Sunday, November 30, 2014

PIAA Class AAA Eastern Final: Somerset vs. Archbishop Wood

Archbishop Wood is the defending state champion in Class AAA. In fact, in the past three seasons the Vikings have rolled out to an impressive 40-6 record with two state championships, and one second place finish.With a 12-1 record right now, the Vikings are looking to add to their run. Wood is a machine from the prestigious Philadelphia Catholic League, and they are looking for their fourth straight trip to Hershey. They are a living and breathing dynasty.

Somerset, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The Golden Eagles have never won a district championship or a state playoff game until this season. This 2014 team is without question the best team in school history. Somerset hails from District 5, and they have to combine with Districts 6,8,and 9 just to have a playoff.  Talk about different worlds between these two programs.

The 2014 edition of the Archbishop Wood Vikings is as good as ever.  They have size, speed, and loads of talent.  This is a team you could argue is the best team in the state, regardless of classification. They have rolled to a 12-1 record, and hold some very impressive wins under their belt. Wood defeated Maryland power, DeMatha Catholic to start the year, along with some wins over respected Pennsylvania teams like North Penn, West Catholic, and Imhotep Charter. They are for sure battle tested coming from a historically competitive Philadelphia Catholic League.

The Vikings boast two highly rated players heading to Penn State next season. Ryan Bates is a four star offensive linemen and anchors a big and powerful line for Wood.  Jake Cooper could be the next great linebacker for the Nittany Lions, and he leads a defense that is coming off an outstanding performance by holding Great Valley to just 7 points in the state quarterfinal. While the two Penn State recruits get their fair share of the attention, it is the Villanova-bound running back that makes this team go. Jarrett McClenton rushed for two touchdowns, caught a score, and returned a punt to the endzone for a marvelous quarterfinal performance. He has been doing that kind of thing for a few years, and he is the guy Somerset needs to keep their focus on this weekend.

It was mentioned how Somerset and Archbishop Wood come from different worlds, and that is absolutely true. Somerset plays in a very strong class A and AA conference based in the Johnstown and Altoona region called the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, it is the home to notable small school programs like Forest Hills, Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort, and this year's class A state semifinalist- Bishop Guilfoyle. Actually, Guilfoyle is the only team to conquer the Golden Eagles this season.

Despite the strength of schedule questions, Somerset has powered ahead with wins over four straight AAA teams in the playoffs, including a 30-0 thrashing of perennial power, Bethlehem Catholic this past week.  It was the defense that shut down BeCaHi, and the Golden Eagles hope they can replicate that performance this week. The defense may not be big, but they are fast. Somerset relies on the talented defensive line that features all-stater Bryce Mostoller, and senior defensive tackle Colton Slayback. The next level is anchored by another 2013 all state selection in Logan Eller at middle linebacker.  As a unit overall, Somerset is very fast and have knocked off bigger and stronger teams in each of the past two weeks.

Somerset's offense features a pair of speedy juniors, Dylan Barnes at QB and Jake Heiple at running back. Heiple rushed for three touchdowns last week, and is just shy of 1,500 yards this season. Raven Beeman is an exciting and versatile weapon and adds to the speed of this dangerous offense.  Bryce Mostoller is a big target at tight end and is one of the better ones in the state.

Overall this is a game with tradition vs. newcomers, city vs. country, and of course, David vs. Goliath.  Somerset is an excellent team, and one of the better AAA teams this area has ever seen, but they are going up against one of the best programs in all of Pennsylvania.  Something will have to give this weekend.

PIAA Class A Eastern Final Preview: South Williamsport vs. Bishop Guilfoyle

Bishop Guilfoyle enters this game with an unblemished 14-0 record, and have been dominant in all 14 contests. The Marauders have been exceptional on defense and explosive on offense. They used their same recipe for a 62-21 thrashing of District 3 champion, Camp Hill. BG got down early 21-7 on some uncharacteristic mistakes, but from there Guilfoyle rolled with 55 unanswered points to punch their first ever ticket to the state's final four.

Camp Hill boasted one of the better passing games in the state and were coming off a 63 point output the previous week, but they managed just two touchdowns on offense. Bishop Guilfoyle's powerful and imposing defensive line put Camp Hill under constant pressure and turned in six sacks for their effort. Owen Wolf, Matt Gormley, Andrew Berger, and Dakota Leamer all posted sacks, and the experienced line is one of the strong points for this Bishop Guilfoyle team, and they will need it this week going up against a very prolific rushing attack. Bishop Guilfoyle's defense is one very distinct advantage in this game, as they have been down right suffocating this year.

Dominick Bragalone is one of the more prolific backs in state history, and he is the focal point for the 13-1 District 4 champions. The senior for South Williamsport rushed for 443 yards and six touchdowns last week and led his team to a 69-41 victory over Pius X.  Bragalone is now over the 3,000 yard mark this season to go along with 46 total touchdowns. At 5'11" 210 pounds, he is a bruising back for the single A level, and with a line that averages 263 pounds, it's a perfect storm for an incredibly successful running game.

As good as South Williamsport has been on the offense, they have certainly had a few times where they have allowed points on defense, like last week giving up 41 to Pius X. They aren;t a bad defense, but far from dominant.  Fortunately for Bishop Guilfoyle, they have one of the more explosive offenses you will see at the single A level.  The Marauders' attack starts with their dominant senior running back, Sam McCloskey. The Lehigh recruit went for an impressive performance himself in the state quarterfinals with 291 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and he also caught a 59 yard score. He is explosive, and has a different style that his counterpart, Bragalone. BG also boasts another impressive offensive player in senior quarterback, Brandon Chadbourn, He rushed for 100 yards last week and a touchdown, threw for two scores, and returned an interception 90 yards for another one. Not many players can provide the versatility Chadbourn can.

Bishop Guilfoyle and Camp Hill both rely heavily on the running games, they just go about it in different ways.  The Marauders use a blend of speed and power, where South Williamsport is going to come right at you with their strength and power.  This is the type of games where both teams will find ways to score, but it is where the defense will need to make an extra stop or two to come away victorious.  It is an unstoppable force going up against an immovable object, and it should make for an excellent state semifinal game.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PIAA Class A State Quarterfinal: Bishop Guilfoyle vs. Camp Hill

Bishop Guilfoyle vs. Camp Hill (10-2 District 3 Champions)
Friday 7:00 Chambersburg High School

Bishop Guilfoyle enters the state playoff with an unblemished 13-0 record. They were able to dispatch a tough Portage team last week to earn the school's first district six championship since 1987. It has been a historic season for the Maruaders, and one they do not want to end just yet.  Many feel this Bishop Guilfoyle team has the makeup of a team that can make a run to Hershey, and that journey begins Friday night in Chambersburg.

The Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders have made it this far with a suffocating defense and an explosive offense. The offense is highlighted by the running of senior, Sam McCloskey.  The senior back rushed for four touchdowns and 235 yards last week in the district six championship, and that performance led to a scholarship offer from Lehigh University, and he ended up committing to play for the Mountain Hawks soon thereafter.  He is not the only division one football threat in this powerful offense, as Villanova-bound Brandon Chadbourn has had an excellent season at quarterback with over 1,200 passing yards and 800 rushing yards. Guys like tight end, Matt Gormley and athlete Evan Chadbourn have been the most targeted players in the passing game, and both have made some big plays this season.  It is an offense that can beat you in many ways, and it is one with some very talented pieces. For a young team like Camp Hill, it will be a tall task.

Speaking of Camp Hill's young team, they dress 39 players, with 25 of them being freshmen or sophomores - quite the contrast from the Bishop Guilfoyle senior-laden team. Camp Hill is led by a very talented quarterback in Michael Shuster. The junior signal caller has thrown for 3,373 passing yards and 40 touchdowns this season, and is drawing interest from several colleges. Michael Hope is his favorite target, and he has caught 17 of those 40 touchdowns passes. Bill Williams is the team's leading rusher as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 17 scores, and is a very good receiver as well with 36 catches and 13 touchdowns. The Lions will certainly be one of the most potent offenses Bishop Guilfoyle has seen this year, and they will be tasked with slowing down a team coming off a 63 point championship performance last week.

The Bishop Guilfoyle defense may have some worries about that vaunted Camp Hill offense, but they have a pretty good defense - and that may be putting it lightly.  The Marauders have given up just six touchdowns all season long, and they have pitched seven shutouts on the year also.  They have a ball-hawking secondary, an imposing defensive line, and a group of experienced and talented linebackers. This team is good at every level, and they play very well together.  They have combined for 46.5 sacks, 35 forced turnovers, and 7 defensive touchdowns.  Those are pretty mind boggling numbers, and if a team is tasked with slowing down Camp Hill, it would be Bishop Guilfoyle. 

The winner of this game will take on the winner of Pius X and South Williamsport in the class A Eastern Final.  District six has fared well in this game with District three in recent years, having won four out of five of these match-ups.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

District 5A Championship Outlook: Meyersdale vs. Berlin

Meyersdale (10-2) vs. Berlin (11-1)
Saturday 7:00 Somerset Area High School


The Backyard Brawl makes a trip to the District 5 Championship game. This will mark the fourth meeting between the two neighboring schools in the past two seasons. Meyersdale won in an instant class last regular season, but Berlin got the last laugh in the playoffs. This season the Mountaineers beat the Red Raiders in the regular season, so will it be Meyersdale's chance at revenge this time?

Meyersdale went into second seeded Tussey Mountain last week and escaped with a 21-19 upset victory. The Red Raiders have been playing some of their best football in recent weeks as they have a dynamic offense and a stout defense.  Sophomore quarterback, Riley Christner, returned from injury to throw for 259 yards and a touchdown against Tussey Mountain last week. He is very talented for a sophomore and shows great poise for his age. Cole Clark and Conner Christner are the two play-making receivers for this offense. Jason Ritchey and Ty Hoover lead the rushing attack. They have different ways they can beat you, and they put that on display last week. To be at this stage of the season without a running back over 1,000 yards is a testament to their balance on offense. 

Meyersdale held a pretty good Tussey Mountain offense in check last week, and they have been doing that kind of thing all year.  They have pitched five shutouts in their 10 wins, and have been playing at a high level since their mid-season two game losing streak. Their biggest challenge will be to slow down Braden Fochtman somehow, as he went for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting.

Berlin-Brothersvalley has been one of the hottest teams in the area, and they are riding an eight game winning streak. In those eight games they have pitched five shutouts. Since trailing Portage 14-0 early in the WestPac championship, the Mountaineers have scored 133 unanswered points. The Berlin dominance starts with their sensational running back, Braden Fochtman. He has already rushed for 299 yards and 6 touchdowns in the district playoffs, and will look to add to that impressive total. Berlin has also seen a spike in the rushing game with quarterback Brentson Harding having some big games lately.  He is a good passer as well, and it gives this offense another dynamic if he's running and passing well.

As we said, this Berlin defense has been down right dominant of late. Dante Paul has 22 tackles for loss, while Toby Cahill has 13. Bryce Fochtman leads the way with four interceptions. In fact Berlin has 41 takeaways this season with a +25 turnover margin this season. 

(Helmets courtesy of

District Six A Championship Outlook: Portage vs. Bishop Guilfoyle

Portage (11-1) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (12-0)
Friday 7:00 Mansion Park Stadium

Portage and Bishop Guilfoyle meet for the second straight year, but the stakes are slightly higher this time.  Bishop Guilfoyle went into Portage's stadium last year and humbled the Mustangs 42-10 in the district playoffs. This time the game will be Bishop Guilfoyle's stadium, and a championship is on the line.  These two teams topped our local power rankings all year long, and were the teams I picked to meet here before the playoffs started. The week is here, and the much-anticipated matchup is upon us. 

Portage comes into this game after a thrilling semifinal victory over Blairsville last week. The Mustangs overcame a late deficit and took the lead with under two minutes, and survived a deep drive by Blairsville to advance to the district final for the second time in school history. Like many times over the past three seasons, it was a heavy dose of Caleb Kephart to lead the Portage offense. The senior back rushed for 239 yards and two scores to raise his impressive season totals to 2,327 yards and 33 touchdowns. The offense often receives substantial production from their second back, Luke Dividock.  He is over the century mark this season, and is another dangerous runner. Michael Bryja is a more than capable quarterback, and at 6'5" has the size and tools to make some big throws. He has tossed 8 touchdowns this season in Portage's run-happy offense. 

The Portage defense stiffened when they needed to last week, and have held in check two very good Heritage teams down in the first two rounds to reach the championship game.  They have faced some of the area's best runners in recent weeks, and that should be good simulation for facing the vaunted Bishop Guilfoyle offense on Friday. 

Bishop Guilfoyle raced past Bellwood-Antis 48-7 last week to earn their second straight berth in the district final. The Marauders have been steamrolling just about anything in their path this season, and it's hard to imagine them slowing down anytime soon.  The Bishop Guilfoyle offense is explosive, and it's been a two-headed monster doing most of the damage this season. Sam McCloskey is having some kind of season with 1,436 rushing yards, 326 receiving yards, and 36 touchdowns on offense. He has been nearly unstoppable this year.  Brandon Chadbourn is the other half of this dynamic duo, and he has been fantastic in his own right. The senior QB is completing 63% of his passes with 1,245 yards and 12 scores. He has also rushed for 746 yards and nine touchdowns.  They third star of this offense is the tight end, Matt Gormley. He has come up with some huge plays this year, and is a very good player.

Bishop Guilfoyle's offense is flashy and gets a lot of attention, but it has been their defense that has been most impressive.  The Marauders allowed a touchdown last week in the second half, and that was just the fourth touchdown they have allowed in 12 games this season.  They normally do not surrender a lot, and it's hard to mention this defense without Adam Berger. He is having an absurd season, and you can pretty much pencil him into first team all state defensive line right now. 


- Portage will be without Head Coach Garry Gouse, as he was ejected last week against Blairsville.

- Portage is playing in just their second district final in school history, and their first since 2008.

- Bishop Guilfoyle should feel right at home, as they use Mansion Park as their home field. This will be their 8th game at the stadium this year. 

- A LHAC team has not won this championship since the 2010 Bishop Carroll team.

- The last time a WestPac team won this championship was Windber in 2000. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

District Six AA Championship Outlook: Tyrone vs. Mt. Union

Tyrone 11-1 vs. Mt. Union 12-0
Saturday 7:00 Mansion Park Stadium 

Speed vs. Power.....Tradition vs. Newcomers.....ICC vs. Mountain League. These are just some of the story lines heading into the highly anticipated District Six AA championship Saturday night. The top two seeds survived the first two rounds and give us the championship game many wanted to see from the onset of the playoffs. 

So much was talked about if Mt. Union could stack up against the defending district champions, Central. I would say by the result of the game, not only did they stack up, they were far and away the better team. The speed and athleticism of Mt. Union just overwhelmed what many believed was a good Central team, and it led to a 61-13 rout.  Like many times this year, BJ Loner had a dazzling performance. The senior athlete rushed 11 times for 163 yards for three touchdowns, while also catching a touchdown.  This offense goes as he does, and he looks locked in right now. Trevon Walker has thrown for over 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, but it was his rushing performance that raised eyebrows last week. The senior play-caller went for 211 rushing yards and 4 scores on the ground and helped lead his team to victory. If both of those players are clicking like that, they will be tough to beat.  Throw is Robbie Steel, DJ Bookwalter, Kole Hole, and Keiton Pillock and you have an offense filled with guys capable of making plays.

The Mt. Union defense does not always get the credit it deserves, but they locked down a good Central passing attack. The defensive line led by Brody Suter got after the quarterback and forced them into bad throws. The talented and athletic secondary took advantage of those mistakes, and hauled in four interceptions. Kole House and BJ Loner have been intercepting everything in sight this season, and they continue to play well as the competition gets better.

Tyrone easily dispatched rival Huntingdon 43-15 in the semifinals, and they return to their home away from home for another district title appearance. The Golden Eagles have a balanced offense, a strong defense, and the size and speed to make a run. Tyrone's offense starts with Garrett Hunter at quarterback. The senior went 10-17 for 115 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions last week. It was another strong, mistake-free game from Hunter. Garrett Hunter may be the one that steadies the offense, but Aleic Hunter is the one that makes it run. The senior back rushed for 157 yards and two score to raise his totals to 1,741 and 19 touchdowns. Nicholas Getz led the team in receiving last week, and has been doing it all year long.  Silas Crawford and Duane Boone also provide reliable targets for Hunter. 

The Tyrone defense has been stiffing this season, and has held their two playoff opponents to just 22 points thus far. They are led by one of the area's top defensive ends, Duane Boone.  He went for 4 tackles for loss against Huntingdon last week, and can cause problems in the Mt. Union backfield. Richard Reader and Elijah Sleeth are also big players for this defense. Tyrone is stout against the run, and have been impressive against the pass as well, but chances are they have not seen this kind of speed all season and it will present a new challenge for them. 


-- The winner of this game will play the District 10 Champion next week. Greenville (11-1) and Hickory (9-2) play Saturday afternoon for their championship.

-- Tyrone is going for ninth District Six AA championship. They are currently tied with Forest Hills for the most all-time with 8.

-- Mt. Union is going for their first championship ever. They were the runners-up in 1992 and 1993. 

(Helmets courtesy of Pa Helmet Project)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

District Five Class A Semifinal Outlook: Meyersdale at Tussey Mountain

Meyersdale (9-2) at Tussey Mountain (9-2)
Saturday 7:00 Tussey Mountain High School


Meyersdale easily dispatched Everett last week by a score of 27-0. The Red Raiders look to continue their push to the district final on Saturday as they travel to take on the defending champion, Tussey Mountain. Meyersdale has seemingly recovered from their late season two game losing streak, and they now resemble the team that started out 6-0.

The Red Raiders survived last week without starting quarterback, Connor Christner. They received big plays from the running game, and the defense stiffened up in a big way.  The offense is paced by running back, Jason Ritchey. He is a tough runner that sets up the passing game. Riley Christner made some plays at quarterback filling in for his brother. Cole Clark is an electric player that is always in the middle of making big plays.  The story for Meyersdale is likely their defense, though. They have pitched five shutouts this year, and they have been clicking since the Portage loss. It all starts with their hard-nosed defensive line led by Tim Garlitz and Justin Dunmeyer. They will be tasked with slowing down a very tough Tussey Mountain offense. 

Tussey Mountain is coming off a thrashing of Windber in round one. The Titans hung 62 on the Ramblers, and it was another impressive performance for the defending champs. They will look to make it back to the district final again to defend their championship.

Tussey Mountain has a balanced offense with plenty of experience back from last year's run. Quinn Barnett does not have ridiculous stats, but he is a winner and he is a reliable QB. Barnett's record is 20-5 as the starting Tussey quarterback in two years and he is just a junior. Barnett has thrown a touchdown in each of the past 8 games with 15 total on the year.  Daniel Taylor, Chris Wentz, and Drew Sitch form a potent trio running the football that has combined for 37 rushing touchdowns this year. Overall, the running game averages 317 yards a contest and it is difficult to key on one player, and that's what makes it so effective. The Tussey Mountain defense has taken a step back this year, and it has forced the offense to win in some shootouts. The offense can make up for it, but it could cost them in a big game against a tough Meyersdale team. 

(Helmets courtesy of  PA Helmet Project)

District Five Class A Semifinal Outlook: Shade at Berlin

Shade (7-4) at Berlin (10-1)
Friday 7:00 Snyder's Athletic Complex 

Shade has now advanced to the second round of the district five playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Panthers are now looking to breakthrough to the championship in 2014, a far cry away from where the program was back in 2011 when they went 1-8. 

The Panthers lost to Berlin way back in week one, but since that game Shade has displayed plenty of improvement. Shade is a team that is very balanced, and one that wins without a true offensive star.  As evidence to that, Shade has four rushers with at least 500 yards on the year. It seems each week a new guy steps up, and it was Logan Glessner in week one of the playoffs against Northern Bedford by going for for 101 yards.   This week it could be Mitch Napora, Ted Dunagan, and Baily Blackburn carrying the load.  They even get solid production from Preston Broncoski, the senior quarterback. Shade is a hard-working team that absolutely works well together.  They hung around and narrowly lost to WestPac powers Portage and Meyersdale this season, and they are hoping they have closed the gap on Berlin by now as well. 

Berlin is sitting on ten wins right now, and that's the third consecutive year the Mountaineers have achieved double digit wins.  Doug Paul and his staff have this program as solid as it's ever been, and they are looking for their second championship in three years. 

The Berlin offense is explosive, and it has many weapons. Although, just one player stands out above the rest.  Braden Fochtman is sitting on 1,540 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, and the junior back already has surpassed the 4,000 yard total for his career. He is a big play waiting to happen on any given snap, and seemingly does the impossible sometimes, like last week by rushing for over 200 yards on just 7 carries. Shade also gets significant production from their junior quarterback, Brentson Harding. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and rushed for 8 more, and has come up with some big plays for this team in his first year as the starter.The Berlin defense does not get the headlines, but they can really play. Dante Paul is a big player on that side of the ball, and really makes that unit work. 

District Six AA Semifinal Outlook: Huntingdon at Tyrone

Huntinngdon (6-5) at Tyrone (10-1)
Saturday 7:00 Grey-Vets Memorial Field 

A long time rivalry gets renewed with a berth to the District Six championship on the line. Huntingdon is in the postseason for the first time since 2010, and they are looking for their championship since 2005. Tyrone is seeking for their first trip to Mansion Park since 2011, the same year they went the whole way to the state championship. 

Huntingdon had an up and down year, and it led them to a 5-5 regular season mark. In a bit of a surprise though, the Bearcats went to third-seeded Juniata last week and upset them in the first round. Huntingdon rode a big performance by their junior running back, Jake Wagner. He rushed for 239 yards on 24 carries for two touchdowns. The Bearcats will need more of the same from him this week against a stout Tyrone defense. He has rushed for 1,183 yards and 18 touchdowns this year, and he is the undoubted star of this offense. To draw pressure away from him, the Cats may need to see some more production from the passing game. Hudson Speck has 6 passing touchdowns his year, and he did miss the Tyrone game in the first meeting. Perhaps his presence can change things this time around. Logan Fisher and Matt Speck are his favorite targets, and they will have to make a few plays to spring the upset. 

The Bearcats' defense had it's moments this year, but they did surrender plenty of points in their five losses. The first meeting with Tyrone saw Huntingdon give up 52 points, and that is not something that can happen again if they wish to pull the upset. Huntingdon does not have the offense to play in that kind of shootout, but they are an improving team. I expect things to be a little closer in this meeting. 

Tyrone is coming off a sound 35-7 win over Forest Hills in round one. The Golden Eagles have combined a balanced offense and a stiffing defense be one of the top teams in the district. This is a program that is very familiar and comfortable playing in these type of games, and beating them at home is no easy task, and that may be one of the biggest advantages they have going into the rematch with Huntingdon. 

The offense for Tyrone starts with the quarterback, Garrett Hunter. He is a senior and a first year starter, but he plays like he has been doing this for years, as he is completing 56% of his passes for 1,518 yards 17 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. He was 12 of 16 in the first meeting with Huntingdon, and was 8 of 18 last week against Forest Hills. Hunter has already led them to some big wins this year, and will be ready to handle the big game moment this week.  Another Hunter is a big part of this offense, and that Aleic Hunter, the 5'7" 150 pound running back. Don't let the size fool you, he has rushed for 1,426 yards and 19 touchdowns this season including a 220 yard performance in round one. Tyrone has two pretty good receivers with Nicholas Getz and Silas Crawford, and a tight end that is reliable as well in Duane Boone.  Tyrone is equally comfortable running and throwing the ball, and that is what makes them so hard to defend. 

The Golden Eagles' defense has been on a roll lately. Since the loss to Clearfield, the Golden Eagles have only given up 29 points in their past four games. Tyrone's defense is led by one of the best defensive end duos around these parts. Duane Boone has had a beastly season with 7 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, while Richard Reader has posted 3.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Elijah Sleeth holds it down as the team's top linebacker. Cameron Baksheshe, Nicholas Getz, and Cullen Raftery form an experienced and athletic secondary.  They will make life difficult on a Huntingdon team that does not pass a whole lot. 

-- The winner of this game advances to the District Six AA Championship, which will be held next Saturday and they will play the winner of Central-Mt. Union.

-- Tyrone is looking for their for their 14th all-time championship appearance. 

-- Tyrone is tied all-time with 8 District Six AA Championships with Forest Hills.

-- Huntingdon is a six time AAA champion, but have not had much success since they have dropped to AA.The Bearcats last championship was in 2005. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

District Six AA Semifinal Outlook: Central at Mt. Union

Central (9-2) at Mt. Union (11-0)
Friday 7:00 Mt. Union High School


The defending district champions have a whole new look to them this year. After putting together one of the best seasons in school history in 2013, nobody really knew how Central would follow it up this year. The Dragons seemingly did not miss a beat. Central has two losses this year by ten points total, and they are very much a threat to repeat as champions. 

Central has an offense that is more dependent upon the passing game than they usually do, and it has been working. Noah Benton has thrown for over 1,200 yards this season with 16 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. He has been very good in his first year as a starter. Benton also has the mobility to keep defenses honest with his legs.  Mike Mock is not an every down quarterback, but when he steps in, the offense does not skip a beat. He has thrown 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions.  Mock is also the team's leading rusher with 771 yards and 9 touchdowns.  The Dragons do not have that powerful running game of year's past, but they do average 200 yards a game as a team and they get contributions from a number of different players.  The quarterbacks have made the passing game consistent, but the receivers make it explosive. Justin Helsel and Alex Hoenstine have been outstanding this year, and can make things happen when they have the ball in their hands after the catch. Mock has come down with some big catches himself, including a 31 yard touchdown pass against Penn Cambria last week. 

The Central defense has been on a roll in the second half of the season, but they did allow some  big plays last week. It was out of character because the strength of the Central defense has been in the secondary.  Hoenstine, Mock, and Helsel have combined for ten interceptions this year. Jordan Quarello and Kaleb Weyant anchor the linebackers, while Blaize Mock (6 sacks 13 hurries) and Brice Brumbaugh (11 TFL) provide the pass rush on the line. It is a well put together defense, but they will be put to the test this week against a dynamic offense from Mt. Union. 

Mount Union is in the midst of their best season, perhaps ever. The Trojans are 11-0, champions of the ICC, and they are hosting a second round playoff game. It has been a dream season, and they will look for it to continue this week, but dethroning the defending champions will not be an easy task. 

Mt. Union has a high-flying offense that has been putting up insane numbers all year long. It starts with their third year starting quarterback, Trevon Walker. The senior play-caller has thrown for 1,367 yards 18 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. He also has 579 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, and that adds another element to this offense. While it is Walker drives the offense, it is BJ Loner that makes it fly. The senior do-it-all athlete has accounted for 30 offensive touchdowns this season (20 rushing - 10 receiving) and he is one of the most versatile threats in all of district six. Loner has over 1,000 rushing yards and nearly 600 in receiving. Robbie Steel and DJ Bookwalter aid in the running game as they each have 400+ yards and 5 touchdowns. Kole House and Keiton Pollock are two very good receivers, and they just add to arsenal of this offense.  Mt. Union is a tough team to account for on every play with all of the athletes they put out on the field.

The Trojans' defense does not get the headlines the offense receives, but they have been very good in their own right. Take away the Tussey Mountain game, and the Mt. Union defense has held in check every other team they have played thus far. They will be tested by Central's offense, but Mt. Union will not be lacking in confidence going into the game. The amount of turnovers Mt. Union has created jumps off the page, as they have 20 interceptions and 23 fumble recoveries. Kole House has posted 8 interceptions himself, while Loner has 7. The two senior defensive backs are one of the best tandems in the state. The defensive line for Mt. Union also has some strong personnel with seniors Zack Snyder, Brody Suter, and juniors DJ Bookwalter and Adam Rigney providing sound run support. Austin Low leads the linebackers.  Overall,  it is an experienced group that thrives on taking the ball away from teams and making big plays. 

-- The winner of this game will play the winner of Tyrone/Huntingdon on Saturday November 22 at Mansion Park. 

-- Central is going for their fourth district title in school history. They are looking back to become the first school to win back to back titles since Forest Hills in 2009-2010.

-- Mt. Union is looking to punch their ticket to the district six final for the first time since 1993.  The Trojans finished second in back to back years in '92-'93.

(Helmets courtesy of PA Helmet Project)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

District Six Class A Semifinal Outlook: Portage at Blairsville

Portage (10-1) at Blairsville (11-0)
Saturday 7:00 Blairsville High School

Portage last played for a district championship in 2008, since then the Mustangs have been bounced in the semifinal round three times in the past five years. Saturday night Portage will get a chance at redemption from those losses and an opportunity to break through to the district title. 

The Mustangs have the horses, so to speak, to get them there. Caleb Kephart has put up video game like numbers this season, with 2,088 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns. He also has two receiving touchdowns to his credit. The Mustangs ride Kephart to success, and he has responded each week with at least 100 yard performance every time. It certainly is not a one man show  as Luke Dividock would be the featured back for a lot of teams throughout the district. He has 1,035 yards and 11 touchdowns this season to form one of district six's most lethal combinations. Although Portage is not a big passing team, they do have the luxury of having a 6'5" strong-armed quarterback at their disposal. Michael Bryja is 19-3 in his career as the Portage starting quarterback and is more than capable of making big throws. 

Portage has a 'bend but don't break" type of defense. They were humbled to a degree in their week ten defeat to Berlin, and tightened things up last week against a solid Homer-Center offense by holding them to 7 points. The Mustangs have baited their opponents into 17 interceptions this season, as they are a very opportunistic defense. Seniors, Brandon Vocco, Caleb Kephart, and Kyle Davis lead the way along with junior Luke Dividock.  

Blairsville has never won a district six championship, in fact, they have never even made it to the final game. The Bobcats will look to make history on Saturday and punch their ticket to Mansion Park. The Bobcats are an experienced team, and one that has been building up to this season for a few years now.

The Blairsville offense is paced by senior running back, Deion Robinson. He is coming off a monster game in the first round against Moshannon Valley as he had four rushing touchdowns. In all, Robinson has totaled 1,522 yards and 27 touchdowns on the year. He is just one of the many weapons Blairsville can turn to for a big play. Scott Thompson is in his third year as a starting quarterback, and he can  throw and run. His experience may come up big in a game like this. Camerson Livingston is second on the team in all-purpose yardage, and has made some huge plays for this team this season. 

Blairsville won the Heritage outright this season, and they did it in dominating fashion throughout the year. The defense for the Bobcats is only allowing 8 points per game. Cameron Livingston is making a serious bid for an all-state nod as he leads the team in tackles and has six interceptions and three fumble recoveries this year. Jacob Smith leads the team in sacks with six, and he is team's top pass rusher. Scott Thompson, Jaylin Rydbom, and Tyler Lenhardt are fellow seniors that are also huge parts to this unit. In fact, the Bobcats' top seven leading tackles are seniors.


-- The District Six class A championship will be held on Friday night this year, the winner of this game will play Bishop Guilfoyle or Bellwood-Antis. 

-- Since district six's inception, neither program has won a district tile. Portage's 2008 final appearance is the only one between the two schools. 

-- The Heritage Conference has won two of the past three District Titles, and Blairsville will look to keep that momentum going this year.

-- The last time a WestPac team won the District Six title was Windber back in 2000, that was when Districts 5 and 6 were still combined.

(Helmets courtesy of Pa Helmet Project)

Monday, November 10, 2014

District Six Class A Semifinal Outlook: Bellwood-Antis at Bishop Guilfoyle

Bellwood-Antis (9-2) at Bishop Guilfoyle (11-0)
Friday 7:00 Mansion Park

Bellwood-Antis can change the names and faces, but at the end of the day they are still the same difficult team to play year after year. The Blue Devils are a well coached and disciplined team that will rarely make mistakes to hurt themselves. They have a running game that averages 237 yards per game, and a quarterback that is capable of making big throws.  Bellwood does not depend on quarterback Jake Burch, but they can certainly rely on him if they need to. He had a rough game last week, and will need to play better if they want to knock of Bishop Guilfoyle.  The running game is paced by senior Cameron Wood. He had a workmanlike performance last week against Penns Manor, as he went over 200 yards on 30 carries.  He will likely see a lot of touches this week with the Blue Devils trying to control the clock. Matt McMillan will have to chip in some big plays as well, as he had 490 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season.

The Bellwood defense always seems to be a strong point, and that is the case again this year. The Blue Devils only surrender 11 points per contest, and they have an experienced unit with seniors up and down the depth chart. Tyson Miller and Trenton Creppage provide a serious pass rush as they have 25 tackles for loss combined. As a unit, Bellwood has forced 30 turnovers and have combined for 31 sacks. They are a big play defense, and they have plenty of guys that have played in big games throughout their careers.  They will be ready for the challenge Friday night.

Bishop Guilfoyle is having a season for the ages, and they will look to punch their ticket to a second consecutive district championship appearance. The Marauders have a smothering defense that has allowed all of three touchdowns (26 points total) in 11 games and a high-flying offense that can score at will using multiple weapons.

The BG offense is led by the sensational Sam McCloskey. He has scored 34 touchdowns this season, and is currently sitting at 1,357 rushing yards. He is an elusive and speedy back, and has been the catalyst for this team all year long.  Equally as important to this offense is quarterback, Brandon Chadbourn. The Villanova-bound recruit has accounted for 1,148 passing yards (10 TD's-2 int's) and 692 yards with 8 rushing touchdowns. They also have a sure-handed tight end in Matt Gormley, and a pair of versatile weapons in Aaron Yasulitis and Evan Chadbourn. With all of these pieces, Bishop Guilfoyle boats one of the most explosive offenses in the area.

The Marauders' defense has been nothing short of dominant. Teams have mustered just three touchdowns on them all year long. Andrew Berger is a big 6'3" 250 pound defensive tackle that just absolutely wreaks havoc on offenses, and he has posted some mind-boggling stats this year.  Berger has 28 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, 19 QB hurries, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles. He is a force, and anchors one of the best defenses in all of class A throughout Pennsylvania. Matt Gormley and Owen Wolf also have some ridiculous stats, and guys like Aaron Yaulitis, DJ Kitt, and Ian Luther may not have the crazy numbers of some, but are all very good linebackers. Evad Chadbourn leads a unit with 17 interceptions with six himself.


--The winner of this game will advance to the District Championship next week, which will also be played at Mansion Park. Neither team is a stranger to the facility, as BG uses it as a home field and Bellwood is a perennial power come playoff time.

--They will square off with the winner of Portage/Blairsville game. Portage is 10-1 seeded third, while Blairsville is undefeated at 11-0 seeded second.

--The D6A Championship will be held on Friday this year, a change from the usual Saturday night.

--Bellwood-Antis has played for a District Title 15 times in school history with 6 championships.

-- Bishop Guilfoyle has two District Titles in their history (1985/1987) and both were in AA.  Since moving to single A, the Marauders have made the final twice (1991/2013) but have yet to win a championship.

-- The last time Bishop Guilfoyle beat Bellwood-Antis was 2003. The seniors in this game were in first grade.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

District 5/9 Sub-regional AAA Championship Preview.

Clearfield (9-2) at Somerset (10-1)
Friday 7:00 Herlinger Field (Richland)  Johnstown, PA


Somerset and Clearfield meet for the second straight year for the sub-regional championship. The Golden Eagles have been a force all year long, and many expected that.  Not many people were sure of what to expect of Clearfield though. The Bison lost some great players from a really good team in 2013, and had to bring some new players along in 2014.  Either way, the teams paths will cross again Friday night for the right to advance to the state tournament.

Somerset pummeled Punxsutawney in the first round 51-12, and that was reminiscent of the majority of the 2014 Somerset season. Somerset flew through the LHAC for nine weeks, and did it with a powerful defense and a quick-strike offense.  The Golden Eagles only had one blemish on the record, and judging by the Punxsutawney result, it is water under the bridge now.

The offense is anchored by junior quarterback, Dylan Barns.  The dual-threat QB has thrown for over 1,000 yards with 17 passing touchdowns with just three interceptions. He has also rushed for 8 scores.  He is joined by an electrifying runner, Jake Heiple. The junior running back is over the 1,000 mark with 18 touchdowns, and is coming off a three TD performance against the Chucks. The speedy and versatile Raven Beeman had three touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 rushing) last week, and he is a threat to take it the distance any time.  Bryce Mostoller is one of the best tight end's in the state and he just adds to the long list of players to worry about if you are playing Somerset.

The Golden Eagles' defense is a big play unit in every sense of the term.  Somerset has two aggressive ends that live in opponents' backfields in Bryce Mostoller and Raven Beeman. They also boast an all-state middle linebacker, Logan Eller, and he flies sideline to sideline. They also have seven different players to record interceptions this season. They create havoc in the backfield and force turnovers, and that's the name of their game.

Clearfield is coming off a sound 42-27 victory over Johnstown in the first round. Clearfield gave up the game's first touchdown, but went on to score the games' next 42 points to essentially put it away. Clearfield is a strong defensive team with a tough running game.  After starting 1-2, The Bison have reeled off 8 straight victories.

Clearfield's offense revolves around the running of senior Erik Sellers. He has 22 rushing touchdowns on the year and has toppled the century mark with 1,071 yards on the season. Seth Caldwell is a good secondary runner, and he has 7 rushing touchdowns to go with 964 rushing yards. The 1-2 punch is difficult to deal with, and as a team they average 243 rushing yards a game.  Clearfield quarterback Cody Spaid only completed 1 pass against Johnstown, but has shown he is a capable passer with 838 yards and 9 touchdowns on the year. Ryan Lezzar is the team's big play threat and he averages 20 yards a reception, and has 9 touchdown catches this season. Clearfield is pretty straightforward with what they like to do, and that's running the football and they have had a lot of success doing so. They have the passing game with Lezzar if they need it, but ideally they are coming right at you with the running game.

The Clearfield defense has been very good this season, and they are a physical team that mirrors their offensive style. Clearfield really buckled down after their 1-2 start and have been playing suffocating defense since the Central loss. Johnstown was able to put up some points late in the game, but for the most part Clearfield threw the Trojans off their game.  The defense has a number of stars. Dustin Maines is their sack artist, and the undersized end really gets after it in the pass rush. Nick Kovalick is one of their leading tacklers and he is a hard-hitting linebacker that leads their run defense. Erik Sellers and Christian Rummery are two athletic outside linebackers that can be tough against the run and pass. Ryan Lezzar came up with a pick six last week, and he is one of the anchors in their secondary.

The winner of the District 5-9 showdown advances to the state's "Sweet 16" and they will be matched up with the District 4 champion, Jersey Shore or Selinsgrove. The winners will meet next week likely closer to a District 4 venue. Clearfield won last year's meeting and the game was played in Dubois.

(Helmet pictures courtesy of PA Helmet Project)

District Five Class AA Championship Preview

Chestnut Ridge (9-2) vs. Bedford (9-1)
Friday 7:00 Panther Community Stadium Loysburg,PA

Chestnut Ridge and Bedford renew their storied rivalry Friday night, and this time a championship is on the line. The Laurel Highlands Conference ended the idea of this being an annual regular season showdown, but the teams always will find themselves in the two team District 5 AA race.  Both schools have some really good teams, and it should make for a raucous atmosphere Friday night.

Bedford comes in as the top seed, and they finished an impressive 9-1 in the always tough LHAC.  The Bisons have a powerful offensive attack led by their junior quarterback, Austin Montgomery. The tough-nosed junior operates this offense at a high level and contributes in both the passing and running games.  Montgomery is completing 60% of his passes for 1,649 yards and 16 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. He has also rushed for 11 touchdowns on the ground. As a team, Bedford averages 212 yards a game on the ground and August Cook is the catalyst with 873 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Zach Shaffer is the team's top receiver, and with 33 catches and 8 receiving touchdowns, he is one of the best in the area. He has also scored 7 touchdowns on the ground, and he is a weapon coach Kevin Steele can use in a variety of ways.

Bedford only lost one game this year, but even in some of their victories the defense allowed some big plays. The defense has to be able to come up big in this game after Ridge hung 55 on them last year in this same district championship game. Bedford is primarily an underclassmen team with just two seniors starting. The young Bisons need to play sound football on defense, and limit the big plays. The strength in this Bedford defense is with their linebacker corps led by Tanner Coughenour in the middle, and flanked by Uruah Costal and August Cook. The Chestnut Ridge scheme is balanced, and Bedford needs to try to force more runs on Friday night.

Chestnut Ridge comes into this game with a solid 9-2 record, and they are coming off a 35-0 first round rout of Westinghouse from the Pittsburgh City League. The Lions are the defending champions, and they still have a good core in place from that team last season.  Tyler Wiley and Matt Wiley are the stars of the show, and they have been very good. Tyler has led the offense as a QB and has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 700 yards. He has accounted for 15 touchdowns on the ground and 12 through the air.  If Ridge is going anywhere, it is behind his abilities. Matt Wiley has been steady as the team's fullback, and has 11 rushing touchdowns and leads the team in rushing yards. Bryan Feather, Noah Osman, and Trent Crouse have been the team's top receiving options, and all are capable play-makers.

Chestnut Ridge is still the lone local team without a conference, but it allows them to play a different kind of schedule. They have played some challenging opponents, and their two losses are to undefeated Fort Hill of Maryland, and perennial District Six power, Tyrone. The Lions have a win over a very good Central team as well. The defense has been very good this season, and they have pitched four shutouts overall. They are led by Matt Wiley at linebacker and Noah Osman at safety.

Chestnut Ridge and Bedford are long-time rivals, and this should be another classic bout as both teams are capable of beating one another.  The winner of this game will move on to the "Sweet 16" in the PIAA tournament.  They will take on the District 9 champion, either undefeated Karns City or Saint Mary's. The game will take place at a District 9 venue, as Chestnut Ridge fell to Karns City last year at Northern Bedford.

(Helmet pictures courtesy of Pa Helmet Project)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday November 8 First Round Playoff Scores

District Six A

3. Portage 21    6. Homer Center  13
Portage will play Blairsville in the D6A Semifinals

4. Bellwood-Antis 14    5. Penns Manor  11
Bellwood-Antis will play Bishop Guilfoyle in the D6A Semifinals

District Six AA

6. Huntingdon   28    3. Juniata 21
Huntingdon will play Tyrone in the D6AA Semifinals 

4. Central 28      5. Penn Cambria   21 
Central will play Mt. Union in the D6AA Semifinals

District 5 A

2. Tussey Mountain 62       7. Windber  20
Tussey Mountain will play Meyersdale in the D5A Semifinals

4. Shade 15         5. Northern Bedford 0
Shade will play Berlin-Brothersvalley in the D5A Semifinals

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday November 7 First Round Playoff Final Scores

District Six Class A

1. Bishop Guilfoyle  49        8. Williamsburg 0
Bishop Guilfoyle will play the winner of Bellwood-Antis/Penns Manor

2. Blairsville   35                  7. Moshannon Valley  14
Blairsville will play the winner of Portage/Homer-Center

District Six Class AA

1. Mt. Union 27            8. Southern Huntingdon 7
Mt. Untion will play the winner of Central/Penn Cambria

2. Tyrone 35           7. Forest Hills 7
Tyrone will play the winner of Juniata/Huntingdon

District 5-6-9 Class AAA

1. Somerset 50     4. Punxsutawney 12
Somerset will play Clearfield in the AAA Championship

2. Clearfield 42      3. Johnstown  27
Clearfield will play Somerset in the AAA Championship

District 5 Class A

1. Berlin-Brothersvalley 61   8. Conemaugh Township 0
Berlin will play the winner of Shade/Northern Bedford

2. Meyersdale 27     6. Everett 0
Meyersdale will play the winner of Tussey Mountain/Windber

District 5-8 AA

2. Chestnut Ridge 35    3. Westinghouse 0
Chestnut Ridge will play Bedford in the D5 AA Championship


1. Pine Richland 49    8. Altoona 7
Pine Richland will play McKeesport

The Coal Bowl
Cambria Heights  35    Northern Cambria 0

Monday, November 3, 2014

District 5,6,9 AAA Playoff Primer

The Favorite - Somerset 

Somerset enters the playoffs with a 9-1 record and have had a dominating season to this point. The Golden Eagles have a stiffing defense highlighted by Bryce Mostoller at defensive end and Logan Eller at linebacker. As a team, they have forced 25 turnovers as they swarm to the ball relentlessly.  They have been lights out all year long, but were exposed slightly by Bishop Guilfoyle last week. Still for the most part it has been a very good unit, and they are the strength of this team.  The offense can be explosive, and they can turn to a number of different players to make plays. Dylan Barnes is a solid dual threat QB, Jake Heiple is an electrifying running back, and Mostoller is a force at tight end. Raven Beeman and Austin Hemminger are also capable offensive threats.  Bob Landis has really built this program up in recent years as they are 18-3 in their past 21 games. This is a confident bunch that is strong on both sides of the ball, and they will use their week ten loss as motivation to get a championship.

The Challenger  - Clearfield

Clearfield has won three of the past four AAA subregion championships. The Bison continually put out strong teams year after year, and the 2014 edition is no different. Clearfield has been giving the LHAC a lot of problems recently, whether it was the good Johnstown teams from a few years ago or Somerset last year, Clearfield has come out on top.  They will look to continue that trend this year, and Clearfield will have to go through Johnstown and likely Somerset to advance to the state playoff round for a second consecutive year.  The Bison center their offense around Erik Sellers and Seth Caldwell running the ball, and the pair has responded with combining for 1,900 yards and 26 touchdowns. Sellers and Nick Kovalick lead a very strong Clearfiled defense, a trademark for Tim Janocko's teams lately.  This is a team that can beat Somerset, but they will need to play very well to do so. Clearfield is the AAA program in these parts, so it is their championship until someone takes it.

The Improved - Johnstown 

Johnstown went through some rough times in recent years with back to back 3-7 seasons, but the team this year moved them back to respectability after a 7-3 regular season. The Trojans lost to the consensus top three LHAC  teams, but took care of business among everyone else. Johnstown finished the year winning four out of five, and despite Clearfield handling them last postseason and Somerset trouncing them in the regular season, there is some hope for optimism. Like in many recent years, Johnstown has a dangerous offense filled with capable play-makers. Jeremy Updyke is a very good QB that has 18 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. Kareem Gibson, Kevin Brandon, and Willie Robinson are all big threat receivers.  AJ Fisher is a weapon that gets lined up all over the field. When you play Johnstown, you have to account for a lot.  The Achilles heel of Johnstown is certainly the defense, as they have faltered in all three losses in a big way.  If johnstown is going to make a run at a championship, they will need to turn games into a track meet, and play some better defense.  At the very least, I think the track meet thing is possible.

The Longshot - Punxsutawney

PUnxsutawney went from a 3-7 team in 2013, to being 6-4 this year.  It is a nice turnaround for the Chucks, but the odds are stacked against them to come away with this sub-region championship. Punxsy will have to make the long trip to Somerset to take on a very good Eagles team, do they have what it takes to hang with a 9-1 juggernaut of a team? They are coming into the playoffs riding a two game losing streak, including a loss to Clearfield in the District 9 championship last week.  The Chucks have a steady QB with Dakota Thomas, and he has a connection with sure-handed receiver, Braxton Giavedoni.  Bishop Guilfoyle found some success throwing the ball last week on Somerset, look for Punxsy to try to exploit that same area.

The Picks

(1) Somerset over (4) Punxsutawney

Somerset will be hungry after last week's loss, no way they lose at home in two straight games.

(2) Clearfield  over (3) Johnstown

I think it will be much closer than last year's 42-7 meeting, but I think Clearfield survives.

(1) Somerset over (2) Clearfield

I think Somerset is a really good team, and they get their revenge from last year. This will be a very good game though.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

District Five Class A Playoff Primer

The Favorite - Berlin

Berlin is coming off an impressive win over a good Portage team in the WestPac Championship. That win should give them the kind of momentum to propel them to a District Five title.  They are the best team top to bottom in this field, and I think they will show that over the next three weeks. Since their lone slip up to Portage in week four, Berlin really tuned up the defense and started to dominate. Dante Paul leads a stingy defense that is wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.  The offense is centered around Braden Fochtman, and he's a good start to any offense. He is one of the best runners in this area, and he can take any play to the house at any time.  The improved passing game is another element that has been keeping teams guessing. The Mountaineers' Brentson Harding has tossed for 16 touchdowns through 10 weeks,  I think with their balance, coaching, and the big play threat of Fochtman, they will just be a tough out.

The Challenger - Tussey Mountain

The Titans are the defending champions, and they did dismantle Berlin last season. Tussey has every reason to believe they can win this championship as well. They have two losses this season, but they were to a pair of highly regarded District Six AA teams, Mt. Union and Central. In fact, the Central game was closer than the score indicated, and Mt. Union won in a shootout in a game not many thought would be close. So case in point, Tussey is well prepared and battle tested. Daniel Taylor ,Curtis Wentz, and Drew Sitch pack a very strong punch rushing the ball. Quinn Barnett the quarterback, also can run the ball and is a good passer as well. They have a nice balanced offense with 4-5 guys capable of making plays.  They will be tough to stop.

The Darkhorse - Shade

Shade has slowly been building itself into a solid program for a few years, and now they are hosting a first round playoff game. They come into these playoffs with some expectations. Sure, they do have four losses, but they lost to Berlin, Portage, and Meyersdale twice. The Portage and second Meyersdale games were very well hard fought and they were close games. It is very possible if Shade meets up with Berlin in the semifinal round, it could be a very close game.

The  Red Air Raiders - District Five teams aren't usually known for passing, but something that can separate Meyersdale is their passing game. Riley Christner is just a sophomore, but he is averaging 146 yards a game, and at 6'3" 205 he has ideal QB size to see over the defense and make big throws. Cole Clark and Conner Christner are two seniors that have 22 receptions each, while tight end Tim Garlitz has 14 receptions himself.  This is a very good passing game, and Jason Ritchey has provided a good option as a runner.  This is a dangerous offense that can be lethal in the playoffs.

The Workhorse  - Conemaugh Township

Conemaugh Township is sitting with a 4-6 record and they are the eight seed going into Berlin Friday night.  The Mountaineers trounced Township 44-2 in week two, but that was a long time ago. The plan on offense for Conemaugh Township is still probably the same though. Austin Myers has touched the ball more than any back in the area, and he is the workhorse that drives this team. He has carried the ball at least 30 times a game in every game but one.  He's a tough player, and has responded well this season. If there is any hope of an upset on Friday, it is being carried on Myers' back.

The Heck and Dasher Show - Northern Bedford

Northern Bedford has two really good offensive players, and they have two pretty cool last names.  Austin Heck is a tough runner for this team, and Jacob Dasher is a versatile play maker.  Austin Heck and Northern Bedford had to transition into more of a running team this year, and he has responded well in his role as featured offensive player. The passing game of last year was special, and it led to Jacob Dasher hauling in 65 passes for 998 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman.  Now things have changed with a new QB, and Dasher has actually be held out of the end zone through the air. He has been used more running the ball, but his effectiveness has gone way down from last year. Although the threat of him making a big play is still there. Look for Coach Batzel to find a way to get him the ball this week in hopes of springing an upset.

The Shadoe - Windber

Windber found themselves a running back this season in Shadoe Smith.  The junior for the Ramblers has rushed for 1,154 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and that was with him missing a game, and barely touching the ball in week one.  He has been highly effective for Coach Matt Grohal, and he is something they can build on for next season.  Can Smith and Windber take down Tussey on the road this week?  It is possible, but they would need to play a near perfect game. The traditional strong Windber defense just hasn't been there this season, but it has been better in recent weeks. If Smith can get rolling, and the defense holds up, they can make things interesting in Saxton.

The Slump - Everett

Everett started out 4-1, and looked like a real threat to be one of the top seeds in the District Five A playoffs. The schedule was very tough down the stretch, and it definitely wore them down big time. Bellwood, Mt. Union, Southern Huntingdon, and Tussey Mountain all took down the Warriors and it set them up with a 5-5 record. Everett did manage to take down Claysburg during that rough patch. Could it have just been a tough stretch of playing four playoff teams in the second half of the season? Or did we find out Everett was slightly overrated? I think Everett is a good team, and they should give Meyersdale some trouble this weekend.

The Picks

(1) Berlin over (8) Coneamugh Township

Berlin took it to them once, and it'll happen again.

(4) Shade over (5) Northern Bedford

I really like this Shade team, they are a tough bunch. NBC just doesn't have the offense to hang.

(3) Meyersdale over (6) Everett

I was tempted to take Everett, but I think Meyersdale's offense will be able to put up some numbers.

(2) Tussey Mountain over (7) Windber

Tussey will be too much for Windber to handle.

(1) Berlin over (4) Shade

Shade will make this a game, but ultimately they just don't have the speed to play with Berlin for four quarters. Eventually they will not be able to answer.

(3) Meyersdale over (2) Tussey Mountain

This may be the game of the whole playoffs, very similar and good teams.

(1) Berlin over (3) Meyersdale

Fourth meeting between these two teams in the past two years? Yes please.  This will be an absolute great game, but I think Berlin has the upper hand.

District Six Class AA Playoff Primer

The Favorite - Tyrone

Another year, another very good Tyrone football team.  The Golden Eagles went 9-1 in the regular season, and showed a lot of different qualities throughout the year.  For example, Tyrone can win in close games with big playoff atmospheres. They knocked off Bellwood and Central to start the year in some memorable games and hung on to beat a very good Chestnut Ridge team last week. They are certainly battle tested. Tyrone has a strong-armed senior quarterback in Garrett Hunter. He is completing 58% of his passes and has 15 touchdown passes to just 4 interceptions. The running game is paced by Aleic Hunter, another senior himself. He went over the 1,000 mark this season. The Golden Eagles have some big play receivers in Nicholas Getz and Silas Crawford, and sure handed tight end in Duane Boone.  This is a veteran, balanced, and experienced team, and I think this is their title to lose.

The Challenger  - Central

Don't tell the kids from Central they aren't the favorites, because they absolutely believe this is their title. The Dragons have a championship to defend, and they have an excellent chance to make it happen. They have lost two games this year, but both games were winnable. With nearly a completely new team, some of those early season struggles were expected. I think they corrected the little mistakes judging by the way they have been playing of late, and it seems they are clicking on all cylinders right now. The Dragons employ somewhat of a two quarterback system with Noah Benton and Mike Mock having combined for 24 passing touchdowns and over 1,000 rushing yards.  Benton is more of a passer, while Mock leads the team in rushing. Both players can run and throw, and it makes them difficult to defend with interchangeable parts like that. Justin Helsel and Alex Hoenstine are two very versatile weapons that help make this offense explosive.  This team has been rolling since the Chestnut Ridge loss, and they look to be a very tough out right now.

The Darkhorse - Forest Hills

Forest Hills was a team I really thought could be towards the top of the standings, but with some key injuries this season, the Rangers had to scratch and claw to get into the postseason. Now that they are here, they could give Tyrone a serious problem on Friday. The Rangers have Joe Donoughe back, and they are being creative with how they are using him. He is already the team's leading receiver just by playing the past few games, and he's been running well also.  Shareef Blough is one of the most explosive players in this tournament, and he is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball, as he has a 98 yard touchdown to his name this season.  So at the very least, the Rangers have two dangerous offensive threats that can run with (or past) anyone. Throw in Don Bailey calling the shots, and they are certainly a team nobody will want to see.

The Question Mark - Mt. Union

OK, time to talk about the undefeated number one seed, Mt. Union. The Trojans are a very good team, and I think they are right with Tyrone and Central for the most part. Still, we have seen these kind of stories before where a team with a good record comes into the playoffs, but loses early due to their strength of schedule.  I am not saying the ICC is a bad league, but if you don't play teams your own size, it has be proven in the past that it will come back to bite you. A great example is Mt. Union from last season, as they hosted a first round game but lost to Forest Hills. Can they get over that hump this season? It's hard to say because they do appear to be very good. They have an explosive offense led by the dynamic, BJ Loner. He is a threat that is important in the running and passing game as he has accounted for 27 offensive touchdowns this season. Trevon Walker is an experienced senior QB that has had a very strong season. Kole House, Keiton Pollock, DJ Bookwalter, and Robbie Steel are all big contributors on offense. This team can put up points in a hurry, but obviously the games get tougher now.

The Unknown - Juniata

Juniata enters the 2014 District Six AA playoffs as a 9-1 team and seeded third. It sounds like they are a good team. It's simply just a matter of not being sure what to make of them since they have played only one team from district six this year.  The Indians won their games by an average 35-17 against a schedule comprised of teams from Districts 3,4,6,and 11 along with a team from Maryland. They are a team that goes as their running back goes. Chantz Swartz has rushed for 1,484 yards and 25 touchdowns, and has caught 12 passes for 428 yards and 7 scores. Juniata can sling the ball around a little with Tyler Clark at QB. He has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns.  We will get to see what this team is all about on Saturday with a game against Huntingdon.

The Surging Cats - Penn Cambria 

Penn Cambria was just a 2-8 team last season, and they started the year 2-3. From there, the Panthers turned up the defense in the second half of the season, and finished the year 4-1 to bring their record to 6-4. The Panthers are a solid team, but even as a five seed, they look a bit over-matched going into Roaring Spring to take on Central.  Penn Cambria revolves their offensive hopes on their senior QB, Mark Mardula. He leads the team in rushing and obviously in passing too. He takes some gambles, and the 11 interceptions are evidence to that, but sometimes this offense can be stagnant and he actually needs to take some risks to make something happen.  The Panthers do not even average 300 yards of total offense a game, so it shows you just how defense is important to Jason Grassi's team. Isaac Will and Jacob Driskel have combined for over 20 sacks on the year, and the Panthers are certainly a team that will put pressure on the quarterback.  Can they bother the high-flying Central offense? They have to, because the offense won't last in a shootout with the Dragons.

The Turnaround - Southern Huntingdon

 Southern Huntingdon 2011 record - 3-6
Southern Huntingdon  2012 record -  0-10
Southern Huntingdon 2013 record -  1-9

Southern Huntingdon is currently 5-5, and they are the eight seed in the District Six AA playoffs. It is a nice rebuilding effort by coach Ryan Garlock and the kids of their program. The Rockets have two solid wins this season by virtue of beating playoff teams, Williamsburg and Everett.  Southern Huntingdon also played a good Tussey Mountain team to the wire, but the one score we cannot ignore is the 57-7 loss to Mt. Union. It will be the same Mt. Union team they have to play in the first round on Friday.  I would not be counting on an upset, but perhaps the game will be a little closer this time. The Rockets will likely be counting on the running of Mason Parks to stay in this game. He is a very good back, and having a steady running game with clock control may just be their best defense to stop the Trojans.

The Youth - Huntingdon 

Huntingdon is sitting at 5-5, and staring down a long road trip to take on third-seeded Juniata.  The Bearcats finished last year 5-5, but just missed the playoffs. They have a team with just five seniors, and they may be a year away from being a serious threat to contend for a championship. Every single one of their passing and rushing yards have come from underclassmen, and most of their receiving productions are also accounted by juniors and sophomores. I think playing in a playoff setting against a Juniata team that isn't overly dominant could actually be a big learning experience, but also a big opportunity for this Huntingdon team.

The Picks

(1) Mt. Union over (8) Southern Huntingdon

The Trojans should roll over Southern Huntingdon. After all, they did beat them 57-7 earlier in the year.

(4) Central over (5) Penn Cambria

I just don't think Penn Cambria will be able to get a lot of points on the board, but they may be able to slow down Central enough to make it close.

(3) Juniata over (6) Huntingdon

This may be the game of the week, because we just don't know what to expect from Juniata.  I think Huntingdon could beat them, but Juniata seems to have a little more firepower on offense.

(2) Tyrone over (7) Forest Hills

Tyrone and Forest Hills. Big crowd, big atmosphere, and a lot of tradition packed into one stadium.  I think the Rangers can hang with them, and even beat them, but it's tough to ever pick against Tyrone at home.

(4) Central over (1) Mt. Union

I'm a believer in Central.  This will be an epic game with a lot of big plays for both sides, I just think Central has a few more weapons.

(2) Tyrone over (3) Juniata

Tyrone shouldn't have a problem here. I think their first round game is more difficult than this.

(2) Tyrone over (4) Central

What a game this would be. If Mansion Park holds 10,000, I think a good number of those seats will be filled if it's these two teams in the championship game. I think it will be another classic game, just like it was in week two.  I'm leaning with Tyrone.