BROCKWAY — Getting a chance to avenge a regular-season blowout loss, the Port Allegany Gators defend their District 9 Class 1A football title Friday night at Frank Varischetti Field.
The Gators and Bulldogs meet in Week 8 in New Bethlehem and it was the Bulldogs turning in a 57-13 lopsided win after building a 29-0 lead and getting the PIAA’s Mercy Rule running clock into motion quickly in the third quarter.
While the Bulldogs were routing Coudersport 46-13 in one semifinal last week in Kane, the Gators were taking care of Brockway in a 29-10 win at Bradford.
The Bulldogs were playing without starting sophomore quarterback Braylon Wagner and two other key players in sophomore linebacker/backup quarterback Jaxon Huffman and senior Owen Clouse. Their status isn’t certain this week.
With the Bulldogs’ top two quarterbacks off the field, the Bulldogs used senior Mason Clouse in some limited passing sets while also using the wildcat direct snap formation with Drew Byers. Clouse completed 5 of 8 passes for 87 yards while Byers rushed for 130 yards on 16 carries while Clouse ran for 45 yards on four carries.
For the Gators, sophomore Aiden Bliss ran for 288 yards on 35 carries and scored four touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Wilfong attempted only five passes for two yards and was intercepted twice.
Redbank Valley, its lone loss to Central Clarion in Week 10, average 49.4 points per game, which is No. 3 in the state as per easternpafootball.com behind Central Clarion (59.2) and Mercyhurst Prep (58.6). The Bulldogs averagte 378 yards of offense per game. In 10 games, Wagner has passed for 2,541 yards and 39 TDs against three interceptions while rushing for 310 yards on 46 carries with 8 TDs.
Byers (131-821, 11 TDs), coming off his fourth 100-yard rushing game, approaches the 1,000-yard milestone as is Mason Clouse (51-907, 16 TDs). He’s 93 yards shy of becoming the team’s first 1,000-yard season receiver while Ashton Kahle (46-876, 11 TDs) isn’t far behind. Ashton George (30-478, 9 TDs) and Rylan Rupp (21-283, 3 TDs) are the other key receiving targets for whomever is throwing the ball.
The Gators’ Bliss has rushed for 1,558 yards on 181 carries with 24 touchdowns. Another 1,000-yard rusher, senior Peyton Stiles (144-1,137, 18 TDs) didn’t have a carry in last week’s game against Brockway, although he played on defense.
Against the Bulldogs earlier, Bliss ran for 172 yards on 26 carries and both of the team’s TDs, but 118 of that on 17 carries came after the Bulldogs led 29-0.
Port quarterback Nick Wilfong (56-for-96, 960 yards, 13 TDs, 8 Ints.) threw just five passes last week and was intercepted twice. His top receiving targets are Stiles (21-354, 4 TDs), Bliss (17-316, 2 TDs) and Tristan Kiser (14-273, 5 TDs).
Defensively, Caden Adams (71), Brandon Ross (68), Mason Clouse (63) and Owen Clouse (49) are the top tacklers for the Bulldogs. Kahle has intercepted a team-high eight passes with Mason Clouse intercepting five passes.
For Port Allegany, it’s Bliss (68), Miska Young (41) and Wilfong (40) at the top of the tackles list. Young has a team-best 11 sacks while Stiles and Julian Kaple share the team lead with four interceptions.
NOTES: The Gators are looking for their fourth D9 title. They won last year and took back-to-back crowns in Class 1A in 2011 and 2012. The Bulldogs seek title No. 6. They won in 2020 and 2021, reaching the state final in 2020. Other titles came in 1996, 1992 and in 1991 when they were declared the champions. … Friday’s winner gets the D10 champion next week at a District 10 site and time to be announced. Lakeview faces Cambridge Springs Saturday at Meadville High School starting at 7 p.m.