining respectability.
All season long, Northampton never suffered a blowout loss. In fact, the Konkrete Kids’ (20-4) four defeats were by a combined total of six runs.
So, a close loss didn’t loom as the likely ending of their season.
Unfortunately, it was.
The Kids abruptly ended one of the best seasons in school history with a 5-3 loss to Emmaus in the opening-round of the District 11 Class 6A playoffs.
Throughout the baseball season, Cam Eaton knew the big picture and how to appreciate it.
He has been there before as the football team’s starting quarterback only to lose his job to teammate Joe Kerbacher after the seventh game of the season.
In fact, football helped him shape his final baseball season.
“I let the incident make me work even harder,” said the senior. “I learned a lot from what happened in football. It reminded me never to let something like that happen again.
Since he took over the program eight years ago, Mick Sugra has been looking for the trifecta of pitching, hitting, and defense to create the perfect season.
So far, he is getting his wish.
The Kids headed into Wednesday’s opening -round of districts as the top seed in the Class 6A bracket and hosted Emmaus. They captured their first East Penn Conference crown since 1979 with a 3-1 victory over Liberty last week.
Twenty-two years separate the two teams, but the comparisons can be a bit uncanny.
Northampton recently won its first conference crown since 1997 (then Mountain Valley Conference) and, in many ways, it can seem like it was yesterday.
“Both teams are alike in many ways,” said current head coach Mick Sugra, whose team took a 20-3 mark into districts. “The teams back in ‘95 through ‘97 were loaded. We lost to Liberty in the district semifinals in ’96 (5-4) after we beat them 20-0 during the season, and we were crushed.
It continues to be a season of accomplishments for the Northampton baseball team.
With their East Penn Conference (EPC) semifinal playoff appearance against Emmaus Tuesday, the Konkrete Kids made their first appearance under current head coach Mick Sugra. A win would send them into the finals Thursday against either Liberty or Easton.
Previously, the Kids under Sugra made it to the EPC quarterfinals and lost both times (Parkland in 2017 and Stroudsburg in 2015).