CLARION, Pa. — Another season, another rematch for the District 9 Class 2A football title.
Friday night at PennWest Clarion’s Memorial Stadium, the unbeaten Central Clarion Wildcats face the Brookville Raiders for the second straight year for the district title.
As was the case last year, it’s also a rematch of the season-opening contest. Back in late August, the Wildcats beat the Raiders 49-27. They haven’t lost since, piling up big numbers and dominating opponents, scoring 59.6 points per game which currently ranks No. 2 in the state as per easternpasports.com.
At 10-0, the Wildcats are coming off a bye week. After beating the Raiders twice last year, 42-7 in the opener and 35-0 in the final, the Wildcats’ season ended at 9-2 after a PIAA first-round playoff loss to Westinghouse.
“I would be disappointed if we were sitting anywhere else but here right now at this point of the season honestly,” Wildcats head coach Dave Eggleton said. “And that doesn’t discount what our guys have done, but the work they put in all offseason was to get here and accomplish winning another district title and making a deep run. But we have to take care of business Friday to keep working toward what we worked for all summer and last winter. It starts Friday night.”
The loss for the Raiders (9-2) was the first of two lopsided setbacks to start the season before reeling off nine straight wins, including last week’s 42-41 classic over Karns City at Kane.
“The mindset has been the same since it was after Week 1 when we played them,” said Raiders head coach Gabe Bowley, whose team fell to 0-2 the following week with a 48-7 loss at Struthers, Ohio. “We wanted another shot at Central Clarion. We’ve got to work and brought that to fruition. Obviously, we’re a better team than we were in Week 1, but it’s not possible to play 10 football games together and not be better than you were in Week 1. That being said, Clarion is going to be a better team than they were, too. We’re excited for the opportunity and to go in and see where the chips fall.”
In the season-opener, the Raiders scored first before Central Clarion’s 22-point second quarter gave it a 22-13 halftime lead. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 35-14 going into the fourth quarter before each traded two touchdowns to set the final score.
Wildcats junior quarterback Jase Ferguson started his impressive season by throwing for 161 yards and rushing for 168 yards. For the Raiders, quarterback Charlie Krug threw for 148 yards and two TDs while rushing for 70 yards. In his varsity debut, senior Jack Pete caught a TD pass and returned a kickoff 90 yards for another score.
That trio and others have been in the middle of both teams’ success this year. The Wildcats average a whopping 454 yards per game offensively, nearly perfectly balanced at 223 yards passing and 232 rushing per game.
Ferguson pilots the powerful Wildcats offense. He’s had a hand in 65 percent of the yards from scrimmage. He’s completed 117 of 174 passes for 2,225 yards with 38 TDs against just three interceptions while rushing for 728 yards on 88 carries with nine TDs.
The list of Wildcats playmakers are numerous — Running backs Noah Naser (50-412, 7 TDs) and Noah Harrison (52-369, 7 TDs) and Brady Quinn (22-262, 2 TDs; 22-400, 4 TDs receiving), and receivers Dawson Smail (35-745, 13 TDs), Mason Burford (30-596, 13 TDs) and Tommy Smith (13-242, 3 TDs).
Defensively, the Wildcats yield just 8.1 points and 180 yards per game and have forced 21 turnovers and with just four turnovers all season, the Wildcats own a plus-17 turnover ratio.
The Wildcats’ leading tacklers are Braylon Beckwith (115), Charlie Hepfl (91) and Brady Quinn (78).
Both teams’ quarterbacks are on the D9 passing honor roll. Ferguson’s 6,572 yards and 89 TDs rank No. 10 and No. 4 respectively. The Raiders’ senior Krug just went over 4,000 career yards last week and his 4,073 yards rank No. 31. He moved into the No. 2 spot on his team’s all-time list behind older brother Jack, whose 8,362 yards and 108 TDs rank No. 3 and No. 2 respectively.
For the season, Krug has completed 124 of 217 passes for 1,980 yards with 27 TDs against six interceptions while also rushing for 270 yards on 81 carries with five TDs.
Krug’s top receiving targets are Pete (44-883, 13 TDs), Sam Krug (28-596, 8 TDs), Hayden Freeman (31-573, 6 TDs) and Easton Belfiore (23-228, 4 TDs).
Pete, a standout in basketball and track and field as well, leads the Raiders with 19 TDs — 13 receiving, two on kick returns, one on a punt return, two on interception returns and one on a fumble return.
Tony Ceriani (129-799, 7 TDs) leads the Raiders’ running game.
Linebacker Jack Knapp, who had 20 tackles in the Karns City, game leads the team with 126 tackles along with Gavin Hannah (85), Belfiore (84) and Pete (67).
Friday’s winner gets the winner of Friday’s Westinghouse/Berlin game in Somerset in next week’s opening round of the PIAA playoffs. Last year, Westinghouse beat Central Clarion, 44-8. Next week’s game will be played a D9 site and time to be announced.