Five games make up the District 9 football playoff schedule Friday night, led by a Class 3A Sub-Regional matchup with D9 champion Clearfield traveling to District 5’s Bedford.
From there, it’s a set of semifinal round games in Class 1A and 2A.
In Class 1A, top-seeded Redbank Valley comes off its bye week and hosts No. 5 seed Port Allegany while in Rimersburg, No. 2 seed Union/A-C Valley hosts No. 3 seed Smethport.
With a week off, all four Class 2A playoff teams get back to work with No. 1 seed Karns City hosting No. 4 seed Central Clarion and No. 2 seed Ridgway hosting No. 3 Brookville.
All kickoffs are scheduled for 7 p.m.
Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko’s unbeaten team captured last week’s D9 title with a 49-27 victory over St. Marys. It was win No. 299 for Janocko in his 36th season.
To put that in perspective, there are only four coaches active in the state with more wins (going into the season as per EasternPAFootball.com here) and overall, there are 19 with 300 or more wins.
The Bison of Clearfield and Bisons of Bedford met last year and Bedford won the first-ever football meeting between the two — The Proper Grammar Bowl II if you will, although Clearfield used the “s” for many, many years prior to correcting the english — in a 40-21 victory. Bedford went on and beat Central-Martinsburg and Hickory before losing to WPIAL champion and eventual state champion Central Valley, 49-20, in the state semifinals.
Bedford’s lone loss is to unbeaten D6 favorite Central-Martinsburg, 41-27, in Week 7.
From last year’s 11-1 season, the Bedford (9-1) has its standout quarterback, 6-foot, 193-pound Mercury Swaim back. He threw for 1,578 yards and rushed for 1,141 yards last year. In the win over the Bison, Swaim passed for 202 yards and three TDs while rushing for 155 yards on 19 carries with two TDs. He was also intercepted twice.
This year, he’s posted amazingly balanced numbers, throwing for 959 yards (49-for-94, 13 TDs, 4 Ints.) while rushing for 958 yards on 103 carries with 15 touchdowns. He recently went over 3,000 career rushing yards, the most in program history.
Bedford averages 371 yards per game, 275 of that on the ground as Trenton Price (99-722, 8 TDs), Ethan Weber (30-351, 4 TDs) and Maxwell Washington (32-202, 4 TDs) have contributed on the ground.
Swaim’s top receivers are Weber (13-313, 2 TDs), Kevin Ressler (13-236, 2 TDs) and Washington (12-174, 3 TDs).
Swaim, at linebacker/safety, leads the defense with 7.7 tackles per game along with Sam Sheppard (5.1), Josiah Weyandt (4.9) and Trent Fichtner (4.8) with Weyandt lead the team with eight sacks and Ressler topping the secondary with five interceptions.
Bedford’s lone loss is to unbeaten D6 favorite Central-Martinsburg, 41-27, in Week 7.
Clearfield’s defense has posted impressive numbers this year, allowing just 74 points, or 6.7 points per game while giving up only 141 yards per game. The raw numbers are naturally sharp — foes have rushed for 318 yards on 259 attempts while completing 120 of 247 passes for 1,229 yards with 11 interceptions.
Hayden Kovalick (7.5), Shane Coudriet (6.9), Oliver Billotte (5.9) and Mitchell Rowles (5.7) lead the defense in tackles per game.
Billotte, a Kent State recruit, is one of three players with a double-digit sack total. His 10 trails Isaac Samsel and Kovalick who both have 11 1/2 sacks. Nate Natoli has a team-high three interceptions.
Billotte keys the offense at quarterback, throwing for 1,612 yards (91-for-155, 21 TDs, 4 Ints.) while rushing for 601 yards and a team-high 16 TDs. His top receiver Karson Kline (49-979, 14 TDs) is poised for a 1,000-yard season. Natoli has 25 catches for 408 yards with five TDs.
Mark McGonigal (126-1,014, 13 TDs) just went over 1,000 rushing yards last week. Jose Alban (83-514, 4 TDs) and Carter Chamberlain (54-399, 3 TDs) have also gotten carries.
Friday’s winner gets the District 6 champion — Central-Martinsburg and Penn Cambria meet at Altoona’s Mansion Park at the same time — in the first round of the state playoffs next week at a site and time to be announced.
In Friday’s other games:
Port Allegany (6-4) at Redbank Valley (9-1)
The Gators and Bulldogs haven’t met on the field since 2010 and the Gators are coming off their first playoff win in nine years with last week’s 14-12 win at Keystone.
So the defending champion Bulldogs might be a little disappointed about not getting a chance to avenge their lone loss to Keystone in a season-opening 22-20 setback. But since then, they’ve done very little wrong with nine straight wins.
The Bulldogs’ defense, like last year, has pretty much set the tone for the season. It’s limited opposing offenses to just 84.9 yards per game with 13 interceptions and 27 turnovers overall.
Individually, the Bulldogs have Zeldon Fisher (6.5), Joe Mansfield (5.2), Brenden Shreckengost (4.7) and Brandon Ross (4.5) at the top of the tackles per game leaderboard. Mansfield has 8 1/2 sacks with Ross at five while Ashton Kahle has four interceptions.
Ten of the Bulldogs’ 63 TDs are from the defense or special teams — Kahle has four punt returns.
The Bulldogs’ offense has gotten a boost from first-year senior quarterback Bryson Bain (96-for-161, 1,451 yards, 25 TD, 4 Ints.). Bain’s top receiving targets are Chris Marshall (27-413, 9 TDs), Marquese Gardlock (25-445, 4 TDs) and Tate Minich (25-365, 6 TDs).
Shreckengost leads the running game with 585 yards on 113 carries with 11 TDs.
Port averages 347 yards per game offensively with junior quarterback Drew Evens (109-for-198, 1,617 yards, 11 TDs, 10 Ints.) running the passing game with Noah Archer (40-628, 7 TDs), Peyton Stiles (27-317, 1 TD) and A.J. Wiley (9-267) his leading receivers.
Moses (173-967, 13 TDs) and Archer (127-674, 5 TDs) are the primary rushers.
Despite the balanced offense for the season, the Gators have thrown the ball just eight passes in the past two games for a whopping nine yards.
Last week, the Gators controlled the clock and ran for 215 yards, getting 97 yards from Archer and 96 from Moses while Evens ran for both TDs.
Moses is the top tackler on defense at 7.6 stops per game. Evens and Archer each have three interceptions.
Smethport (8-2) at Union/A-C Valley (8-2)
The Hubbers advanced to the semifinals with a 46-27 shootout win over Curwensville while the Falcon Knights won their first playoff game as a co-operative program in a 31-6 win over Cameron County.
It’s a second straight home game for the Falcon Knights, who were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round two of the past three years by Smethport. Last year, the Hubbers edged the Falcon Knights 12-10 before losing 20-6 to Redbank Valley in the final.
Hubbers is senior quarterback Noah Lent. He missed the Hubbers’ 6-0 loss to Coudersport with an injury and returned for last week’s game in which he completed 6 of 8 passes for 117 yards and two TDs while rushing for 171 yards on 24 carries with two TDs. He was hurt during the game, but his status this week isn’t certain.
Lent has accounted for all but four of the Hubbers’ TDs this season. He’s passed for 868 yards in nine games (50-for-88) with 17 TDs and two interceptions while running for 1,553 yards on 176 carries with 24 TDs. Ryan Pelchy (76-466, 1 TD) and Ryan Mason (73-274, 3 TDs) have the team’s other four non-Lent involved TDs.
Lent’s leading receivers are Brent Higley (18-273, 4 TDs) and Alex Ognen (19-383, 10 TDs).
The Hubbers’ defense has Travis Cooney (8.8), Mason (5.9), Pelchy (5.3) and Lent (4.9) leading the team in tackles per game. Cooney has nine sacks with Higley second at six.
The Falcon Knights average 324 yards of offense per game with quarterback Bailey Crissman (58-for-139, 902 yards, 13 TDs and 11 Ints.; 51-253, 2 TDs rushing), running backs Mikey Card (104-834, 6 TDs) and Dawson Camper (69-550, 12 TDs), and receivers Skyler Roxbury (20-411, 4 TDs), Ryan Cooper (16-277, 6 TDs) and Caden Rainey (15-201, 2 TDs).
Union/ACV’s defense has been a big key to its success, giving up just 145 yards per game with 20 interceptions. Carter Terwint (6.6), Card (5.3), Landon Chalmers (4.7), Colton Murray (4.4) and Andrew Verostek (4.3) are the leading tacklers per game while Chalmers has eight sacks and Roxbury eight interceptions.
Brookville (7-3) at Ridgway (7-3)
The Raiders knocked the Elkers out of last year’s playoffs in the semifinals with a 49-15 win in Brookville, so it’s a rematch on the other field this year with the winner advancing to face either Karns City or Central Clarion next week.
The Elkers already avenged that loss, sort of, beating the Raiders 14-13 on the road on back on Oct. 22. Ridgway scored twice before holding off Brookville’s fourth-quarter rally that fell short on a blocked point-after kick that would’ve tied the game.
Dom Allegretto’s 66-yard TD run in the second quarter and 25-yard pass to Eric Hoffman in the third quarter were Ridgway’s touchdowns. Allegretto started at quarterback and completed 9 of 18 passes for 157 yards. Prior to that, Jonathan Hinton and Cameron Larkin had done most of the quarterbacking and combined for 1,070 yards with 10 TDs and five interceptions. Allegretto also started at QB in the regular-season finale against Philipsburg-Osceola and threw just three passes while still playing a big role in the running game, gaining 139 yards on nine carries.
Allegretto (81-741, 12 TDs), Marciniak (84-540, 6 TDs) and Eric Salberg (60-332, 4 TDs) lead the Elkers’ running game. Will Howard (22-356, 3 TDs), Allegretto (20-297, 2 TDs) and Marciniak (19-295, 4 TDs) are the leading receivers.
The Elkers’ defense is led by Hunter Wall (12.7), Salberg (8.0), Allegretto (6.7), Dan Park (6.2) and Marciniak (6.1) in tackles per game. Park has 7 1/2 sacks.
Brookville sophomore quarterback Charlie Krug (133-for-242, 1,843 yards, 21 TDs, 9 Ints.) is close to a 2,000-yard season as a first-year starter. Brayden Kunselman (44-788, 9 TDs) and Noah Peterson (27-432, 5 TDs) are the leading receivers. Tate Lindermuth (109-511, 4 TDs) and Jackson Zimmerman (52-369, 5 TDs) are the top rushers.
Hunter Smith (8.0), Carson Weaver (7.0), Zimmerman (6.4), Bryce Weaver (5.2) and Lindermuth (5.0) are the leading tacklers per game for the Raiders. Smith has eight sacks while Kunselman owns seven of the team’s 19 interceptions.
Central Clarion (4-5) at Karns City (9-1)
The first times these teams met was in Week 3 when the Gremlins beat the Wildcats, 37-13. The Gremlins led 28-6 by halftime and outgained the Wildcats, 379-44.
But that’s been awhile since that matchup and the Wildcats were in the midst of an 0-4 start to the season before finishing the schedule by taking four of five. Karns City’s lone red mark on its season so far is a 35-28 loss to St. Marys in Week 6 that cost the Gremlins the District 9 League Large School Division title.
Karns City averages 368 yards per game offensively — 274 yards rushing and 94 passing. Jayce Anderson (98-842, 7 TDs) and Luke Garing (108-780, 21 TDs) lead the way while quarterback Eric Booher (52-for-90, 917 yards, 9 TDs, 4 Ints.), on just 90 passing attempts, is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season. Booher’s top receiver is Micah Rupp (20-415, 5 TDs).
Leading the defense in tackles per game are Garing (7.6), Luke Cramer (6.7), Anderson (6.4) and Cooper Coyle (5.1).
For the Wildcats, freshman quarterback Jase Ferguson (94-for-170, 1,510 yards, 18 TDs, 11 Ints.) runs the offense with his top receivers Christian Simko (36-750, 7 TDs) and Ashton Rex (16-373). The running game has Breckin Rex (128-709, 2 TDs) and Ryan Hummell (62-325, 2 TDs) helping the team average 288 yards per game in a balanced setup.
Hummell leads the defense with 13.4 tackles per game while also sharing the team lead in interceptions with Brady Quinn with three. Tackles per game leaders behind Hummell are Noah Naser (9.6), Kaoz Baker (7.9) and Kolten Bradley (7.3).