Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Mountain League Football Preview.

1. Tyrone

KEY Players - Aleic Hunter (RB)   Nick Getz (WR)  Duane Boone (TE/DE)

How can you lose one of the best backs in the area and a two year starting quarterback AND still be the favorites to win District Six? I guess it is all about the "T" on the helmet. Tyrone is one of the area's legendary programs and they are poised for a big season. Not only will Tyrone be dealing with personnel changes, but a new coach will be roaming the sidelines this season in Jason Wilson. The offense will start with a few Hunters. Garrett Hunter will be a senior quarterback, and there is some excitement around his potential. Aleic Hunter will be the featured back, and has some blazing speed, while the fullback, Elijah Sleeth should provide some power running. Nicholas Getz and Silas Crawford both return as the starting wide receivers, while Duane Boone is a reliable tight end. Pair all of these skilled players with a host of linemen returning with experience, and you have the makings of a very good offensive attack. Boone is one of the area's top defensive players as he posted 7 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2013. Overall, the Golden Eagles have a ton of team speed on the defensive side of the ball.

Bottom line - It is rare to have a team ranked so highly while they usher in a new quarterback and running back, but Tyrone isn't an ordinary football team. This squad is ready to roll this season, and they have all the parts you would want to see in a championship team.

2. Clearfield

KEY Players - Seth Caldwell (RB)  Nick Kovalick (LB)  Jake Wingate (CB)

Clearfield had quite the season with a conference championship, district championship, and a berth into the state AAA quarterfinals. Gone are some important pieces from that squad, but a solid core remains to put them in the Mountain Conference championship race once again. Erik Sellers looks to be the next man up to take on the quarterback position and he should help improve the passing game as a whole. The running game will take a hit by losing two 1,000 rushers, but Seth Caldwell had a mighty fine freshmen season and is set for a big year. Caldwell posted 800 yards last season, and will be the primary option this year. Defense is a big name of the game for the Bison, and they have some good players on that side of the ball. Nick Kovalick is a tough linebacker that is always around the ball. Erik Sellers does a nice job at Safety, and Jake Wingate posted 7 interceptions as a sophomore cornerback. Overall, the defense has the potential to be one of the area's best.

Bottom line - Clearfield will miss the play of Christian Lezzer and company, but they won't be in too much trouble. Clearfield has some experienced players across the board, and they have been accustomed to winning. The Bison may take a week or two to get rolling, but they should be in the race to win the league and the AAA sub-regional.

3. Central

KEY Players - Noah Benton (QB)  Jordan Quarello (LB)  Mike Mock (Ath)

The defending D6 AA champs are down, but certainly not out. The Dragons lose perhaps one of the better athletic classes to ever go through the school, but they still have enough in the tank to get back into championship contention. Central may change gears a bit, and rely on throwing the ball a bit more. Noah Benton is a very well regarded quarterback, and he has yet to be a full time starter. I expect Benton to be more of a thrower, whereas Cunningham was a very run oriented QB.  Finding a running back will be important, because they lose their top four leading rushers from last season. Kaleb Weyant had a pair of touchdowns last season, and he could be the man for the job. Mike Mock obviously has a strong throwing prowess with his baseball background, and could be a quarterback for a lot of schools. He will carve out a role as a receiver, as he did catch a few passes last season. Jordan Quarello and Nick Hoenstine were big players on defense last season, and will be the leaders on the unit this year.

Bottom line - Central has a tough group, but they did graduate a lot of their production from last season. They have a strong set of JV players coming up through the ranks, and the Dragons could ride some younger talent to some big wins. Establishing a solid running game could be the key to the season, and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds.

4. Bald Eagle

KEY Players - Jason Jones (QB)   Josh Fye (DL)   Mitchel Struble (RB)

Bald Eagle Area has really turned things around in recent years with two consecutive District Six playoff berths, and they should be in contention to do that once again in 2014. Jason Jones had a big first year as a starting quarterback by throwing for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will have to be more of a leader this season with his two top wide receivers gone. Mitchel Strubble will look to take on the role as starting tailback after rushing for 283 yards last season. Many of the Bald Eagles top playmakers graduated, so it will be a bit of a transition for some newer faces to get acquainted to bigger roles. The defense last season was able to keep them in most games, and Josh Fye was a big reason why. The big defensive lineman lived in opposing backfields, and he is one of the league's premier defensive players.

Bottom line -  Can it be a third straight year to the postseason?  Maybe, but a lot will need to happen. Bald Eagle has a good start with Jones operating the offense, but some backs and receivers need to step up and make some plays.

5. Huntingdon

KEY Players - Hudson Speck (QB)   Jon Wagner (RB)   Logan Fisher (WR)

Huntingdon is an intriguing team, and they could be a darkhorse to make a District playoff appearance. The Bearcats had a nice team last year, and a few games made the difference between them being .500 or a team in the postseason. Hudson Speck returns at quarterback after a solid sophomore campaign. Jon Wagner and Jacob Oliver are set to take on the rushing duties after getting some reps last season. Wagner is a dangerous player, and was second on the team in all-purpose yardage, showing he has a ton of versatility. Overall, Huntingdon played with a ton of key freshmen and sophomores last season, thus making this year, and especially next year very promising.

Bottom line - Huntingdon could be a year away from being a real player in the Mountain League. The Bearcats will still be a threat this season, and could have the makings for a good offense behind their young stars in the making.

6. Penns Valley

KEY Players - Wyatt Sharp (RB/LB)   Corey Hazel (RB/LB)  Sean Beamesderfer (WR/CB)

Penns Valley went 4-6 last season, but seemed better than that at times. The Rams took care of the teams they were supposed to, bu failed to lock down a big win, despite a few opportunities to do so. Penns Valley had some close losses to some good teams, and the hope for them this year is that they can finish some close games. The reins to the offense will be turned over to Ben Alexander. He is a good athlete, but has big shoes to fill after Cameron Tobias put on a show last year at QB. Wyatt Sharp and Chase Collison are two big physical backs that will see some carries, and they also have a quicker option with Corey Hazel. The running game should be in good shape overall. Sean Beamesderfer and Corey Hazel both had productive years last season, and should be good receiving options for Alexander this season. Offense certainly was not the problem last year, and the Rams have the makings of another good unit this season.

Bottom line - Penns Valley hung around last year in plenty of games, but still could not get over the hump. It will be a challenge this season to match last year's offense production with a new quarterback, but the Rams have some pieces in place to make for a competitive offense. This season will come down to the defense making a few more stops, and getting in less offensive shootouts.

7. Philipsburg-Osceola

KEY Players - Jake Anderson (QB)  Caleb Belinda (DB)  Nick Patrick (RB)

Philipsburg-Osceola had a rough season in 2013, as they only managed to win one game. It will be tough again in 2014 with the majority of their offensive production graduated.  Jake Anderson will assume the role as quarterback, and played well in limited action. He is a good runner, and should be able to operate the Wing-T with effectiveness. Nick Patrick and Kyle Hawkins should get the bulk of the carries out of the backfield as they both saw some playing time last year. The defense will feature a number of new faces, highlighted by Jake Anderson (38 solo tackles) and Caleb Belinda (3 interceptions) as returning impact players.

Bottom line - Philipsburg-Osceola is a team with some talent, but lack of numbers and depth could be the downfall. They open with West Branch, and get Bellefonte in week three, those games are very winnable and could give them a little momentum heading into the meat of their schedule.

8. Bellefonte

KEY Players - Mark Armstrong (QB)  Austin Jackson (RB)  Danny Caprio (DB)

Bellefonte is coming off a miserable season in which they went 0-10 with every loss coming by double-digit points. With a season like that, the only place to go it up. The Red Raiders have Mark Armstrong back at quarterback, and he simply needs to play better all around after throwing 18 interceptions as a sophomore. He could be pushed for playing time by senior, Danny Caprio. Austin Jackson (279 yards) and Jon Kerschner (200) will primarily be manning the running back duties. Danny Caprio is the returning leading tackler after posting some solid numbers last season. The main problem with the D is that they only recorded 2 sacks and forced just 5 turnovers all year long. Those numbers need to go up for a chance to succeed this year.

Bottom line - The state of Bellefonte football has not been good for a few years. All the symptoms of a struggling program are here with low offensive output with too many turnovers, and a fatigued defense that is on the field too much. Bellefonte has a long road ahead this season in a tough Mountain Conference.

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