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Keystone Looks to Remain Perfect Against Brockway’s Air Raid Attack

Friday, September 10, 2021 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Jared Sullenberger

KNOX, Pa. – The Keystone Panthers used a second half comeback to remain unbeaten as they will be put to the test for a third week in a row as they host the Brockway Rovers at Panther Stadium in Knox Friday night.

(Photo by Shelly Atzeni Photography.)

“Brockway is no slouch,” said Keystone head coach Ryan Smith. “We still are looking to get better on defense each week and this week will be no different as we try to focus on that strong Rover passing attack.”

“Our secondary has six interceptions through the first two games,” Smith said. “This game will be a really good test of their ability.”

It was the Panthers that picked up the 28-0 victory a season ago on the back of 21 second quarter points that shifted all the momentum in the stadium in favor of the Black and Gold.

“Brockway has a lot of the same guys from last year, but the difference this year is Frank, (Varischetti), taking over as the Offensive Coordinator,” said Smith. “We’ve been concentrating a lot on their film from the first two weeks, rather than last season because Brockway has the same athletes but the look is different.”

Keystone will look to their feature back Kyle Nellis to carry the load. Nellis has already racked up 193 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns.

“Kyle is such a hard runner, it takes more than just one guy to bring him down,” said Smith. “When he broke one for 97 against Port last week, he ran through four open field tackles, he gives you everything he’s got.”

Senior receiver Zander McHenry has hauled in four catches for 32 yards and one score, but has made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball. In two games McHenry has recorded 15 tackles, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and a blocked punt, while adding a score on special teams.

“Zander is a playmaker, when we need a spark on that side of the ball, he’s the one that gives us that jumpstart,” said Smith. “Having him on the field really helps us set up things defensively, he makes tackles, he covers receivers, he just gives you 100% every time he’s on the field and we are really blessed to have him on our team.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

As for Brockway, the Rovers will look to bounce back from a 35-17 loss at the hand of Smethport last week.

The Rovers will look to spread the football out and get their receivers involved this week.

“Keystone is a really good football team,” said Rover head coach Jake Heigel. “Our plan this week has been to focus on playing our style of defense and not getting away from that. We want our guys to really focus on their keys and reads and not what’s happening in the backfield.”

“I think that our defensive line can have a really big game,” Heigel said. “They just have to stay focused on their jobs and not try to do it all and control what they can control.”

Brockway has three receivers that have over 100 yards receiving through three games, with Matt Pyne leading the way with eight catches for 140 yards and one score.

Senior receiver Jalen Kosko has two touchdowns on the young season but has already caught seven passes for 111 yards.

“We have such a great core of receivers that are mentally tough at that position,” Heigel stated. “Receivers will thrive in this offense if they stay calm, cool and collected. All those guys will thrive because the pressure never gets to them in this offense.”

The freshmen connection of quarterback Brayden Fox and receiver Blake Pisarcik has been strong to this point with Fox finding Piscarik 10 times for 133. Although Piscarik has still yet to record a touchdown, the freshmen connection has already put the district on notice.

“We are so happy with the freshmen class, they have really bought into our program,” Heigel said. “Brayden can throw the ball well, even though he’s 14 years old, you can’t rattle the kid and as a young quarterback, when the older guys see that, they will go to war for him. He is the true definition of a quarterback.”

Heigel remembers last seasons matchup very vividly.

“Our guys from last year definitely remember the feeling of losing to Keystone last season,” Heigel said. “We also recognize that we are a completely different team from last year. We tried to keep a balance all week of reminding the players of what happened last season, and letting them know that this year, the offseason, the pre-season, everything, has been different to this point.”

The 2-0 Keystone Panthers are set to host the 1-1 Brockway Rovers at Panther Stadium in Knox. Kick-off is slated for 7 pm.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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