Four teams from District 9’s Region 2 will square off in the Class 1A semifinals Saturday afternoon. Both games kick off a 1 p.m.
In DuBois at Mansell Stadium, the two-time defending champion Redbank Valley Bulldogs meet the Brockway Rovers while at Bradford High School’s Parkway Field, the top-seeded Port Allegany Gators meet the Keystone Panthers.
The six-team bracket got started last week with Port Allegany and Redbank Valley receiving first-round byes. Keystone advanced with a 35-15 win over Union/A-C Valley while Brockway routed Coudersport, 62-6.
Port Allegany won the Region 2 title, running the table with a 7-0 record that included wins over the other three semifinalists, including the Panthers (20-10) and Bulldogs (8-7) in close games and 40-7 over the Rovers.
Redbank Valley beat Brockway, 34-28, back in Week 9.
Saturday’s winners advance to next week’s final, likely on Nov. 19 at a site and time to be announced. The District 9 champion meets the D10 champion in two weeks in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
The D10 semifinals will also be played Saturday — top-seeded Eisenhower vs. Cambridge Springs at Warren at 7 p.m. and No. 2 seed Reynolds vs. Maplewood at Farrell starting at 1 p.m.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games:
Keystone (7-4) vs. Port Allegany (9-1), at Bradford
After grinding out an 8-7 win in their showdown at home against Redbank Valley in Week 8, the Gators went on the road and had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat the Panthers in Knox.
The Gators were down 10-8 midway through the fourth quarter before scoring twice after Keystone turnovers to grab the lead. Noah Archer scored both times on a pass from Drew Evens and 21-yard run with 2:43 left in the game.
Kyle Nellis scored the Panthers’ TD on a 37-yard run in the first quarter and Josh Beal kicked a 26-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Port Allegany outgained Keystone slightly in an even battle, 238-231. Evans completed 15 of 29 passes for 179 yards with his TD pass and an interception. Archer caught five passes for 94 yards. The Gators ran for just 67 yards with Archer going for 37 yards on six carries. Peyton Stiles had seven catches for 59 yards.
Keystone’s Nellis ran for 104 yards on 19 carries while Drew Keth completed 6 of 13 passes for 73 yards with two interceptions. Tyler Albright caught three passes for 39 yards.
The Gators, whose only loss came to Central Clarion (29-24) back in Week 2, average 283 yards of offense per game — 91 passing, 192 rushing — with Evens (85-for-151, 928 yards, 8 TDs, 6 Ints.) providing a two-way threat throwing and running with the ball as well as he’s rushed for 442 yards on 87 carries with five TDs.
Even though the Gators have very much the same skill position group back, it’s been a shift to the running game over last year as Evens threw for 1,811 yards in 11 games last year. Blaine Moses (162-840, 17 TDs), Archer (104-558, 7 TDs) make up a running trio with Evens. Archer (41-544, 5 TDs) and Stiles (27-205, 1 TD) are the leading receivers.
Moses (101), Miska Young (46), Archer (45) and Carson Neely (41) are the top tacklers on defense. Evens leads the unit with four interceptions.
Last week’s win over Union/A-C Valley ended long playoff drought for the Panthers, whose last postseason win came in 1989.
Of the Panthers’ four losses, three have been close ones with losses to Ridgway (26-20), Brockway (21-20) and Port Allegany. They also were beaten 42-7 by Redbank Valley.
Nellis missed the Brockway and Ridgway games due to injuries, but despite seeing action in only nine games, he’s rushed for 1,153 yards on 156 carries with 17 TDs. Albright (97-705, 5 TDs) and Aidan Sell (61-491, 5 TDs) also help lead the running game that averages 225 yards per game.
Since taking over for the injured Rayce Weaver at quarterback, the sophomore Keth has completed 40 of 76 passes for 681 yards with nine TDs and six interceptions in seven starts. Albright (29-573, 9 TDs) and Drew Slaugenhaupt (11-301, 2 TDs) are the top receivers.
Sell (93), Elijah Will (75), Cole Henry (49) and Brock Champluvier (42) are the leading tacklers. Albright and Keth have intercepted seven and five passes respectively.
Brockway (7-4) vs. Redbank Valley (9-1), at DuBois
Their regular-season meeting was an entertaining matchup in New Bethlehem where the Bulldogs built a 34-14 lead by the third quarter, but had to hold off a Rovers rally that got them within six points late.
While the Bulldogs were off last week, the Rovers blasted Coudersport for a second time this season as quarterback Brayden Fox threw seven touchdowns, which made it 13 total against the Falcons as they beat them by a combined score of 132-22. Fox has thrown for 2,448 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
In their first meeting, Fox was 17-for-38 for 229 yards and four TDs against two interceptions. The Rovers’ 1,000-yard running back Jendy Cuello ran for 178 yards on 32 carries with Dylan Hanna catching four passes for 119 yards.
Cuello has given the Rovers’ a strong running threat. He’s rushed for 1,120 yards on 189 carries with 10 TDs.
Alex Carlson (85-1,010, 11 TDs) and Hanna (27-603, 9 TDs; 40-217, 2 TDs rushing) are Fox’s top receiving options.
The Bulldogs have won two straight since their loss to Port Allegany and freshman quarterback Braylon Wagner makes his fourth start of the season. He’s completed 47 of 77 passes for 693 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions, almost all of that coming as the starter.
Wagner’s top receiving targets are Ortz (50-783, 11 TDs), Tate Minich (46-683, 10 TDs) and Mason Clouse (21-361, 4 TDs) along with Rupp (8-145, 1 TD). Drew Byers (141-699 yards, five TDs) is the Bulldogs’ leading rusher.
Wagner completed 17 of 24 passes for 221 yards and two TDs with two interceptions, almost all of that coming in an impressive first half in the first Rovers game. Rupp caught five passes for 106 yards while Ortz returned an interception 47 yards for a TD and also caught a TD pass.
Defensively, Bulldogs linebacker Caden Adams has 106 tackles in just nine games with a team-high 14 tackles for losses. Cole Bish (82), Brandon Ross (77), Ortz (49), and Carsen and Rylan Rupp (45 and 42) are at the top of the unit’s tackle leader list. Ross has 4 1/2 sacks with Carsen Rupp with four. Ortz has five interceptions to lead the unit.