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)

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