Rivals Mo Valley and West Branch highlight opening night|
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Optimism is abound for the local football teams, as the new season is on the horizon.
For the second year in a row, Clearfield will host St. Joan of Arc (Ontario) at the Bison Sports Complex, while West Branch entertains rival Moshannon Valley in a matchup of local teams.
Curwensville also hosts a rival, as Allegheny Mountain League nemesis Coudersport visits Riverside Stadium. Glendale and Philipsburg-Osceola will look to get the season started off on the right foot, as they travel to Northern Bedford and Line Mountain, respectively.
Here's a closer look at each contest:
Moshannon Valley at West Branch
ALLPORT - A win in the first week usually sets the tone for what kind of season a team can expect. A win over a big rival in the opening week and a big season may be waiting ahead.
When Moshannon Valley travels to West Branch, one team will hope a win catapults it on to bigger and better things.
For the Knights, they enter the contest at L.T. Drivas Field winners of six straight in the series and 10 of the last 11.
Since 1990, the Warriors have lost 20 of 24 meetings to their rivals to the west.
"I think it adds some intensity for the kids especially," said Mo Valley head coach Michael Keith of playing a rival in Week 1. "You always want to start off with a win ... for me, starting off with a rival, you always want to beat your rivals.
"(Motivation) takes care of itself. They know what they're up against and they know the kids who they're going to play against."
The last contest in the series saw Keith win his debut as head coach of his alma mater, 33-20, behind one of the most balanced performances the Knights had on offense in 2012.
Mo Valley rushed for a season-high 165 yards and threw for 153 more in outgaining West Branch, 318-227.
The Knights went over 100 yards on the ground just once in the final nine games of the season. A key for Keith and company will be how they handle the Warriors' defensive front, which features three-year starter Morgan Selepack.
"It could be the way they try to attack our offensive set," Keith said of the success his offense has had against the Warriors the past three years. "The spread is a new thing, especially in this area (because) not a whole lot of people run it.
"If you are defensive-minded coach, you want to try different things. We just have some success, for one reason or another, against West Branch, but that may all change on Friday night."
The Warriors will break in new starters in the backfield, as leading rusher Chad Speigle graduated as did leading receiver Parker Emigh.
Mo Valley returns some of its leading receivers in Justin Kitko and Kent Stewart, but will have to replace Tanner Dipko, who set the single-season record for passing yards last year.
Regardless of who starts where, Keith believes that his team can be successful if it can slow down the Warriors' offense.
"(The key is going to be) if we can stop their rushing attack," said Keith. "We need to get some penetration on the defensive line."
After its recent success against West Branch, Mo Valley leads the all-time series 35-20-3.
West Branch head coach Lester Smeal was unavailable for comment.
"They're chomping at the bit," Keith said of his team. "They're sick of practices and they're sick of scrimmaging where you don't run any of your plays. They're ready to play a game."
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
St. Joan of Arc, Canada at Clearfield
HYDE - Once wasn't enough for Clearfield and St. Joan of Arc out of Ontario, Canada.
After opening with the team from north of the border last season for the first game on the newly renovated field, the Bison welcome the Arc Angels back to the Bison Sports Complex for a second consecutive home opener.
"We had a good experience with them last year," Bison head coach Tim Janocko said. "They bring a lot to the table. They bring speed and athleticism and they're a Quad-A school. We figure it's a good test for us early. It's put us under pressure. They're an unknown. We know their quarterback is returning and he's a Division 1 player. They give us a challenge right off the bat.
"And they like the way they were treated here. (Athletic Director) Bob Gearhart does a great job with that. It was a good experiene for both. And it's a cultural experience, too. We get to meet some people from above the border. It's a good thing."
St. Joan's quarterback Nate Hobbs was 15-of-25 for 186 yards and a touchdown in last year's game and Janocko says the Bison need to be ready for him tomorrow night.
"He's accurate and athletic," Janocko said. "He has a stong arm. He has all the tools. He's going to be a challenge for us, especially with us losing two-thirds of our secondary.
"We lost Dylan (Graham) and Trey (Jordan). We have some young kids like Jake Wingate, Jake Lansberry, Erik Sellers and Ryan Lezzer. All those kids have to step up and do a good job in that secondary."
Last year's contest, a 35-20 Clearfield win, had its share of big plays, including a Chrisian Lezzer strip-sack that he returned for a touchdown and an 88-yard kickoff return for a score for the Arc Angels.
Janocko believes the key to Friday's game will be who comes out ahead in that category.
"Obviously we're looking to make plays, not only offensively but defensively and on special teams," he said. "We're looking for someone to step up and block a punt or get an interception or fumble recovery. We need to make some plays at all phases of the game.
"You know there are going to have their big plays because of their athleticism, so you just have to try and limit them."
Kickoff for the Bison's home opener is set for 7 p.m.
"It's what we work all year around for," Janocko said. "We work very hard as a staff and the kids work hard. We work all the time. This is the celeberation of all that hard work. We're excited. Now it's time to go out and see what happens."
Coudersport at Curwensville
CURWENSVILLE - After making the long trek north to open the season last year, the Curwensville football team has the luxury of playing at Riverside Stadium in front of the home crowd for Game 1 as its opponent, Coudersport, gets to make the long trip.
"It's at Riverside Stadium. There's nothing like playing by the river on a Friday night," Golden Tide head coach Andy Evanko said.
Curwensville handled the Falcions, 34-26, last season in a come-from-behind win that saw it score 13 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Five of the nine touchdowns scored by the teams covered at least 40 yards.
And it could be more of the same Friday night with the Falcons bringing a shiny new offense with them.
"They keep changing offenses," Evanko said. "They've gone to a pistol with a midline option. We need to play great, disciplined defense."
Coudersport's midline offense is of particular concern for Evanko, who thinks the Falcons will present quite a challenge for his defense to kick off the season.
"It's a lot more challenging," he said. "It's a much more sophisticated offense to prepare for. They are going to react to what we do and they will try to make us pay for any mistakes we make."
Quarterback Ethan Hite runs the offense and is certainly one of the players the Golden Tide will key on. In last year's game, he was 5-for-5 for 90 yards and a score, but Evanko expects him to do try to do some damage with his legs this time around.
"The Hite kid is a a very competent runner," Evanko said. "He runs hard and he runs well."
The Falcon's top two leading rushers graduated, leaving Hite, receiver Alex Hershey and running back Zac Elenchin with the most returning rushing yards. The trio only combined for 236 yards on the ground in 2012. Hershey led the team in receptions (13) and receiving yards (212).
"Elenchin is a load. He runs very well," Evanko said. "And the Hershey kid is a good receiver. They're going to try to spread us all over. They run a very effective offense."
Lineman Forrest Tuttle will likely make an impact at the line of scrommage on both sides if the ball and Curwensville will need to account for him when they're on offense. He had 52 tackles, three for a loss, and nine sacks as a junior.
"The offense is coming," Evanko said. "We're having some growing pains, but we have some smart kids on the offensive line and they pick things up well. I feel good about that, but we're still not clicking on all cylinders."
Curwensville kicks off the season Friday at 7 p.m.
"This is what it's all about," Evanko said. "It's the first game of the season. We're all excited. If you're not excited, there's something wrong."
Philipsburg-Osceola at Line Mountain
HERNDON - Last season the Mounties faced off against the Eagles at Memorial Stadium.
P-O was inexperienced and already dealing with injuries. Line Mountain had a senior-laden team that eventually went on to an 8-3 record.
The led to a decisive 56-0 loss for the Mounties, which went on to have a winless season.
But the tables have turned for P-O, which brings back a plethora of experience and talent for 2013.
The Mounties make the two-hour trip to Herndon, just outside of Selinsgrove, looking to avenge last season's loss and get their season started off on the right foot.
"The kids are excited to get out and they are ready to play," said Philipsburg-Osceola head coach Jeff Vroman. "After not winning last year, they're even more keyed up to get out and get after it. I've been pleased with that progress."
The Eagles return just four starters on offense and four on defense this year. This year's squad has just four seniors and 18 juniors.
That should bode well for the Mounties, who gained a lot of experience last season.
"We've got to play football," Vroman said. "It doesn't matter who has what. We have to go out, block and tackle and be disciplined. We can't afford penalties and turnovers and things like that because that's what it comes down to in the first game."
Back for Line Mountain is 230-pound fullback Cory Warford, who ran for 75 yards on six carries against P-O last season. Also back is Ryan Reed, who takes over quarterback duties this season from Cole Rickert. Reed completed his only pass attempt against the Mounties last year for 45 yards.
P-O gave up six rushing touchdowns last year to the Eagles, something Vroman hopes to avoid on Friday.
"Last year (our problem) was the turnovers," said Vroman. "We turned it over like eight times and that was the key to that football game. You can't focus on last year, this is a whole new season."
The big key for the Mounties will be to make the big plays, and not give them up. P-O shot itself in the foot last year against Line Mountain with a long interception return in the first quarter.
"We have to play a good, solid football game," Vroman said. "I've been pleased in our scrimmages holding on to the football. We haven't had the dumb errors or mental mistakes that just kill you. I think that composure often comes from experience, which we do have some experience coming back.
"It's a whole new year. I've been pleased with our senior leadership. They've done a nice job leading by example and setting the tone in practice. Hopefully we can use that and build upon it."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Glenn Ressler Field at Eagle Stadium.
Glendale at Northern Bedford
LOYSBURG - The first week of the season is always one of the most crucial, especially for a team breaking in a lot of new starters.
Such is the case for Glendale and Northern Bedford when they meet on Friday, as both were dealt heavy blows due to graduation.
The Vikings fell to the Panthers, 20-13, in last year's season opener and Northern Bedford returns a pair of key cogs that will be of concern to Glendale.
Panthers quarterback Blake Over, who threw for more than 2,000 yards in 2012, returns under center for head coach Jeff Batzel. While two of Over's top three targets graduated, he does have a viable option in Kyler Diehl, who had 48 catches for 756 yards and eight touchdowns.
Diehl led Northern Bedford in all receiving categories a year ago.
"They've had the same coach for so long," said Glendale head coach Matt Irvine, "so they're mostly going to do the same things that they always do. They lost a little bit from last year, but they're still going to be good."
The Vikings will also have to break in some new starters, including quarterback Alex Iraca, running back Craig Hewitt, and receivers Jon Rojas and Shea O'Donnell.
As with every other season opener, Irvine believes that the outcome will be based on fundamentals of the game and keeping your opponent from making a big play.
"It could be one big play that could win you the game," Irvine said. "The team that makes the least mistakes should win the game. Conditioning could also be a big factor in the first game, but execution and limiting turnovers are always going to play a big part."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.