Clearfield heads to Central in big Mountain League matchup|
Thursday, September 12, 2013
It's only Week 3, but a game with major implications is on the docket as Clearfield travels to Central in a stern early season test for two unbeaten teams getting honorable mention recognition in the state football rankings. While that game highlights the Progressland slate, Friday night is certainly full of intrigue around the area.
Curwensville also looks to remain undefeated when it plays host to Smethport in Allegheny Mountain League action. Moshannon Valley looks to rebound from last week's loss to Bellwood-Antis as the Black Knights travel to Inter-County Conference foe Tussey Mountain, while ICC rivals Glendale and West Branch both search for their first wins of 2013.
The Vikings go on the road to face upstart Williamsburg, which is currently in first place in the District 6 Class A standings, while the Warriors make the trek to Bellwood-Antis to face the Blue Devils.
Finally, Philipsburg-Osceola - making its 2013 home debut - and Bellefonte do battle for the Luther Trophy with each team looking to put a mark in the win column for the first time this season.
Here is a closer look at each game:
Clearfield (2-0) at Central (2-0)
ROARING SPRING - Since joining the Mountain Athletic Conference several seasons ago, the Clearfield football team has not lost to Central, winning five straight against the Scarlet Dragons since 2008.
But each game has gotten closer, and last year's 34-33 Clearfield win at the Bison Sports Complex was nothing short of thrilling.
The 2013 matchup has the makings to be even better.
Bison quarterback Christian Lezzer, tailback Tyler Stratton and wideout Trey Jordan go into an anything-you-can-do-we-can-do-better battle with Central standouts Austin Cunningham and Bradi Moore. And all but Jordan are back for this year's battle.
Cunningham did it all for the Dragons in last season's contest, completing seven of his 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, running for 29 yards and a score, catching two touchdown passes for 149 yards and adding a key 34-yard punt return. He also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a Clearfield scoring chance.
Moore caught five Cunningham passes for 115 yards and a score and completed his only two pass attempts - both for touchdowns. The Bison defense did bottle him up on the ground, holding him to negative yardage on 10 carries.
"We have to know where (Moore) is all the time," Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko said. "He's fast. If they split him out, he is probably catching the ball. If he is in the I, there's a good chance he's running it.
"And we have to know where Cunningham is, too. When they run the Iso, he'll keep it. He scrambles well. He's explosive."
When the Bison have the ball, they will need to be aware of Moore and Cunningham's presence in the secondary while also dealing with an aggressive group of linebackers.
"They try to crowd the line of scrimmage," Janocko said. "They blitz their inside linebackers. We have to pick our spots (when to throw)."
Central rolled past Tyrone last week, 25-12, after building a 19-0 halftime lead. The Dragons outgained the Eagles 401-202 and held Tyrone's standout running back James Oliver to just 59 yards on 15 carries.
"It's going to be a big test for us," Janocko said. "It's on the road, and it's against one of the best team's we've seen in the regular season in the last three years. It's not the season, but it's good competition.
"A game like this should prepare us for a playoff run."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Smethport (1-1) at Curwensville (2-0)
CURWENSVILLE - While dealing with Smethport's vaunted midline option attack is more than enough cause for concern for Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko, there is even more factoring in to Friday night's clash with the Hubbers.
First, Smethport is likely a little miffed after Lancaster, New York invaded its home turf and lit it up for a 70-7 defeat last week.
Then there's the fact that due to the Johnsonburg-Ridgway co-op causing some scheduling issues, the Hubbers were forced to travel to Curwensville this season after originally having this game on the home slate.
So Smethport may be coming to Riverside Stadium with a little chip on its shoulder.
"You have a team that played very well in Week 1 in a win over Elk County that turned around and got beat by a very, very good team from New York," Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko said. "And then you factor in that they are coming here for a second year in a row and they have something to prove, and they are probably fired up over the schedule.
"It's a difficult situation. All those factors play in their favor."
And then there's the midline option.
"We have to be prepared on defense," Evanko said. "They have their entire offensive line back, and their 210-pound fullback (Ryan Stratton) is a force. We have to be very disciplined on defense. Everyone has to do his job. Nobody can be out of position."
Quarterback Dustin Zetwick led the Hubber offense in Week 1, carrying the ball 17 times for 96 yards and a score, while also completing three of his seven passes for 32 yards. Nielson Ryan scored two rushing touchdowns and Stratton added 44 yards on six totes.
One positive about the Golden Tide facing Smethport is they have already seen a midline option offense this year and came out on top, defeating Coudersport in Week 1. But Evanko says there are differences in the evolution of the offenses.
"We saw it that first week, but Coudersport didn't have it in last year. So they are still working on it. This is what Smethport does. They are very effective with it."
Evanko is also wary of an aggressive Hubber defense.
"They run a 3-4 and run downhill at you," he said. "We have to fix our mistakes on offense. We have to stop turning the ball over. We must eliminate the penalties. We can't be jumping offsides. That just has to stop."
Curwensville topped the Hubbers, 42-13, last season despite three turnovers.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Riverside Stadium.
Glendale (0-2) at Williamsburg (2-0)
WILLIAMSBURG - After a lopsided loss in Week 1, Glendale followed it up with a solid effort in a 14-6 defeat to Everett.
Vikings head coach Matt Irvine is hoping his team can take another stop forward this week and be rewarded with their first win of the season.
In order to do that, however, Glendale will have to travel to face upstart Williamsburg, which enters with a pair of wins under its belt.
"They're definitely better than they have been the last couple of years," said Irvine. "They've been winning, and skill-wise, they've improved. I think they're buying into what coach (Bob) Hearn is implementing down there."
A big reason for the Blue Pirates' early season success has been the play of quarterback Austin McMonagle.
McMonagle has completed 18 of his 33 attempts for 310 yards and four touchdowns, but has also shown the knack for picking up yardage with his legs. The Williamsburg senior is second on the team with 87 yards.
Not to be overlooked, running back Mike Biddle has 97 yards on the ground with 77 more through the air.
The receiver tandem of Bryce Young (8 catches, 137 yards) and Tyler Shaw (3-95) also gives a stout Glendale defense more to think about.
"(McMonagle) is definitely a big part (of slowing their offense), and (Biddle) is another big part of it," Irvine said. "I think those two are the two big guys we're going to be keying on. We can't fall asleep with their running game because they do have the ability to throw it deep."
A reason for the Vikings' struggles so far has been an offense that has scored just one touchdown.
Glendale was limited to 113 yards in a loss to Northern Bedford, while the Warriors held it to 159.
Irvine, a former all-state offensive lineman, knows that if his team is to crack the win column, it is going to have to get the job done in the trenches.
"The last two weeks up front that's been our focus - getting better - and that's continued this week," said Irvine. "That's where we have to start before we can go anywhere.
"I think the line is going to determine this one. If we can move the ball and limit turnovers, I think that will help us out. The way our defense has been playing all season, except for a few minutes in the first week, I think we can come away with it if we get it going up front."
The Vikings won last year's game, 26-14.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Moshannon Valley (1-1) at Tussey Mountain (1-1)
SAXTON - If the Black Knights are to bounce back from a Week 2 loss, they will have to be on their toes and ready for anything when they travel to face Tussey Mountain's diverse offense.
The Titans are also looking to avoid consecutive losses, and Mo Valley head coach Michael Keith is wary of the threats they present.
Tussey Mountain quarterback Quinn Barnett went 4-for-9 passing in each of the first two games and is one of the team's leading tacklers, while senior Darrin Sipes provides a dual threat on the ground and in the air.
Sipes is second on the team with 139 yards on the ground and has three catches for 107 more in a Wing-T offense that has scored 20-plus points in each of the first two weeks.
For good measure, the Titans have another threat in Daniel Taylor, who leads the team with 147 yards on just 13 totes.
"We have to stop (Sipes) and (Taylor)," said Keith. "They're run dominant and they're fast, especially (Sipes) and (Taylor). They like to get off-tackle and outside. Our defensive ends have to be disciplined. That's probably the most important position we have this week. They have to bring it back inside to the rest of the defense."
Tussey Mountain's offense will present many looks, but Keith said his linebackers should be able to read their keys and get to the play.
"They give great keys," Keith said, "especially for our linebackers to see. They're down blocking, pulling and trapping every play. They should have no problem reading those keys and getting to the ball ... that's our hope."
The Mo Valley offense hasn't had much trouble moving the ball in the first two contests, so Keith is expecting to see a couple of different looks from the Titans defense.
Tussey Mountain has shown both a 4- and 5-man front in the first two contests. Regardless of which they choose to try to slow down the Knight spread attack, Keith says his team will be ready.
"It's all going to be depending on what they're doing as to what we can do," said Keith. "We'll play it by ear. We're playing both fronts right now (in practice). We can do some in the four and some in the five ... it all depends what they come out at us in.
"It's going to come down to us stopping their two backs. They're pretty big up front and they're senior dominant. They return a pile of starters from last year, so they're experienced."
The Knights, who have a predominantly senior-laden team themselves, won last year's contest, 25-12.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
West Branch (0-2) at Bellwood-Antis (1-1)
BELLWOOD - After two losses at L.T. Drivas Field in the first two weeks of the season, West Branch will take to the road in Week 3 to District 6 powerhouse Bellwood-Antis.
After falling to backyard rival Tyrone in the opening week, the Blue Devils rolled over Mo Valley in Week 2, 34-7.
Bellwood running backs Tanner Snyder and Casey Gray each broke out for big games last week as Gray ran for 169 yards on 20 carries and also caught a pass for 20 yards. Snyder rushed for 120 yards on 15 totes and also was a threat in the passing game, hauling in three catches for 31 yards.
"The key is to keep those two backs contained," said Warrior head coach Lester Smeal. "We can't let them get started with what they do.
"We're preparing this week just like we prepare for anybody else. With teams like Bellwood, we like to gauge what we can and can't do. Hopefully we play well this week."
Blue Devil quarterback Jake Burch has played well in his first two weeks of varsity action. The sophomore converted 10 of 19 passes for 123 yards and threw for a touchdown against Tyrone before going 5-of-9 against the Black Knights last week for 57 yards.
"They like to make things easier for him," said Smeal. "They'll hand the ball off to the two backs, and then they'll try to catch you sleeping with play-action."
West Branch has given up an average of 378 yards to opponents, while the Blue Devils have 329.5 yards in total offense.
"The last couple weeks, we've made mistakes," said Smeal. "We've missed tackles and we've put ourselves in bad situations. We need to be physical and start tackling well. We've worked hard this week. We've got back to basics and we've been very proficient."
The Warriors have not beaten Bellwood-Antis since 1976 when they defeated the Blue Devils, 29-13. Bellwood won last year's meeting, 54-20.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"Anything is possible," said Smeal. "We'll see if we can go down there and maybe pull off the upset of the century."
Bellefonte (0-2) at Philipsburg-Osceola (0-2)
PHILIPSBURG - There's more on the line than a first win for either Bellefonte or Philipsburg-Osceola on Friday night, as the two rivals play for the Luther Trophy in their 93rd overall meeting.
Both teams come into the week off hard losses.
The Raiders were shut out by Huntingdon, 47-0, while the Mounties were upended by Bald Eagle Area, 40-13.
The two teams have struggled with turnovers, something P-O head coach Jeff Vroman hopes to avoid this week.
"The second play of the game last week, we come out with two good runs and then we fumble the football," he said. "We gave them the ball twice last week and they scored two touchdowns. We have to stay away from that.
"And, the kids know that. We work hard in practice on both ends with stripping the ball and how we hold the ball. But the key is we have to stay away from turnovers. That's crucial."
Last week, the Bearcat defense limited the Raiders to just 74 yards rushing. Storm Smith had 41 of those yards on 11 carries.
The passing game wasn't much better, as Bellefonte completed just two passes for 43 yards.
Huntingdon also had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries to their credit.
"They have a new coach," Vroman said of Bellefonte. "They have a whole new staff. They are running a new system. You'd like to think you have a grip on it. But there are a lot of things they can throw in there between now and Friday."
Mountie quarterback Curtis Matsko has shouldered a lot of the offensive load this season. Matsko leads the team in rushing and in scoring. He also played on defense last week, garnering six tackles.
Matsko will need to continue that pace if P-O wants to upend Bellefonte and win back the Luther Trophy in the 15th year the teams have played for it.
"It has to be a team effort," Vroman said. "We can't have 10 guys doing their job and one guy missing an assignment. When we look at film, we have that. And, it's a different guy every time. We have to be consistent. We are going to struggle with games until we do that.
"But the bottom line is we have to win a football game. We have to put together four quarters of football. We have yet to do that. Mental errors and misalignment have really hurt us in the last two games.
"We have really been working on that. In practice we are aligned correctly. We've also been working on recognizing formations. We just need to get consistent."
Bellefonte leads the series 49-41-2. The Raiders won last season, 42-7.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.