Several area teams jockeying for better playoff positions this week
Thursday, October 18, 2012
As the regular campaign winds down, several area teams are still very much in the thick of their respective playoff races, while others are hoping to end tough seasons on positive notes.
Clearfield travels to Bald Eagle Area looking to solidify its playoff standing and keep its undefeated season in tact, while the Eagles are looking to stay near the top of the District 6 Class AA rankings.
Curwensville plays host to Allegheny Mountain League South Division foe Elk County Catholic with both teams hoping to better their District 9 Class A standing.
Glendale, which currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot in District 6 Class A, visits Juniata Valley in a key showdown. The Green Hornets are fifth.
Mo Valley and West Branch are both on the outside looking in and need wins to remain alive for the postseason.
The Black Knights, who are 11th, host Williamsburg, while the 13th ranked Warriors entertain Mount Union.
Purchase Line looks to build on last week's win - its first of the season - when it hosts the current fourth-seed in D-6 Class A in Penns Manor.
And Philipsburg-Osceola welcomes Huntingdon to Memorial Field with both teams searching for their first victory of the year.
Here is a closer look at this week's games:
Clearfield (7-0) at Bald Eagle Area (5-2)
WINGATE - The games just keep getting bigger and bigger for the Clearfield football team.
One week after keeping their unbeaten record intact with a thrilling one-point victory at Tyrone, the Bison find themselves on the road against a team fighting for a spot in the District 6 playoffs once again.
This time, the opponent is twice-beaten Bald Eagle Area, which is currently tied for third place in the Class AA playoff race.
Meanwhile, Clearfield has its unbeaten regular season, the possible top spot in the District 5-6-8-9 playoffs and another Mountain League title at stake.
"This is what we play for," Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. "It's an exciting time. There's a lot on the line every week.
"We're playing for a lot, but they're playing for a lot, too. It will be a hard-fought game. It should be fun."
The Eagles two losses came to Central (34-0) and Tyrone (54-6), two teams the Bison own one-point victories over.
BEA's five wins came against Bellefonte (42-7), Philipsburg-Osceola (27-7), Chestnut Ridge (28-26), Penns Valley (21-20) and Huntingdon (35-26).
"They're a good 5-2 team," Janocko said. "And we're playing at their place. This is a much-improved Bald Eagle team from what they have been the last few years."
The Bison need to be ready for just about anything from the Eagles when they have the ball according to Janocko.
"They run some load option, then run a twins set with jet sweeps and counters," he said. "And they run a power game. They do a little bit of everything."
BEA has a pair of running backs who have topped the century mark in games this season, led by Dakota Bartley, who put up 162 yards and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in last week's win over Huntingdon. Bartley also posted a 123-yard effort against Chestnut Ridge.
Dion Barnard ran the ball 27 times for 193 yards against Penns Valley and also had a team-high 74 yards in the win over P-O.
Both Bartley and Barnard are involved in the passing game as are a variety of receivers as quarterback Cole Long likes to spread the ball around.
"He carries the brunt of it," Janocko said of Bartley. "But they'll also get the fullback involved and can throw the ball."
Against the BEA defense, the Bison will need to contend with an aggressive front with active linebackers.
"They like to crowd the line of scrimmage and put a lot of players near the ball," Janocko said. "And (Nate) Sharkey is a real good linebacker.
"It's going to be another test for us."
Clearfield beat the Eagles, 49-14, last season and hold a 23-17 advantage in the all-time series.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Elk County Catholic (5-2) at Curwensville (6-1)
CURWENSVILLE - The Golden Tide rebounded nicely from a Week 6 loss to Brockway by thumping Ridgway at Riverside Stadium, 54-6, last week.
And that kind of performance was just what head coach Andy Evanko was hoping for heading into this week's showdown with Elk County Catholic.
"This is a pretty resilient bunch," Evanko said of his team. "They went out and performed well. They executed."
The Golden Tide will need that same time of production against a twice-beaten Crusader team that is right behind them in the District 9 Class A playoff standings.
Curwensville is currently in fifth place with 790 points, 40 behind Union and 140 in front of sixth-place ECC.
"Every time we play them it's a tough game," Evanko said. "If you look at the playoff picture, they're coming in here needing to win. It's an important game for them. But it's important to us, too."
Elk County Catholic features a power running game that resembles the Golden Tide's offense.
"The league has changed so much," Evanko said. "We used to see this kind of offense every week. Now we're seeing the spread offense all the time and power teams are few and far between."
Running backs Brock McCullough and Hank Cappiello lead the offense with a combined 1,167 yards in the ground. McCullough has 660 of those yards and has scored six touchdowns.
Cappiello also has six rushing touchdowns, but three of those came in Week 1 against Smethport is his only 100-yard game of the season. McCullough has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times this year.
"They're talented," Evanko said. "They're good-sized, hard-nosed backs who run behind a pretty nice line. Their inside game is pretty powerful. They're a lot like us. We've been trying to figure out how to stop ourselves all week in practice."
Defensively, the Crusaders could present a challenge for Curwensville. ECC only surrendered 12 points in its first five weeks before a 17-14 loss to Kane in Week 6 and last week's 44-22 defeat to Brockway.
"They only gave up around 20 points before the Brockway game." Evanko said. "Year-in and year-out they are noted for defense. They run downhill at you and they are strong tacklers."
Evanko is hoping what could be the last home game for the Tide this season will be a motivating factor in the game.
"I would hope so," he said. "This senior class has worked so hard and they are so together as a team and that has filtered down to the underclassmen. It's been a great group to coach.
"This could be their last time at Riverside Stadium and that's going to mean something. It means something to be at our house down by the river and put on the black and gold and the helmets with the GT on it."
Curwensville defeated the Crusaders, 38-6, last year.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Glendale (5-2) at Juniata Valley (6-1)
ALEXANDRIA - The Vikings enter Week 8 of the season after riding high with a dominant win over rival Moshannon Valley last week, but the win over the Black Knights was just the first of a crucial 3-game stretch for Matt Irvine's squad.
Glendale takes to the road to face an explosive Juniata Valley squad, which averages 42 points per game on the ground.
The Green Hornets have a pair of 800-plus yard rushers, so Irvine knows that his squad must keep up with them offensively.
The Juniata Valley defense has been prone to big games, as they've allowed three opponents to score 34 points or more. Conversely, the Hornets have won three games in which the opposition has scored seven or fewer.
"We just need to take what they're going to give you," said Irvine. "They like to blitz a lot, so we have to catch them off guard and take what they give us and not force anything. I think the kids are ready for this game. If we do win, we'll get the (Inter-County Conference) divisional championship and they know it hasn't been done since 1980.
"It's something they want, but they know we have the best team we've faced all year standing in our way. We're ready for the challenge, so we'll see what the outcome is."
Juniata Valley's lone blemish came to undefeated Bellwood-Antis - the Vikings' opponent next week - in a game it still scored 34 points.
Hornet running backs Brett Grissinger and Jesse Claar have combined for 26 rushing TDs this season, as Juniata Valley hasn't been held to fewer than 28 points in any one game.
"We can bend, but can't break," Irvine said of his defense. "We know they'll get their yards and first downs. They're going to get a big play or two, but we can't break. Offensively, we have to keep going. We can't have a lull because we have to keep up with them. We have to keep our heads in the game and not let up."
The wing-T is an offense that gave Irvine's squad fits in a 20-14 overtime win over Tussey Mountain two weeks ago, but the first-year head coach is optimistic that his defense will be more comfortable in the scheme based around slowing down that particular offense.
"The biggest difference (between the Hornets and Titans) is the execution," said Irvine. "Juniata Valley executes it a lot better, but we're just going to have to get back into what we were trying to go against Tussey Mountain. We threw a difference defense and the kids that week, and I think they just have to believe in it.
"We know it's going to work, but they have to believe it's going to work and just play."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Williamsburg (1-6) at Moshannon Valley (4-3)
AMESVILLE - Home sweet home.
The Black Knights return to the Moshannon Valley Athletic Complex for the final time in 2012, where they own a perfect 4-0 mark with Williamsburg visiting for Senior Night.
Mo Valley's road woes continued in last week's loss to Glendale, but head coach Michael Keith hopes that returning to his home turf is what his team needs to get over the hump.
The Knights are 0-3 on the road this season, where they've been outscored 120-34.
"We're not a quick starting team," said Keith. "We don't come out with all this fire and emotion. I think with it being at home, the crowd helps us get started but we need to cure that real quick. Knowing it's the last game (the seniors) are going to play, they should be raring to go and enjoy every minute of it.
"It might be that (the schedule) just worked that way. Glendale's a tough football team after only losing four seniors from last year, Juniata Valley has one loss and Bellwood-Antis is undefeated. It just so happened that those were all on the road."
The Knights have outscored opponents 92-44 on their home field and have allowed just 193.3 yards of offense per game. Conversely, opponents have gained an average of 295 when Mo Valley is away from home.
Keith is hoping his defensive unit can rise to the occasion once more, as slowing down the Blue Pirates' tandem of Jed Dishong and Alan Shanholtz will be the key to bouncing back into the win column.
Both have eclipsed 340 yards on the ground with Shanholtz scoring five touchdowns.
"They know (Shanholtz) is their big weapon," Keith said. "They have been spreading it out a little bit more as of late with a spread wing-T look, so we have to play defense. Our defensive ends have to be tough and not let anyone outside of them, and everyone else has to get to the football."
The Knights' running game sputtered in last week's loss to the Vikings, where they gained negative yards, so Keith has moved a pair of receivers in Kent Stewart and Nathan Bailey to the offensive line to provide some depth.
Stewart is one of the area's top receivers with 21 catches for 321 yards, while Bailey has added a pair of catches for 25.
"With the changes (on the line), we're hoping we can get the running game established," said Keith. "If we want to make any run at (the playoffs), we have to establish the run and it begins on Friday."
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Mount Union (2-5) at West Branch (3-4)
ALLPORT - L.T. Drivas Memorial Field has been a friendly place this year for the West Branch football team.
With just one loss (against Bellwood-Antis) on their home field this year, the Warriors look to continue their success against Mount Union, which is the only Class AA opponent on their schedule this year.
"We need four quarters of football," said Warrior head coach Lester Smeal. "On the road, we seem to play well the third and fourth quarter and we forget the first and second. I'd like to see us play the way we did the last time we were home."
The Trojans have frequently thrown the ball this season.
Sophomore quarterback Trevon Walker is 56-of-122 for 695 yards with six touchdowns. The majority of his targets have been tight end Jamal Smith, who has 14 catches for 160 yards this season. Wide receiver Kahlil Fortson (196 yards) and Bryn Brown (130 yards) have also been reliable options for Walker.
"Their quarterback played a little bit last year," said Smeal. "They like to throw the ball around, and even though he's young, he can throw the ball. He likes to throw to the tight end a lot."
West Branch quarterback Jonathan Sanker was injured last week in a 33-6 loss at Northern Bedford. Sanker will be unavailable this week and backup quarterback Walker Williams will be the signal-caller on Friday night.
"We've had him ready to go as a backup all season," said Smeal. "He's been doing well. He'll be ready to go on Friday night. He'll get all the reps this week in practice. But we're still going to do what we do."
Kickoff from West Branch is set for 7.
Penns Manor (6-1) at Purchase Line (1-6)
PURCHASE LINE - It must be a big weight off the shoulders for the Purchase Line football team to get its first win of the season.
Fresh off last week's 33-14 victory over United, the Dragons may be facing their most daunting task of the season against Penns Manor this week.
Comet senior quarterback Danny Ferens has put the team on his back once again this season. Ferens has rushed for 1,185 yards on 104 totes, which is good for 11.4 yards per carry.
He also has six touchdowns on 437 yards passing in 2012, after leading his team to the PIAA Class A Western Final in 2011.
Ferens has received some interest from high-ranking Division I schools to continue his football career after this season.
"Their Wing-T offense is all about Ferens," said Purchase Line head coach Brandon Overdorff. "The bottom line is they are way more athletic than we are. We will have to play perfect to be in the football game.
"Their kids have bought into their program. They've been in the weight room and in the system for years now. That's why they've been successful."
"We will have to be very disciplined in our defensive assignments. No one has stopped Danny. He is very quick and he's a smart football player. Hopefully our kids will step up and play with great effort."
Dragon running back Josh Huey led the way last Friday with 23 rushes for 232 yards on the ground. Despite the rough first six weeks of the season, Overdorff says there is reason to believe in the rest of the season.
"It has been a very frustrating season with our injuries," said Overdorff. "It was good to get our first victory. Our kids enjoyed Friday night and they have a little bounce in their step again."
"I hope they're not satisfied with finally getting a win. We have three games left and we can compete in all of them. I hope they keep working to get better."
Kickoff from Barry T. Madill Memorial Field is scheduled for 7.
Huntingdon (0-7) at Philipsburg-Osceola (0-7)
PHILIPSBURG - After suffering a 74-20 defeat at the hands of Central last week, the Philipsburg-Osceola football team returns to Memorial Stadium with one thing in mind - picking up its first win of the season.
This year has been one full of struggles for the Mounties, who started the season with a full roster. But injuries have taken their toll, and new players are getting thrown into positions fill holes every game.
"It's something that has affected us," said P-O head coach Jeff Vroman. "It's the next man up. That's where we are at here. I thought tonight we practiced with a lot of intensity. That's what we were looking for.
"It's (injuries) something you hate to see the kids go through. But you have to get the other kids ready. We just have to get by that and be ready for our next game."
The offense was finally able to get going some against the Dragons. It was the first time all season the Mounties scored more than seven points in a game.
Skyler Shuey also caught the team's first receiving touchdown of the year, while Conner Mann and Erik Smith scored on the ground.
"I thought Curtis (Matsko) did a nice job," Vroman said of his quarterback. "He has gotten better each and every week. We were able to get a touchdown pass against Central. I think a lot of the timing of the passing routes have gotten better.
"We have to continue to get better over the next three weeks. I think up front our linemen also did a nice job. That's something we need to continue to get better at too."
Huntingdon is led by quarterback Josh Foster, who does a good job of running the option.
Foster is 38-of-91 for 505 yards and six touchdowns. He has also thrown nine interceptions.
When Foster isn't behind center, Devon Claar is usually running the offense. He is 10-of-32 for 111 yards and one touchdown. He has tossed three interceptions.
"They are very quarterback oriented in the run game and that's something we have worked hard on," Vroman said. "They do utilize motion. We need to be making sure we are aware of what defensive adjustment to make. We haven't been getting that done on the field.
"And, that comes with having new people in there each and every week. It's been hard to get that consistency. Hopefully, we can limit that this week."
The Bearcats are lead in rushing by Rhett Stetchock, who has 320 yards on 67 carries and three touchdowns. Claar is second on the list with 279 yards on 68 totes and two touchdowns.
The duo also lead the team in receiving with Claar hauling in 13 receptions for 209 yards and four touchdowns. Stetchock adds 11 catches for 113 yards.
"If we can string together some drives here and be consistent we can be successful," said Vroman. "We need to play the game with intensity and play aggressive. That's something we are concentrating on."
Last season, the Mounties toppled the Bearcats, 47-14, in Huntingdon. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.