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Thursday night football in D9: Keystone hosts Union/ACV

Kyle Nellis (left) and Bret Wingard lead Keystone into a key Thursday night matchup against Union/A-C Valley. (Photo by Shelly Atzeni. Check out more of Atzeni's work here)

KNOX, Pa. — It’s a key D9 League Small School South Division matchup with playoff implications as well as a Thursday night matchup kicks off the district’s football schedule this week.

The Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights (4-1) travel to unbeaten Keystone (5-0) for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The Falcon Knights and Panthers share three common foes to this point, most recently Sheffield. Keystone beat the Wolverines, 58-14, last week. In Week 2, Union/ACV routed Sheffield, 77-0.

Keystone averages 280 yards per game offensively with junior running back Kyle Nellis (79-510, 4 TDs) being the focus of the running game while also leading the team in all-purpose yardage (includes return yards) at 155 yards per game. Quarterback Bret Wingard (32-for-74, 477 yards, 7 TDs, 2 Ints.) also leads the team with five TDs rushing and he’s run for 124 yards on 53 carries.

When Wingard throws, he’s mostly looking for Zander McHenry (11-128, 3 TDs) and Tyler Albright (9-136, 2 TDs).

Defensively, Aidan Sell and McHenry lead the team with 28 and 27 tackles respectively. The Panthers have intercepted 12 passes so far with nine different players with at least one pickoff. Tyler Albright leads the unit with three.

Union/ACV averages 319 yards per game on offense with Dawson Camper coming off his 225-yard rushing performance in last week’s 41-8 win over Port Allegany. With 360 yards on 30 carries and eight TDs, Camper is second on the team on the ground behind Mikey Card (43-420, 3 TDs).

Quarterback Bailey Crissman (24-for-60, 277 yards, 6 TDs, 3 Ints.) has also run for 151 yards. His top receivers is Skyler Roxbury (7-108, 1 TD).

Caden Rainey (144 rushing, 58 receiving) was the team’s leader in all-purpose yards going into the Port Allegany game. 

Defensively going into the Port game, Carter Terwint, Card and Lane Chalmers were the top tacklers. Skyler Roxbury leads the unit with five interceptions.

Keystone took early control of the division race with a 22-20 over Redbank Valley in the season-opener while the Falcon Knights fell 28-20 at Brockway and haven’t lost sin ce. Keystone edged Port Allegany on the road in Week 2, 36-30. Port Allegany lost 41-8 last Friday to the Falcon Knights. Keystone beat Brockway in Week 3, 24-6.

With some key games remaining in the division race, it’s the Panthers on top of the pack at this point at 3-0, with Redbank Valley (2-1) and Union/ACV (1-1), with the Falcon Knights’ division game with Bucktail canceled.

The other key division game remaining have Redbank Valley visiting Union/ACV in Rimersburg on Oct. 22. As far as the Class 1A playoff race goes, it’s the Panthers at Smethport next week. All of that should help clarify how the playoff bracket plays out.

The best guess for the Class 1A bracket in some order has defending champion Redbank Valley, Keystone, Union/ACV, Smethport and Cameron County headed to the playoffs for sure with likely trips for Curwensville — don’t forget about the Tide who play a District 6 schedule now — and Port Allegany. At least seven teams should make the postseason.

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