Week 8 Football Preview: Redbank Valley, Clarion, Union/ACV, Keystone All Have Shot at Division Crowns
It’s league/division title weekend in District 9 as the Large School, Small School South and Small School North divisions sort out their champions amongst an 11-game Friday night schedule in what’s the ninth week of the season, or Week 8 by PIAA decree.
(Union/A-C Valley’s Tanner Merwin helps lead the Falcon Knights into their game at Redbank Valley this week. The Falcon Knights win the Small School South title if they beat the Bulldogs and Keystone losses to Elk County Catholic. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
— Large School Division: It could be Clarion, Ridgway or Brookville at the top of the division. Brookville (7-1) visits Ridgway (7-1) in Johnsonburg while Clarion (7-1) visits Brockway (2-6). If Ridgway beats Brookville, the Elkers win the title no matter what Clarion does. If Brookville wins and Clarion beats Brockway, the Bobcats win the division and if Brookville wins and Clarion gets upset by the Rovers, the Raiders claim the crown.
In other Large School games, Karns City (5-3) travels to Bradford (1-7), Kane (5-3) hosts St. Marys (4-4) and Moniteau (2-6) hosts Punxsutawney.
— Small School South: It could be one of three teams who win the title, or all three. — Redbank Valley, Keystone or Union/A-C Valley. The Bulldogs (7-1, 3-0 division) host Union/ACV (6-2, 2-1) while Keystone (7-1, 2-1) visits Elk County Catholic (4-3, 1-2). If the Bulldogs beat the Falcon Knights, they win the title. If Union/ACV beats Redbank Valley and Keystone beats ECC, it’s a three-way share of the division title. If Union/ACV beats Redbank Valley and the Panthers lose at ECC, then the title goes to the Falcon Knights.
The other South team, Curwensville (1-7), is off this week.
— Small School North: Coudersport (7-0, 3-0) visits Smethport (5-2, 4-0) with the winner taking the division crown. The other North games have Cameron County (0-7) hosting Port Allegany (1-6) and Sheffield (2-6) traveling to Otto-Eldred (2-6).
In the other game not involving a D9 League team, DuBois (0-8) searches for its first win of the year at home in a non-league game with Hollidaysburg (4-4).
CLEARFIELD NOTCHES 600TH WIN EASY WAY — The Bison (7-2) were supposed to travel to play Philipsburg-Osceola, but the game will likely be called a forfeit. If that’s the case, the Bison get their 600th win in program history.
As per records compiled and started years ago by Roger Saylor and now posted on www.westernpa.net, the Bison started their program in 1904. The forfeit win would improve Clearfield’s all-time mark to 600-472-38. Of that record, Tim Janocko’s 35-year mark is 282-111-3.
And as it turns out, the Bison just may get a second forfeit win in their season finale at Bishop Carroll next week. The now 3-6 Huskies forfeited to Bellefonte this week.
Using the same source, DuBois is the all-time leader in wins going into this weekend with 622 wins with the Bison at No. 2. Others over 500 wins are Ridgway at 576, Bradford at 563, Curwensville at 547, Clarion at 523, Smethport at 504 and Redbank Valley at 502.
PLAYOFF GLANCE – Here’s a quick look at the playoffs, by classification, with two weeks to go in the regular season. Much more can be sorted out after this week:
Class 1A: Up to eight teams can fill the bracket, although five appeared to be headed to a .500 or better season, so it’ll depend on whether any losing records decide to go to the postseason.
It’s Redbank Valley, Coudersport, Union/ACV, Smethport and Elk County Catholic right now for the top five spots. The Bulldogs could hold off Coudersport for the top spot if they win their final two games, simply based on the fact that they will have played one more game in the regular season. The point system does not consider games played as a dividing factor in determining rating.
Class 2A: Four teams are 7-1 with the points order right now going with Clarion, Ridgway, Brookville and Keystone. If Ridgway wins out, it’s likely that the Elkers get the top seed. Kane and Karns City are both 5-3, so it appears to be a six-team bracket for the postseason with the top two teams getting byes into the semifinals.
Class 3A: It’s Bedford (6-2), Westinghouse (5-3), St. Marys (4-4), Perry (3-5), Somerset (2-6) and Punxsutawney (0-8) in a six-team sub-regional that qualifies four at the most for the playoffs. The Dutch are a lock for a top-four position, but it may depend on whether they reach the .500 or better as it’s been a factor for the program in the past.
Class 4A: Bellefonte (6-2) and Clearfield (6-2) are the only two winning records in a six-team field that also includes Juniata (3-5), Bradford (1-7), DuBois (0-8) and Johnstown (0-8). Up to four teams can advance to the postseason, so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out, or when the Bison play another game.
With two likely forfeits to finish the regular season and another week off before a possible rematch with Bellefonte in a two-team sub-regional bracket, the Bison might go at least 27 days between games.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games, all of them 7 p.m. kickoffs with the exception of the 7:30 p.m. start in Brockway:
Brookville (7-1) at Ridgway (7-1), Johnsonburg
The Raiders head north to play the Elkers in Johnsonburg, a place they haven’t seen since a 14-7 over the Rams back in 1993. This one has title implications, of course, as an Elkers win gives them their second straight division title.
Ridgway’s lone regular-season loss last year came at Brookville (28-11). This year, the Elkers’ lone loss was in their second game in a 25-21 loss to Kane. They’ve won six games since, including last week’s 19-13 win at Karns City. The Raiders needed two overtimes to beat the Gremlins, 42-41, earlier.
The Elkers, averaging 40.5 points per game, have given up just 64 points and 38 of those were to Kane and Karns City. They’ve allowed seven points or less in the five other games. Robert Briggs (10.3 tackles per game), Greg Simon (7.3), Damon Kelly (6.6) and Gabe Watts (8 sacks) lead the Elkers’ defense.
Offensive, the Elkers average 377 yards per game — 221 rushing, 156 passing. Quarterback Paul Gresco (79-for-112, 1,224 yards, 11 TDs, 4 Ints.) triggers thing with running backs Jake Wickett (57-403, 7 TDs; 18-317, 3 TDs receiving), Watts (58-395, 6 TDs), Matt Dush (35-328, 5 TDs; 25-392, 4 TDs) and Tyler Watts (41-299, 2 TDs) getting the ball at times. Gresco’s other top receiving target is Austin Green (18-285, 4 TDs).
Brookville’s defense gave up nearly 30 points per game last year and the Raiders have cut that nearly in half this year so far, giving up 10 or less points in four games. Elliot Park (7.5), Robert Keth (7.1) and Nathan Taylor (6.8) are the leading tacklers. Taylor and Park each have six sacks while cornerback Kyle MacBeth has seven of the unit’s 15 interceptions.
Raiders junior quarterback Jack Krug, who became the 12th D9 passer to go over the 5,000-yard career mark last week, didn’t play in last year’s game against the Elkers because of a broken collarbone.
Despite missing games against Moniteau and Karns City, and most of the Clarion game in which he injured his ankle, Krug has thrown for 1,432 yards, completing 124 of 201 passes for 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. His 72 career TD passes is No. 6 on the D9 all-time list. Ian Thrush (58-834, 10 TDs) and Robert Keth (36-412, 5 TDs) and MacBeth (30-349, 3 TDs) are other top targets. Krug (36-369, 6 TDs) and Cole LaBenne (64-236, 3 TDs) account for most of the team’s rushing yards.
Clarion (7-1) at Brockway (2-6), 7:30 p.m.
The Bobcats travel to Brockway hoping to beat the Rovers and get help from Brookville to win the division title.
They bounced back from their loss to Ridgway with a 51-6 rout of Bradford last week, playing their second straight game without running back Austin Newcomb. Once again, his status is not known going into their matchup with the Rovers.
Quarterback Cal German has thrown for 1,498 yards and 20 touchdowns with Ethan Burford (26-888, 13 TDs) his top receiver. The Bobcats have gotten solid seasons from Cutter Boggess (57-372, 1 TD rushing; 15-346, 3 TDs receiving) and Colton Zacherl (57-430, 5 TDs rushing).
For Brockway, Jon Wood ran for 218 yards and three TDs while throwing for 146 yards and two TDs in last week’s win over Punxsutawney. He’s rushed for 695 yards while throwing for 228 yards, taking over primary passing duties the past few games. Conner Ford ran for 108 yards against the Chucks. Ben Glasl caught eight of Ford’s passes for 111 yards.
Karns City (5-3) at Bradford (1-7)
The Gremlins head north about 111 miles to face the Owls. Karns City is coming off a 19-13 home loss to Ridgway, which blasted the Owls 55-0 earlier this season.
Quarterback Anthony Kamenski (26-for-66, 490 yards, 6 TDs, 4 Ints.; 121-828, 8 TDs rushing) nears a 1,000-yard rushing season for the Gremlins. Hunter Rowe (109-506, 6 TDs) and Luke Garing (70-370, 7 TDs) will also get carries. Kaden Scherer (8-278, 4 TDs) is the top receiver.
The Owls notched their first win of the year two weeks ago against Punxsutawney (59-34), which accounts for almost one-third of their season yardage and 59 of their 84 points scored. They were routed 51-6 at Clarion last week. Quarterback Caleb Nuzzo (60-for-108, 562 yards, 3 TDs, 7 Ints.) and running back Derek Sunafrank (66-326, 5 TDs) lead the Owls.
St. Marys (4-4) at Kane (5-3)
The Flying Dutchmen, who ended a three-game losing streak with a 47-11 win over Moniteau last week, visit the Wolves in what won’t be their last game of the year. Warren, next week’s opponent, is starting in the District 10 playoffs, but the Dutch added a home game with Franklin for their final regular-season game that’ll serve as Senior Night.
Dutch sophomore quarterback Christian Coudriet leads the district in passing with 1,957 yards, completing 136 of 215 passes with 17 TDs and eight interceptions. Bryce Walker (42-533, 2 TDs), Michael Fitzgerald (21-400, 6 TDs) and Terry Williams (23-317, 3 TDs) are his top receiving targets with Jacob Kline (85-650, 9 TDs) the leading rusher.
Kane, which lost 33-14 at Brookville last week, looks to end a three-game losing streak that also includes losses to Clarion and Karns City. Quarterback Zuke Smith (60-for-142, 1,052 yards, 12 TDs, 11 Ints.), running backs Jake Alcorn (74-434, 5 TDs rushing; 15-379 5 TDs) and Teddy Race (60-425, 4 TDs), and receiver Bobby Rumcik (12-206, 1 TDs) lead the Wolves.
Punxsutawney (0-8) at Moniteau (2-6)
The Chucks head to West Sunbury looking for their first win against the Warriors, whose lone two wins are to Bradford (28-0) and Brockway (14-7). The Chucks lost the last two weeks to the Owls (59-34) and Rovers (48-20). Moniteau lost 47-11 last week at St. Marys, which beat the Chucks, 60-21, earlier.
J.D. Dessicino (118-613, 4 TDs) and Mason Mershimer (63-230, 3 TDs) key the Moniteau run-heavy offensive attack. Quarterback Brady Thompson (16-for-45, 266 yards) and David Stamm (19-for-48, 220 yards) have thrown passes.
The Chucks’ 54 points the last two weeks is more than their first six games (46) combined. Freshman quarterback Peyton Hetrick (27-for-57, 388 yards, 2 TDs, 8 Ints.) has taken over the past few games behind center. Max London (91-608, 4 TDs rushing; 15-342, 2 TDs receiving) is the team’s top rusher and receiver.
SMALL SCHOOL SOUTH
Union/A-C Valley (6-2) at Redbank Valley (7-1)
The Bulldogs look to rebound from last week’s 56-0 loss at Coudersport — their worst in 58 seasons — with a Senior Night matchup with Union/ACV and a win give them the division title. If the Falcon Knights win, they’ll need Keystone to loss to win the division.
Redbank Valley won’t have its starting quarterback on the field with Gunner Mangiantini breaking his collarbone in the third quarter in last week’s game. Head coach Blane Gold said they’ll go with either Cam Wagner, Chase Bish or Kobe Bonanno at quarterback.
Going into the game, the Bulldogs could wind up leaning heavier on their running game with Ray Shreckengost (62-485, 6 TDs), Bonanno (49-387, 8 TDs) and Hudson Martz (48-281, 5 TDs).
The Falcon Knights’ lone division loss was two weeks ago to Keystone (44-14), which lost its only division game in the season-opener at Redbank Valley (29-8).
For the Falcon Knights, it’s quarterback Luke Bowser (75-for-148, 947 yards, 12 TDs, 12 Ints.; 30-152, 6 TDs rushing), running back Kylar Culbertson (60-455, 4 TDs), and receivers Caden Rainey (28-400, 3 TDs) and Tanner Merwin (24-371, 6 TDs) leading the way.
Keystone (7-1) at Elk Co. Catholic (4-3)
The Panthers look for a division title and some bolstering of their positioning in the Class 2A playoff standings with a win over the Crusaders. And if they get help from Union/ACV, they could gain a share of the division title.
Keystone has gone to the ground game of late, rushing for over 300 yards in each of the last three wins over Sheffield, Union/ACV and Smethport while throwing just 23 passes. Nick Weaver (94-850, 11 TDs) approaches a 1,000-yard season while Taylar Altman (83-671, 6 TDs) and quarterback Isaak Jones (58-212, 6 TDs) are key parts of the running game as well. Jones has passed for 1,025 yards and 14 TDs.
The Crusaders, coming off a 57-14 rout of Sheffield last Saturday, are a run-heavy offense as well. Sam Kaul (93-832, 8 TDs) is the leading rusher with Raivis Bobby also getting carries. Quarterback Mason McAllister (43-for-88, 550 yards, 8 TDs) and receiver Leo Gregory lead the passing game.
SMALL SCHOOL NORTH
Coudersport (7-0) at Smethport (5-2)
Things couldn’t be going much better for the unbeaten Falcons, who blasted previously unbeaten Redbank Valley 56-0 last week at home. They have two remaining division games starting with longtime rival Smethport Friday night before closing out with Cameron County next week.
The Falcons average 48.4 points per game while allowing just 26 points, or four touchdowns, with four shutouts including last week against the Bulldogs, who managed just 83 yards on 43 plays. Defensively, it’s Thomas Wilson (6.3 tackles per game), John Minor (4.7), Travis Gleason (4.4, 8.5 tackles for loss) and Hayden Keck, who shares the unit lead with four interceptions.
Offensively, the Falcons are once-again run heavy with Keck running an effective option game from his quarterback spot. He’s rushed for 550 yards and 9 TDs while passing for 527 yards, completing 20 of 31 passes for four TDs and one interception. Gleason (104-857, 16 TDs) leads the team in rushing as he closes in on a 1,000-yard season. Minor (7-271, 3 TDs) is the leading receiver.
Smethport, meanwhile, has dropped two of its last three games. The Hubbers lost to Redbank Valley (21-0) before last week’s 52-24 loss at Keystone. The run-heavy Hubbers are led by quarterback Noah Lent (38-for-89, 489 yards, 7 TDs, 4 Ints.; 127-652 rushing) and running back Braedon Johnson (83-514, 5 TDs).
Last year, the Hubbers beat the Falcons at Coudersport, 21-20, during the regular season to claim the division title, but the Falcons routed the Hubbers, 44-7, in the district final. It’s the 113th meeting between the teams with Smethport holding a 61-47-4 series edge. The Hubbers’ regular-season win last year ended a seven-game losing streak to the Falcons.
Sheffield (2-6) at Otto-Eldred (2-6)
The Terrors host the Wolverines, looking to make it two wins in a row after last week’s 38-22 win over Curwensville ended a four-game losing streak. Sheffield is coming off a 57-14 to Elk County Catholic.
For Otto-Eldred, junior quarterback Cole Sebastian had a hand in all five of the Terrors’ touchdowns in last week’s win over Curwensville, throwing for three TDs and running for two. He’s thrown for 1,840 yards and 20 TDs while rushing for 306 yards. He’s now up to 3,928 career passing yards, closing in becoming the 22nd D9 passer to reach 4,000 yards.
Sebastian’s top receivers are Ethan Smith (42-772, 10 TDs) and Cameron Magee (38-580, 5 TDs).
Sheffield quarterback Aujamier Slappy-Washington threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns last week against ECC.
Port Allegany (1-6) at Cameron County (0-7)
The Gators travel to Emporium to face the winless Red Raiders, who have lost 11 straight including last week’s 52-0 loss to Union/ACV. Port Allegany has lost six straight games since beating Otto-Eldred in the season-opener. Both teams lost to Sheffield, Port 22-14 last week and Cameron County 31-20 earlier.
Quarterback Drew Evens (65-for-143, 566 yards, 2 TDs, 10 Ints.), running back Tara Tanaka (56-224) and receivers Howie Stuckey (10-212, 2 TDs) and Noah Archer (19-131).
The Red Raiders didn’t do much against the Falcon Knights last week, managing just 69 yards of offense. Dylan Reider ran for 52 yards on 15 carries.
Hollidaysburg (4-4) at DuBois (0-8)
The Beavers host the Tigers, their old Allegheny Football Conference rival, in what’s been a handful of non-league matchups with them over the years since the AFC disbanded nearly 20 years ago. DuBois takes another shot at avoiding its first winless season since 2002.
Last week in a 62-21 loss to Meadville, the Beavers trailed 34-7 after the first quarter. Freshman quarterback Cam-ron Hays, in his starting debut, threw for 58 yards and a touchdown. The Beavers lost their starting quarterback Alex Kovalyak to a season-ending injury the previous week.
Adian Castro (53-287, 5 TDs) is the team’s top rusher with receivers Nick DiLullo (28-491, 4 TDs), Zach Shilala (36-340, 3 TDs), Chase Husted (27-373, 3 TDs) and Dale Kot (23-332, 3 TDs) Hays’ top receiving targets.
Hollidaysburg and the Beavers share no common opponents. The Tigers have won two straight over Central Mountain (41-19) and Tyrone (41-13) after four straight losses to State College, Cedar Cliff, Fort Hill, Md., and McDowell. They opened with a win over arch-rival Altoona and Mifflin County.
Quarterback Bryce Martellacci (46-for-79, 517 yards, 2 TDs, 6 Ints.; 86-425, 8 TDs rushing) and running back Trent Paddock (89-537, 9 TDs) lead the Tigers.
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