Football Preview: D9 Football Playoffs Resume – Semifinal Rounds in Class 1A, 2A
Heading into the second weekend of the postseason, District 9 has five teams still playing football with the Class 1A and 2A semifinals and Clearfield’s rematch with Bellefonte in the District 6-9 Class 4A Sub-Regional Championship game.
(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
Both Class 1A semifinals are Friday night with No. 5 seed Smethport facing defending champion and top-seeded Coudersport at Bradford and No. 2 seed Redbank Valley against No. 3 seed Union/A-C Valley at Clarion University’s Memorial Field. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Saturday, both Class 2A semifinals are scheduled for DuBois’ E.J. Mansell Stadium. Top-seeded and defending champion Ridgway kicks off against No. 5 seed Karns City at 1 p.m. while No. 6 seed Kane meets No. 2 seed Clarion at 6 p.m.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games:
Smethport (6-4) vs. Coudersport (9-0), Bradford H.S., Friday, 7 p.m.
The last time these teams met, the Falcons routed the Hubbers 42-0 in Smethport on Oct. 18. The Falcons outgained the Hubbers, 357-31, for what was one of their six shutout wins. Travis Gleason ran for 180 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
It’s not the first time these teams have met in the postseason, including Coudersport’s 44-7 rout of the Hubbers in the district championship game after Smethport beat the Falcons 21-20 in the regular-season finale to win the Small School North Division title.
This time around, it’ll be the Hubbers that look to turn around the first matchup into a big playoff win. Last week, they flipped the result on Elk County Catholic with a 28-6 win on the road one week after losing 18-0 to the Crusaders at home.
Hubbers sophomore quarterback Noah Lent threw four touchdown passes against ECC, helping them end a three-game losing streak. For the season, Lent (57-for-126, 11 TDs, 6 Ints.) has thrown for 651 yards while rushing for 852 yards on 186 carries. To say he’s the workhorse of the offense might be an understatement. He’s thrown or passed in 392 of the team’s 488 offensive plays from scrimmage.
Other offensive leaders for the Hubbers are junior Braedon Johnson (117-646, 3 TDs rushing; 25-292, 5 TDs receiving) and senior Bryent Johnson (14-180, 3 TDs receiving).
Braedon Johnson (7.3 tackles per game), Travis Cooney (7.0), Kameron Rounsville (5.5 sacks) and Ryli Burritt (5 interceptions) lead the Hubbers defense.
Coudersport was off last week and hasn’t lost to a D9 team since the Hubbers at the end of the regular season last year. The Falcons have three straight shutout wins going into Friday and have allowed just 26 points, or four touchdowns, all season.
Offensively, the Falcons are run-heavy in averaging 384 yards per game, 303 of that on the ground. Quarterback Hayden Keck, similar to Lent, is a two-way threat. He’s rushed for 621 yards and 10 TDs while throwing for 717 yards and five TDs despite only throwing 44 passes all season, completing 26 passes.
Gleason leads the Falcons with 1,178 yards rushing on 141 yards with a team-high 19 TDs. John Minor (7-271, 3 TDs) is Keck’s top receiving target.
Defensively, Thomas Wilson (6.2 tackles per game), Gleason (4 sacks), Minor (5 interceptions) and Keck (4 interceptions) lead the Falcons.
Union/A-C Valley (7-3) vs. Redbank Valley (8-2), Clarion University, Friday, 7 p.m.
Three weeks ago, the Falcon Knights landed in New Bethlehem and then left with a share of the Small School South Division title after a 28-7 win over the Bulldogs. The rematch moves up the road to Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium.
Since then, both teams have played once before an off-week last weekend. The Falcon Knights were routed by Large School champion Ridgway 50-12 while the Bulldogs routed Punxsutawney, 54-14.
In the first matchup, the Bulldogs actually outgained the Falcon Knights, 241-230, but Union/ACV had some short fields and were able to take advantage of limiting Redbank Valley to just 65 yards on 34 rushing attempts.
Union/ACV quarterback Luke Bowser completed 9 of 20 passes for 106 yards and two TDs, one going to Caden Rainey and the other to Karter Vogle. Tony Thompson rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries while Rainey had four catches for 50 yards.
For the season, Bowser has thrown for over 1,200 yards with 15 TDs and 16 interceptions. Rainey (36-507, 4 TDs) and Tanner Merwin (26-412, 7 TDs) are his top receiving targets. Kyler Culbertson (67-467, 4 TDs), Thompson (57-270, 3 TDs) and Gaven Bowser (39-198) are the top rushers.
Colton Hoffman (7.1 tackles per game), Gaven Bowser (6.4), Eli Penny (6.1) and Carter Terwint (6.1) lead the team in tackles per game. Penny leads the team with four sacks while Merwin (5) and Rainey (3) have eight of the unit’s 12 interceptions. Rainey leads the team with over 600 return yards.
The Bulldogs are regrouping after losing their starting quarterback Gunner Mangiantini midway through their 56-0 loss to Coudersport the week before their loss to Union/ACV. Now it’s freshman Cam Wagner, who has completed 27 of 55 passes for 336 yards and five TDs.
Out of the backfield, Ray Shreckengost (89-625, 9 TDs), Kobe Bonanno (60-423, 8 TDs) and Hudson Martz (62-393, 6 TDs) are the primary ballcarriers. Receivers Ethan Hetrick (24-389, 3 TDs), Sam Hetrick (20-324, 6 TDs) and Javin Brentzel (25-175, 1 TD) are the top targets.
With the exception of their losses to Coudersport and Union/ACV, the Bulldogs have allowed just 74 points in their other eight games. Joe Mansfield (6.6 tackles per game, 16.5 tackles for losses), Chase Bish (5.1), Austin Leasure (4.6) and Ethan Hetrick (11.5 sacks) and Sam Hetrick (4 interceptions) lead the defense.
Since losing in the district final to Clarion in 2013, the Bulldogs are 2-5 in the postseason. It’s the second straight trip to the postseason for the Falcon Knights, who lost to Coudersport in the first round last year.
Ridgway (9-1) vs. Karns City (8-3), Mansell Stadium, DuBois, Saturday, 1 p.m.
It’s another rematch of course between the Large School Division rivals who tangled back on Oct. 11 in Karns City when the Elkers squeezed out a 19-13 win over the Gremlins. These teams meet for the first time ever in the postseason and while the Elkers gun for their fourth straight D9 title, the Gremlins are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus which interrupted their run of five straight titles.
Since losing their only game in the second weekend of the season in a 25-21 loss to Kane, the Elkers have reeled off eight straight wins and winning their second straight Large School Division title along the way.
Against the Gremlins last time, the Elkers gained 310 yards with quarterback Paul Gresco throwing for 151 yards, completing 9 of 14 passes with two interceptions. His 50-yard carry for a touchdown led the Elkers’ running game that gained 159 yards.
For the season, Gresco (98-for-138, 1,545 yards, 14 TDs, 4 Ints.) is over 1,500 yards and he’s closing in on the 3,000-yard milestone for his two-year stint as a starter. The running game, averaging 231 yards per game, has four backs over 400 yards with Gabe Watts (71-529, 9 TDs), Jake Wickett (77-507, 9 TDs), Matt Dush (49-458, 7 TDs) and Tyler Watts (56-419, 2 TDs).
Dush (31-497, 4 TDs), Austin Green (23-419, 6 TDs) and Wickett (22-353, 4 TDs) are Gresco’s top receiving targets.
For the Ridgway defense, Robert Briggs (10.3 tackles per game), Greg Simon (6.7), Damon Kelley (6.4, 8.5 sacks), Gabe Watts (6.1, 11 sacks) and Wickett (3 interceptions) lead the unit.
The Gremlins held off Keystone, 28-22, in last week’s playoff opener as quarterback Anthony Kamenski completed 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards and a TD while running for 100 yards on 20 carries while Hunter Rowe added 88 yards on 18 carries with two TDs.
The run-heavy Gremlins average 359 yards per game offensively, 301 of it coming on the ground as Kamenski is up to 1,147 yards on 164 carries with 10 TDs. He’s thrown 89 passes in the Gremlins’ 11 games, completing 35 for 634 yards with eight TDs against five interceptions. Rowe (144-898, 14 TDs) and Luke Garing (94-545, 9 TDs) are the other players out of the backfield. Kaden Scherer (11-390, 5 TDs) is the leading receiver.
Defensively, Nathan Waltman (7.4 tackles per game), Garing (7.1), Scherer (5.8, 5 interceptions) and Colton Craig (5 sacks) lead the Gremlins.
Clarion (9-1) vs. Kane (6-4), Mansell Stadium, DuBois, Saturday, 6 p.m.
In the second game Saturday at Mansell, the Bobcats face the Wolves, who knocked No. 3 seed Brookville out of the postseason with a 28-22 road win last week.
The Wolves made two key moves with sophomore Harley Morris taking over at quarterback and Teddy Race moving to the offensive line from his running back. The moves worked well as Morris completed 10 of 14 passes for 163 yards and three TDs while running for 84 yards on 15 carries and the team’s other touchdown. Jake Alcorn ran for 84 yards and caught four passes for 94 yards, which included a big 70-yard TD pass from Morris, helping them build a 21-0 lead over the Raiders in the first half.
Alcorn leads the Wolves (94-536, 5 TDs) in rushing and receiving (21-528, 6 TDs). Previous starting quarterback Zuke Smith, who’s thrown for 1,098 yards and 12 TDs, caught a TD pass from Morris and made the game-securing interception near the end of the game against the Raiders.
Defensively, Race (12.9 tackles per game, 7.5 sacks) and Morris (7.4) lead the Wolves.
The Wolves’ win ended a four-game losing streak after they had started the season 5-0 during a run that included the 25-21 win over Ridgway. Two losses during that stretch came to Clarion (47-28) and Brookville (33-14).
Clarion improved to 6-0 one week before its loss to Ridgway with its win over Kane in late September as it ran for 300 yards and threw for 180 as quarterback Cal German completed 7 of 11 passes with two TDs, both going to Ethan Burford who caught four passes for 163 yards. Austin Newcomb ran for 163 yards and two TDs while Cutter Boggess added 80 yards.
The Bobcats average 439 yards of offense and 45.5 points per game while giving up just 19 points in three wins since the Ridgway loss, although all three teams weren’t going to the playoffs.
The senior Newcomb, in eight games, has rushed for 1,155 yards on just 101 carries, or 11.4 yards per attempt, with 20 TDs. He leads the team with 24 TDs, three receiving and another on an interception return.
Junior Cutter Boggess (66-515, 3 TDs; 17-389, 3 TDs receiving) and Breckin Rex (18-300, 3 TDs) will also get touches out of the backfield. They won’t have injured senior Colton Zacherl (453 yards, 5 TDs).
Quarterback Cal German (72-for-130) has thrown for 1,783 yards on just 13 passes per game with an impressive ratio of 25 TDs to only three interceptions. His top receiver is junior Ethan Burford (30-963, 15 TDs).
Defensively, Boggess (8.4), Ben Smith (7.7), Newcomb (7.0) and Hunter Craddock (6.5) are the top tacklers per game. Craddock’s eight sacks and Newcomb’s three interceptions also lead the unit.
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