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 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.
(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.