Two District 9 football teams start the PIAA playoffs Friday night with first-round matchups, Clearfield in Class 3A and Central Clarion in Class 2A.
The 8-3 Bison face District 6 champion Central-Martinsburg at DuBois’ E.J. Mansell Stadium while the 11-0 Wildcats match up against District 8 (City League) champion Westinghouse.
Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
In both games, the teams are familiar with each other. The Bison dropped a Week 9 encounter with the 11-0 Scarlet Dragons, 27-21, in Martinsburg while the Wildcats and Bulldogs meet last year in their PIAA opener with the Bulldogs notching a 44-8 win on their way to a state runner-up finish.
The Clearfield-Central winner advances to next week’s quarterfinal round against the District 10 champion — Sharon and Hickory meet Friday night at Farrell High School — at a site and time to be announced.
The Central Clarion-Westinghouse winner advances to face the D10 champion as well. Farrell plays Mercyhurst Prep in the D10 final Saturday at Meadville High School at noon.
Here’s a closer look at Friday’s games:
Clearfield (8-3) vs. Central-Martinsburg (11-0)
At DuBois, it’ll be a rematch between the Bison and Dragons, who broke a 21-21 tie when Hunter Smith ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 8:39 left in the fourth quarter and held on from there to get the win.
Clearfield trailed 21-7 before tying the game with two unanswered scores in the third quarter when Will Domico threw a 3-yard TD pass to Carter Freeland then scored himself on a 1-yard run.
Domico completed 9 of 17 passes for 69 yards with two TDs against two interceptions while rushing for 77 yards on 13 carries. Brady Collins ran for 71 yards on 12 carries. For the Dragons, Smith finished with 60 yards on 17 attempts while Eli Muthler completed 14 of 25 passes for 186 yards with three TDs and one interception. Jack Dunn caught seven passes for 124 yards and two TDs.
For the season, Domico (100-for-194, 16 TDs, 6 Ints.) has thrown for 1,591 yards while rushing for 523 yards and 11 TDs. Collins (99-713, 4 TDs) leads the running game while Carter Chamberlain (112-599, 8 TDs) also gets carries. Freeland (45-850, 9 TDs) is the team’s top receiver.
The Dragons are coming off their District 6 title effort last week, their fourth championship in a row, a hard-fought 35-28 win over Penn Cambria in a game that was tied 21-21 going into the fourth quarter. Muther threw a 15-yard TD pass to Jacob Benton with 32 seconds left in the game to get the win.
Muther (160-for-265, 30 TDs, 8 Ints.) has thrown for 2,621 yards while rushing fo 282 yards and three TDs. Smith (160-786, 19 TDs) is the leading rusher while Dunn (51-978, 13 TDs) and Benton (49-830, 8 TDs) are the top receivers.
Last year, the Dragons beat the Bison 35-6 on their way to the state semifinals. They beat Grove City 35-7 before falling to WPIAL champion Belle Vernon, 21-17.
Westinghouse (10-0) vs. Central Clarion (11-0)
Last year, the Bulldogs built a 44-0 lead on the Wildcats at Cupples Stadium before Central Clarion scored late to set the final. Westinghouse went on to reach the state final, beating Farrell and then WPIAL champion Steel Valley before losing to Southern Columbia.
This time around, the Bulldogs, averaging 37.3 points per game, will need to do it with a mostly new group of skill players.
In last week’s sub-regional final against District 5’s Berlin Brothersvalley, junior quarterback Khalil Green threw for two TDs and ran for two TDs, including a 65-yarder . His TD passes went to Lloyd Penn and Tyrese Davie covering 13 and 14 yards while Ty Abrams scored on two TD runs.
The line does return a couple of four-year senior starters in Michael Harvey, 6-foot, 290 pounds, and Raymon Poindexter, 5 feet, 11 inches, 280 pounds.
Two weeks ago in the City League Championship game, the Bulldogs were up on USO 8-6 at halftime and broke things open in the second half. Abrams ran for 117 yards on 21 carries while Green ran for four TDs.
Central Clarion continues to put up huge numbers with impressive balance. The Wildcats’ 59.2 points per game scoring average ranks No. 1 in the state as per easternpafootball.com. They average 459 yards per game — 223 passing and 236 rushing — with, of course, junior quarterback Jase Ferguson leading the way.
Ferguson’s five TD passes in the D9 final against Brookville last week raised his career total to 94, one behind No. 3 all-timer, Brockway’s Derek Buganza’s 95. Ferguson moved into the No. 9 spot in all-time passing yards, his 6,802 yards passing Smethport’s Mike DeFilippi’s 6,638 last week.
Ferguson has completed 130 of 194 passes for 2,455 yards this year with an impressive TD to interception ratio of 43 to just 4.
Last year against Westinghouse, Ferguson was 9-for-19 for 89 yards as the Bulldogs outgained the Wildcats, 407-106.
Ferguson (95-774, 9 TDs) leads the running game along with Noah Harrison (58-422, 8 TDs), Noah Naser (53-415, 7 TDs) and Brady Quinn (27-348, 3 TDs). Dawson Smail (38-768, 14 TDs), Mason Burford (32-641, 14 TDs), Quinn (25-442, 5 TDs) and Tommy Smith (15-287, 4 TDs) are Ferguson’s top receiving targets.
The Wildcats give up 180 yards per game defensively. Their top tacklers are Braylon Beckwith (120), Charlie Hepfl (98), Quinn (82), Hindman (64) and Smith (60) the top tacklers. Ferguson and Quinn share the team lead with five interceptions.