Several teams need big wins this week for different reasons|
Thursday, October 11, 2012
With six weeks of the high school football regular season in the books, several area teams are hoping to strengthen their playoff positioning.
Two of those teams meet when Moshannon Valley travels to Glendale as the Black Knights and Vikings renew their annual rivalry with much more than bragging rights on the line. The teams currently sit eighth and ninth in the District 6 Class A playoff rankings, so a win will certainly help one team's cause.
West Branch is also in the D-6 Class A playoff picture, but currently sits 13th and is pretty much in a must-win situation at Northern Bedford.
Clearfield, which is Progressland's lone remaining unbeaten squad, is sitting atop the District 5-6-8-9 Regional rankings, 250 points in front of both University Prep and Somerset.
The Bison tangle with District 6 power Tyrone, which is sixth in Class AA and looking to improve its position. The game is also crucial in the race for the Mountain League title.
Curwensville dropped from the ranks of the undefeated last week, but looks to rebound at home against Ridgway, while remaining near the top of the Class A rankings in D-9.
Both Philipsburg-Osceola and Purchase Line are still in search of their first win.
The Red Dragons have a chance to get it as they travel to winless United. The Mounties visit a Central squad that currently sits in third place in District 6 Class AA.
Here is a closer look at each game:
Moshannon Valley (4-2) at Glendale (4-2)
FLINTON - The Glendale-Moshannon Valley rivalry has been fairly lopsided the last two and a half decades, but the Vikings have narrowed the gap considerably of late and own a pair of wins over the Black Knights in the last six meetings.
Both of Glendale's wins, which came in 2006 and 2010, came on the friendly confines of Dr. Roy F. Baker Field - the site for this year's meeting.
"In a game like this, (homefield advantage) is very important," said Viking head coach Matt Irvine. "It makes the kids play a little bit harder in front of their home fans and the extra support. This is senior rec night, so that will add to that with more family being there.
"Kids from both teams know each other and they hang out after football season. There are some relatives and stuff on both teams, but you can definitely see the intensity and focus in practice compared to the past weeks."
While both teams sport a 4-2 mark, the Knights have gone 4-0 at home but have dropped both road contests by sizable deficits.
Mo Valley fell 35-14 to Bellwood-Antis in Week 2 and suffered a 56-7 loss to Juniata Valley in Week 5.
Black Knight head coach Michael Keith is hoping the third time is the charm for his squad on the road.
"They have great fans up there and they'll back them like they did when I was up there," Keith said. "We also travel well, and I expect our fans to be just as loud if not louder.
"It's a must-win because we have two losses and they cut the playoff field to eight. If you don't win this, there's a chance you won't make it. We have to treat everything like a playoff game and this is playoff game No. 2 for us."
If Mo Valley is to get off the losing end of its road contests, it will have to slow down an offense with Damon Braniff and Doug Twigg running on all cylinders.
Braniff and Twigg have combined for 591 of the Vikings' 711 yards during their two-game winning streak, but if there's anyone that knows how to slow the Glendale tandem down, it's Keith - who coached them the last two seasons.
"They're two of the better players in the (Inter-County Conference)," said Keith. "You'll never stop them ... we want to contain them.
"We want to try to match up where we'll be successful. I know the team better than any team we play, but they're not happy. They know the situation and they know who's coaching Moshannon Valley. They're going to do everything in their power to rub it in my face and say I made a mistake, and I can't blame them. They're going to be very, very excited to start the game. I think if we can survive the rush, we're going to be okay."
Irvine, an assistant under Keith a season ago, believes his team's familiarity with the Knights' new front man will also pay dividends.
Keith's offense has been based through the air moreso than the Vikings this year, as Mo Valley quarterback Tanner Dipko (71-of-134, 848 yards, 6 TDs, 10 Ints) is on pace to become only the second quarterback in school history to eclipse 1,000 passing yards in a season.
J.R. Baughman accomplished the feat in 1996.
"Just watching tape, we can see the similarity in the playcalling," Irvine said. "Our familiarity with him is going to help a lot on both sides of the ball.
"(Michael) knowing the kids, too, is going to be a benefit for Mo Valley because he knows their strengths and weaknesses. He knows their habits and their body language, and that's going to be big. We've been stressing that this week to them.
"There are (playoff) implications all the way around and you can't take a play off. One let down on either side of the ball could swing the momentum and, in a game like this, you might never get that momentum back."
The Knights have won 23 of the last 25 meetings dating to 1986 and hold a 29-17-1 lead in the all-time series.
Prior to 2006, the last Glendale win over Mo Valley came in 1985 at Hilltop Stadium, the former home of the Knights.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Clearfield (6-0) at Tyrone (4-2)
TYRONE - Just a few short weeks ago, Clearfield's opponent was reeling after starting the season with losses to Bellwood-Antis (22-15) and Central (28-0).
But the Golden Eagles of Tyrone have righted the ship, running off four straight blowout wins and will present the Bison with a stiff challenge.
After scoring just 15 points in two losses, the Eagles have piled up 233 points during their four-game streak, good for a 58.3 points-per-game average.
"They're a different team," Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. "Any time you have a new coach or a new staff, there is an adjustment period - and they've adjusted. They have put things together."
Tyrone is led by junior running back James Oliver, who set the school's single-game rushing record in last week's 54-6 win at Bald Eagle Area.
Oliver ran 18 times for 343 yards and six touchdowns. He has 1,205 yards and 18 touchdowns on 98 carries this season, good for a 12.3 yards-per-carry average.
"If he gets into the secondary, he can do a lot of damage," Janocko said. "That's something we've got to deal with. If he gets to the secondary, we need Dylan Graham to run him down. Dylan and the entire defense are going to be key.
"We have to contain (Oliver). He is going to make his plays, but we have to limit what he does."
And Clearfield can't just key on Oliver as the Eagles have a couple other weapons it needs to look out for.
"They runs some traps to the fullback, and they have a good receiver in (Charles Wilson-Adams). They'll run some Wildcat with him down near the goal line, too."
Wilson-Adams has 13 receptions for 137 yards and a score.
Tyrone quarterback Erik Wagner has completed 39 of 75 passes for 539 yards and five touchdowns to go with five interceptions.
"They will mix things up on offense to try to confuse you," Janocko said. "But we have to be ready for the toss reach, the counter trey and the isos to Oliver."
On defense, Tyrone has surrendered just one touchdown in each of its last four games after allowing 28 points against Central.
"They run to the ball very well," Janocko said. "They're very disciplined. And it seems like they have two or three interceptions a game.
"We need to take care of the football and not make mistakes."
Tyrone won the last meeting between the teams, 23-14, in 2009. The Bison won a 35-34 thriller the season before.
"This will be a good test for us," Janocko said. "This is a big game. But our sights are also set beyond this game. It will be a good experience to play against some adversity. It should help get us ready for the playoffs."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Vets Field.
Ridgway (1-5) at Curwensville (5-1)
CURWENSVILLE - The Golden Tide entered unfamiliar territory this week when they had to prepare for their next opponent after suffering a loss.
Curwensville's 56-34 setback to Brockway was the first defeat of the season for the Tide, but head coach Andy Evanko says his squad has moved past it and is focused on the task at hand - Ridgway.
"Everyone showed up ready for practice and wants to get better," Evanko said. "This is a resilient bunch."
The Tide showed that last week when they came back from a 35-0 deficit to make a game of it, getting as close as 42-34 before falling.
"It makes you feel good as a coach to know no matter what the score is, you are still in the game," Evanko said. "We can come back and play with anyone. We just didn't start the game. If we play the first quarter like we did the second and third, who knows what happens?
"Somewhere this season, this team is going to put a full 48 minutes together."
And Evanko is hoping it's against a Ridgway squad that has a lot of talent despite what the 1-5 record might say.
"They have the hardest-running back we've seen on film in (Zac) McKnight," Evanko said. "He's one of the best we've seen. And they pull their guards all the time, and when they pull they do something. When they get there, they hit people.
"McKnight runs very, very hard, and they have a strong-arm quarterback, too."
McKnight has picked up 639 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and has collected a team-high nine receptions for 119 yards and two scores.
Quarterback Ben MacDonald has completed 25 of his 70 pass attempts for 488 yards and four scores. He has also tossed five interceptions.
Defensively, the Elkers have surrendered at least 28 points in five of their six games, and teams average over 33 points per game against them.
"We have to be able to mix it up a bit more on offense to get people out of the box," Evanko said. "We have people who can catch the ball, and we want to do some different things to help us open up the running game."
Curwensville defeated Ridgway 36-16 last season and has won the last nine meetings between the teams. The Elkers' last win came in 2003.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Riverside Stadium.
Philipsburg-Osceola (0-6) at Central (4-2)
ROARING SPRING - After playing a solid game against Penns Valley but coming up short last week, the Mounties will face an even bigger test in Central Week 7.
The Dragons are coming off a tough, 29-21 loss to Fort Hill, Md. in Week 6.
Central racked up 430 yards against the Sentinels last week, including 240 yards in the air.
Quarterback Austin Cunningham was 21-of-32 with a touchdown pass. Cunningham found six different receivers on the night. He was also the team's leading rusher, toting the ball 16 times for 61 yards.
"The big key is that it starts with the quarterback," said P-O head coach Jeff Vroman. "We can't let him get outside of us. To say you are going to stop them is unrealistic. We can't give up big plays."
The Dragons only other loss came in a 34-33 setback to Clearfield in Week 3.
Meanwhile, P-O is still struggling to finish. The Mounties have moved the ball up and down the field in recent weeks, but haven't been able to score more than seven points in each of its last five games.
Philipsburg-Osceola is averaging just 5.8 points per game after being shut out in Week 1.
"It comes down to us being consistent and that's what we haven't been," Vroman said. "We have to avoid simple penalties and stuff that stops drives.
"Playing good defense goes along with playing good offense. As long as we have the football and they don't have it, that's a plus in our book."
The Mountie defense is giving up 41 points per game, a gap they need to narrow if they hope to put a win up on the board in the next few weeks.
"I've seen some improvement on the offensive side of the football," said Vroman. "I thought the offensive line played pretty well. I thought Curtis (Matsko) did a pretty nice job.
"We have to keep things in manageable downs. That's our gameplan going in. We need to play good sound football in all three phases. We just have to play some fundamental football."
Last season the Mounties lost to Central, 32-20.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Roaring Spring.
West Branch (3-3) at Northern Bedford (6-0)
LOYSBURG - With a 3-3 record, the West Branch football team finds themselves in a familiar place.
In 2011, the Warriors came into Week 9 against Northern Bedford with a 4-4 record. They needed a win last year to earn a spot in the District 6 A playoffs.
This year, a win would keep West Branch's hopes alive for the top eight teams. The Warriors currently sit in 13th place with 370 points.
"It is kind of ironic that we're in this situation again," said West Branch head coach Lester Smeal. "Last year, we had to play these guys to get into the playoffs and here we are again. We're just trying to take them one game at a time."
One of the differences this year is the Panthers roll into Week 7 with no blemishes on their record, while last year the Warriors handed Northern Bedford their second loss of the season, 24-19.
"That's sort of to our benefit," said Smeal. "To us, it doesn't matter how many wins a team has. I've seen teams go in to Week 10 against teams that are 9-0 and beat them. If we just capitalize on the chances they give us and limit mistakes, we'll be fine. We just have to go out and play our style of football."
Northern Bedford junior quarterback Blake Over has been a thorn in the side for every opponent this season. Over comes into the game with 1,173 yards through the air with eight touchdowns.
His leading receiver, Tayler Pressel, has 24 catches for 485 yards from his tight end position.
"He throws really well on the run," said Smeal. "We have to put pressure on him. We just have to do what we do and see if we can stop what they do."
Kickoff at Northern Bedford is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Purchase Line (0-6) at United (0-6)
ARMAGH - 2012 just hasn't been a kind year for the Purchase Line or United football teams.
Both teams come into the seventh week of the season winless and have been struggling scoring points throughout the season. The Lions come into Friday having only scored just 13 points in the first six weeks of the season.
"They have improved since the beginning of the season," said Purchase Line head coach Brandon Overdorff. "They are big and they're gaining experience. We are still very banged up with new players at almost every line position and that's a concern."
The Lions broke a streak of no scoring for 18 quarters last week on a 12-yard touchdown run from Warren Lowther. Despite their lack of scoring, Overdorff knows there is still enough to worry about on Friday evening.
"They are very big across the line," he said. "(Quarterback) Chuck Hropovich is a big kid who can throw pretty well. They have a nice quick running back (Lowther) who ran the ball well last week against Homer-Center."
Meanwhile, the Dragons were close to picking up their first win of the season last week against Marion Center. After a quick 80-yard touchdown pass from Alec Sunderlin to Todd Greene in the first quarter, the Stingers put up 12 unanswered points, including a go-ahead touchdown with 1:31 to go in the game.
"I think we've had problems focusing all year and I'm not sure why," said Overdorff. "It's not enough to show up on Friday nights. You have to prepare for Friday nights.
"We will have our hands full this week, which is no different than any Friday. With our injuries and lack of execution on offense, we're just going to have to fight for everything we get."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.