Last year’s regular-season showdown at Port Allegany didn’t disappoint, but a postseason rematch never happened.
This year, the defending District 9 Class 1A and Region 2 champion Gators travel two hours south to face unbeaten Redbank Valley Friday night in New Bethlehem.
It’s the headline matchup of Week 8 in D9 as the Bulldogs and Gators decide who wins Region 2. How the playoffs turn out is obviously to be determined, but this could set a tone for things to come.
In the potential Class 1A playoff bracket, it’s the Bulldogs (7-0) and Gators (6-1) at the top in some order with Brockway (5-2), Union/A-C Valley (3-4) with other possibles Otto-Eldred (5-2), Coudersport (4-3) and Cameron County (5-2).
The Bulldogs/Gators winner likely nets the No. 1 seed and then it’s a matter of how many teams enter. It won’t be the maximum eight teams, so the top seed will very likely get a first-round bye.
In other games this week in Region 2, it’s Union/A-C Valley visiting Smethport (1-6), Brockway hosting Ridgway (2-5) and Keystone (3-4) traveling to Kane (0-7).
In Region 1, unbeaten Central Clarion (7-0) hosts DuBois (3-4) at Clarion High School, Bradford (3-4) visits St. Marys (3-4), Brookville (5-2) hosts Karns City (3-4) and Punxsutawney (5-2) visits Moniteau (1-6). Regardless of what else happens, Central Clarion clinches the region with a win over DuBois.
In Region 3, two games that count in the standings have Cameron County hosting Elk County Catholic (1-6) and Sheffield (0-6) visiting Coudersport. In a rematch of an earlier meeting, Bucktail (5-2) hosts Otto-Eldred. A Coudersport win locks up the regional title regardless of what others do as well.
In District 6-land, D9’s Clearfield (6-1) visits unbeaten Richland (7-0) while Curwensville (1-6) hosts Juniata Valley (5-2).
Last year in Port Allegany, the Bulldogs were beaten in the final minutes 8-7 by the Gators, who went on to win the D9 title over Brockway after the Rovers topped the Bulldogs in the Class 1A semifinals.
This year, the Gators have much of their line back while looking to quarterback Nick Wilfong (38-for-61, 664 yards, 8 TDs, 3 Ints.). In the backfield are senior Peyton Stiles (104-786, 10 TDs; 16-242, 2 TDs) and Aiden Bliss (80-609, 12 TDs; 11-230, 2 TDs) with both of them receiving targets along with Tristan Kiser (11-235, 4 TDs).
Bliss leads the defense with 41 tackles while Miska Young (25), Gavin Moses (23), Stiles (23), Carson Neely (22) and Wilfong (22) also lead the unit. Nine different Gators have made interceptions, with Julian Kaple and Jarrod Funk sharing the team lead with three.
Redbank Valley quarterback Braylon Wagner, coming off a seven-TD passes game against Kane, made his first varsity start a year ago against the Gators after an off-the-field incident led to some suspensions on the Bulldogs.
This year, he’s been brilliant, completing 102 of 136 passes for 1,768 yards with 28 TDs against just two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 266 yards and seven TDs. Drew Byers (78-539, 6 TDs) leads the team in rushing while Wagner’s top receiving targets are Mason Clouse (36-661, 12 TDs), Ashton Kahle (24-448, 5 TDs) and Ashton George (19-369, 7 TDs).
Defensively, Caden Adams (54) and Brandon Ross (49) lead the team in tackles. Kahle and Clouse lead the team with six and four interceptions respectively.
The Gators’ lone blemish is a 57-6 loss to unbeaten Central Clarion in Week 2. The Bulldogs don’t play the Wildcats until Week 10. Last week, the Gators beat Union/A-C Valley 44-6. The Bulldogs beat the Falcon Knights 50-6 two weeks ago.
SEASON OF BLOWOUTS — In Week 7, at least five more games involving District 9 teams used the PIAA Mercy Rule running clock (up by at least 35 points in the second half). That’s at least 35 Mercy Rule games this year compared to what was at least 19 lopsided games through seven weeks last year.
The season of the Haves vs. Have-Nots continues.
MILESTONE UPDATE — Brockway’s Brayden Fox and Central Clarion’s Jase Ferguson, still both juniors, continue to move up the District 9 all-time passing yards and touchdown chart.
Fox, now with 6,353 career yards, ranks ninth in yardage and his 66 TD passes is just outside the top 10 tied for 11th with Brockway’s Alec Shaffer-Doan because of Ferguson’s big move up that list. With 28 TD passes this year, Ferguson’s 79 career TD strikes sits tied for fifth place with Clearfield’s Chad Kroell and eight behind No. 4 Gabe French’s 87. Port Allegany’s Matt Bodamer (137), Brookville’s Jack Krug (108) and Brockway’s Derek Buganza (95) make up the rest of the top five.
Now with 5,880 career passing yards, Ferguson ranks 11th all-time in D9 with Kroell sitting in 10th with 6,088 yards.
Here’s a closer look at the rest of the schedule, all Friday night matchups:
DuBois (3-4) at Central Clarion (7-0), Clarion H.S.
The top scoring team in the state at 60.7 points per game (as per easternpafootball.com), the Wildcats face a Beavers team coming off a wild 21-14 overtime win over St. Marys.
The Wildcats average a gaudy 448 yards of offense per game with quarterback Jase Ferguson (79-for-119, 1,533 yards, 28 TDs, 2 Ints.; 48-397, 3 TDs rushing), running backs Noah Naser (40-324, 6 TDs) and Noah Harrison (37-253), and receivers Dawson Smail (23-488, 8 TDs), Mason Burford (21-413, 9 TDs) and Brady Quinn (14-297, 3 TDs; 15-213, 2 TDs rushing) leading the way.
The Beavers, who lost their starting quarterback Trey Wingard to an injury in a Week 2 loss to Brockway, lean on backup quarterback Landon Schrock (48-for-92, 422 yards, 4 Ints.; 43-138, 6 TDs rushing), running backs Garret Nissel (114-661, 7 TDs) and Danny Dixon (60-310, 1 TD), and receivers Kaden Clark (24-256, 1 TD), Nathan Koughler (14-210) and Carter Vos (10-158, 1 TD) to lead the offense.
Karns City (3-4) at Brookville (5-2)
The Gremlins try to end a two-game losing streak with a trip to Brookville, which has won five straight games since starting the year 0-2. One of those losses was a 49-27 loss to Central Clarion, which beat the Gremlins 50-15 two weeks ago.
The Raiders are led by quarterback Charlie Krug (75-for-128, 1,072 yards, 15 TDs, 4 Ints.; 52-204, 3 TDs rushing), running back Tony Ceriani (78-469, 5 TDs) and receiver Jack Pete (29-578, 8 TDs), who returned a punt and kickoff for TDs last week against Bradford. For the season, Pete has returned two kicks, one punt and one interception for TDs.
Karns City’s top offensive players are running backs Luke Cramer (86-460, 9 TDs) and Hunter Scherer (71-430, 6 TDs) and quarterback Cole Johnston (24-for-53, 259 yards, 2 TDs, 3 Ints.).
Punxsutawney (5-2) at Moniteau (1-6)
The Chucks travel to Butler County to face the Warriors looking for their fourth straight win. They’re coming off a 35-21 win over Karns City, which beat Moniteau 48-15 in Week 5.
Chucks running back Landon Martz (147-908, 12 TDs) nears the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Also leading the offense are quarterback Maddox Hetrick (74-for-111, 1,281 yards, 11 TDs, 3 Ints.), running back Beau Thomas (37-248, 1 TD; 29-451, 5 TDs receiving) and receiver Noah Weaver (18-450, 4 TDs).
The Warriors have lost five straight since their lone win against Elk County Catholic in Week 2. Quarterback Trent Beachem (46-for-101, 703 yards, 11 TDs, 7 Ints.), running back Logan Campbell (48-232, 2 TDs; 17-191, 2 TDs receiving), running back Kole Scott (42-212, 1 TD) and receiver Ashton Grossman (11-261, 3 TDs) lead the Warriors’ offense.
Bradford (3-4) at St. Marys (3-4)
The Flying Dutchmen, coming off a tough 21-14 overtime loss at DuBois, try to snap back and end a four-game losing streak. The Owls have lost three of their last four games, including a 25-6 loss in Week 4 at DuBois. The Owls lost 64-20 last week to Brookville, which beat the Dutch 49-13 two weeks ago.
Running back Matthew Davis (136-1,079, 13 TDs) leads the Dutch offense along with quarterback Cam Coudriet (40-for-76, 508 yards, 3 TDs, 3 Ints.).
For Bradford, it’s quarterback Talan Reese (104-for-163, 1,177 yards, 11 TDs, 1 Int.) and receiver Jake Franz (26-440, 8 TDs) lead the offense.
Union/A-C Valley (3-4) at Smethport (1-6)
The Falcon Knights, after two straight losses to the Region 2 front-runners Redbank Valley and Port Allegany, head north to face the Hubbers. The Hubbers lost 47-0 two weeks ago to Brockway, which the Falcon Knights beat 12-7 in Week 4.
Leading Union/ACV are quarterback Brody Dittman (86-for-150, 964 yards, 4 TDs, 11 Ints.), running back Owen Bish (42-382, 4 TDs; 11-161, 2 TDs receiving) and Logan Skibinski (43-287, 2 TDs), and receiver Trey Fleming (28-339, 2 TDs)
No season stats are available for the Hubbers on maxpreps.com.
Ridgway (2-5) at Brockway (5-2)
The Rovers host the Elkers looking to make it three wins in a row. Ridgway is coming off its second win against Smethport (31-7), which the Rovers beat 47-0 two weeks ago.
Brockway averages 293 yards of offense per game, led by Brayden Fox (91-for-147, 1,174 yards, 10 TDs, 9 Ints.), running back Jendy Cuello (144-846, 5 TDs), and receivers Blake Pisarcik (51-769, 6 TDs), Matt Brubaker (19-325, 1 TD) and Caleb Daugherty (10-204, 3 TDs).
For Ridgway, it’s quarterback Cam Larkin (65-for-115, 747 yards, 5 TDs, 8 Ints.; 114-355, 6 TDs rushing), running back Rocco Delhunty (63-258, 2 TDs) and receiver Broc Kudrick (23-280, 3 TDs).
Keystone (3-4) at Kane (0-7)
The Panthers had their two-game winning streak stopped with last week’s loss to Brockway. They beat Ridgway 35-20 two weeks ago. Kane lost 26-14 to Ridgway in Week 4.
Quarterback Dom Corcetti (39-for-71, 617 yards, 6 TDs, 7 Ints.), running backs Rayce Weaver (943-406, 2 TDs), Eli Nellis (76-520, 8 TDs; 14-223, 1 TD) and Jacob Henry (53-320, 5 TDs), and receiver Drew Keth (21-350, 4 TDs) lead the Panthers.
Kane’s statistics aren’t available on maxpreps.com.
Elk Co. Catholic (1-6) at Cameron Co. (5-2)
The Red Raiders host the Crusaders looking for their third straight win. The Crusaders are coming off a 36-7 loss to Bucktail, which the Red Raiders beat 30-28 in Week 6.
Red Raiders quarterback Maddox Baughman (55-for-108, 786 yards, 5 TDs, 2 Ints.; 55-272, 3 TDs) and running back Malakai Zucal (100-460, 5 TDs; 19-371, 2 TDs) lead the offense.
The Crusaders’ statistics aren’t available on maxpreps.com.
Sheffield (0-6) at Coudersport (4-3)
The Falcons look to win the Region 3 title with a win over the Wolverines, whose losing streak now sits at 24 games.
Coudersport has won three straight games, all of them against Region 3 foes, including last week’s 49-28 win over Otto-Eldred. Quarterback Gavyn Ayers (41-for-113, 573 yards, 6 TDs, 5 Ints.; 66-435, 11 TDs rushing) also leads the team in rushing. Other leaders are running back John Wright (58-294, 3 TDs), and receivers Danny Vanvladricken (12-253, 3 TDs) and Jackson Moss (10-209, 1 TD).
Sheffield statistics aren’t available on maxpreps.com.
Otto-Eldred (5-2) at Bucktail (5-2)
The Terrors beat the Bucks 57-48 in Week 4 in the game that counted in the Region 3 standings. Quarterback Shane Magee passed for 306 yards and five TDs and ran for another with Ray’Shene Thomas grabbing five passes for 110 yards and two TDs. For Bucktail, Tanner Pettingill ran for three TDs while Brody Pentz rushed for 218 yards as the Bucks piled up 368 rushing yards.
Magee (103-for-167, 1,495 yards, 21 TDs, 5 Ints.), running back Hunter App (90-670, 10 TDs) and receiver Manning Splain (34-647, 10 TDS) lead the Terrors.
Bucktail statistics are unavailable on maxpreps.com.
Clearfield (6-1) at Richland (7-0)
It’s the second week in a row that the Bison face an unbeaten team as they head to the Johnstown area to take on the Rams, who have bombed everyone so far. The Rams beat Forest Hills 44-14 in Week 5, three weeks after the Rangers beat the Bison 22-13.
The Bison, coming off a 13-7 win over previously unbeaten Bald Eagle Area, haven’t loss since that Forest Hills game. Quarterback Will Domico (70-for-128, 1,230 yards, 11 TDs, 4 Ints.; 41-301, 7 TDs rushing), running backs Carter Chamberlain (72-431, 7 TDs) and Brady Collins (58-378), and receiver Carter Freeland (29-661, 6 TDs) lead the Bison offense.
Richland averages 38 points and over 400 well-balanced yards per game. Freshman quarterback Grayson Mahla (75-for-116, 1,189 yards, 10 TDs, 2 Ints.), sophomore running back Evan McCracken (88-722, 16 TDs) and receiver Austin Yarnick (33-435, 4 TDs) lead the Rams’ offense.
Juniata Valley (5-2) at Curwensville (1-6)
The Golden Tide host the Hornets in an ICC North matchup. The Tide have lost three straight since their lone win over Southern Huntingdon in Week 4 — Claysburg-Kimmel (55-20), West Branch (43-14) and Moshannon Valley (34-7). The Hornets, who lost 35-14 to Mount Union last week while the Tide lost to it 36-15. The Hornets beat Claysburg-Kimmel (27-6), lost to West Branch (38-0) and beat Moshannon Valley (20-14).
Tide Quarterback Tyler Dunn (72-for-155, 1,061 yards, 7 TDs, 11 Ints.; 80-429, 6 TDs rushing) also leads the team in rushing. Running back Braden Holland (89-420, 4 TDs; 10-228, 1 TD receiving) and receiver Connor Luzier (22-275, 1 TD) also help lead the Tide offense.
Quarterback Jett Rand (51-for-113, 602 yards, 7 TDs, 7 Ints.) leads the Trojans’ offense.