It’s season two of the PIAA six-class system and for the most part, the expansion of classification was a good thing, especially for the district’s top teams.
Curwensville’s Nick Stewart heads into his senior year with over 5,500 career rushing yards.
Three D9 champs had their postseason runs end in the PIAA quarterfinals — Ridgway, Kane and Karns City — and it looks like those three teams once again will challenge for deep runs into the season.
Below are classification and team-by-team rundowns.
But before that, 12 games dot the opening-week schedule all on Friday night, including six games in the initial Allegheny Mountain League’s crossover week. AML games have Bradford at Smethport, Ridgway at Coudersport, Sheffield at Elk County Catholic, Brockway at Otto-Eldred, Curwensville at Cameron County and Port Allegany at Kane.
The game of the week is another matchup between longtime rivals as DuBois travels to Clearfield for the 105th meeting between the Beavers and Bison. Last year’s 30-20 win by DuBois increased its all-time series lead to 70-29-5.
Elsewhere Karns City heads to Kittanning to face Armstrong. Brookville and Clarion-Limestone head to District 10-land where the Raiders visit Warren and Lions travel to Saegertown. Punxsutawney heads to Centre County in District 6 to play Penns Valley. Union/A-C Valley opens at home against WPIAL Class 1A contender Imani Christian.
Still playing another week of scrimmages are KSAC teams Redbank Valley, Moniteau, St. Marys, Keystone and Clarion.
In addition to preview information below, check out team video camp preview segments here.
While the PIAA expanded from four to six classifications, District 9’s teams landed in the bottom four classes. Here’s a look at the breakdown:
Total Teams: 13 (Union/A-C Valley, Sheffield, Ridgway, Redbank Valley, Curwensville, Keystone, Smethport, Clarion-Limestone, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, Elk County Catholic, Port Allegany, Cameron County).
Maximum number of teams in playoffs: 8
Selection process: The AML will have four teams guaranteed playoff berths and the KSAC-Small School Division gets two automatic berths. Two teams will receive “at-large” berths. The teams and following seeding of the eight teams will be determined by the PIAA power rating system with all games played used.
Playoff schedule: First Round, Nov. 3-4; Semifinals, Nov. 10-11; Championship, Nov. 17-18. Winner advances to state playoffs in quarterfinals against the District 5 vs. District 10 winner Nov. 24-25. The winner of that game advances to the state semifinals against the WPIAL champion, Dec. 1-2.
The Skinny: Ridgway’s convincing playoff run through the playoffs last year along with the fact that the Elkers have most of their key players back puts them as the solid favorite to repeat as champions. Last year’s runner-up Elk County Catholic lost most of its lineup to graduation, so look for Curwensville and Clarion-Limestone to be leading the least of contenders after the Elkers.
Total Teams: 5 (Brookville, Moniteau, Kane, Brockway and Clarion)
Maximum number of teams in playoffs: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system.
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Nov. 3-4; Championship, Nov. 10-11. D9 champion meets District 5-8 champion in regional matchup, Nov. 17-18. That winner advances to the PIAA quarterfinals against the District 10 champion Nov. 24-25 with the WPIAL champion awaiting in the state semifinals, Dec. 1-2.
The Skinny: The defending champion Kane Wolves are loaded, but Clarion returns enough talent to challenge for the district title as well. After that, the Brockway Rovers will likely put together enough of a charge to not be overlooked.
Class 3A (District 8-9)
Total Teams: It’s a sub-regional setup with Punxsutawney, St. Marys and Karns City from District 9 joined by Perry from the Pittsburgh City League.
Maximum number of teams in sub-regional playoff: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Nov. 3-4; Championship, Nov. 10-11. Winner advances to play the District 10 champion in a regional game Nov. 17-18 with that winner advancing to the PIAA quarterfinals against the District 5-6 champion Nov. 24-25. The WPIAL champion awaits in the state semifinals, Dec. 1-2.
The Skinny: The Karns City Gremlins are the clear favorite among the D9 teams once again. The unknown would be Perry of the Pittsburgh City League that fell 54-36 to the Gremlins in the sub-regional final, finishing the year 4-7.
Class 4A (District 5-6-9)
Total Teams: It’s a six-team field that includes DuBois, Clearfield and Bradford from District 9, Somerset from District 5, and Bellefonte and Johnstown from District 6.
Maximum number of teams in playoffs: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system.
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Nov. 3-4; Championship, Nov. 10-11. Winner plays the District 4 champion Nov. 17-18 in a regional matchup with the winner advancing to the PIAA quarterfinals against the District 1-11 champion, Nov. 24-25.
The Skinny: Clearfield fell to Johnstown in the final and both teams have their quarterbacks returning, including Bison junior Isaac Rumery and Trojans QB Austin Barber who threw for 2,402 yards. The Beavers have their own big passer back in Matt Miller. Bradford should be an improved team as well, but call Clearfield the favorite going into the season.
Allegheny Mountain League
Head coach: Scott Burnside, 2nd season (2-8)
What’s the Skinny? Senior quarterback Adam Streich (772 yards passing, 201 yards rushing) and senior running back Jared Whiting (358 yards, 4 TDs) are the top returning skill position players back for the second-year coach Burnside. Whiting led the defense in tackles and sacks from his linebacker spot.
2014: 4-6, AML runner-up
Head coach: Tom Storey, 1st season
What’s the Skinny? Seniors Jared Green (257 yards rushing, 502 receiving, team-best 9.3 tackles per game) and Derek Keglovits (223 yards receiving), and junior linebacker Eli Ayers (team-best five sacks) are the top players for first-year coach Tom Storey.
Head coach: Nick LaBella, 3rd year (7-14)
What’s the Skinny? The defending AML-North champs have their quarterback returning in senior Sawyer Drummond (1,056 yards passing, 291 yards rushing) and leading pass-catcher in senior Dylan Close (30 catches, 369 yards).
2016: 5-6, AML runner-up
Head coach: Pat Warnick, first season
What’s the Skinny? Senior quarterback Jake Kallenborn (342 yards passing), senior running back Trey Stiles (503 yards rushing, 99 yards receiving) are the top players back for the Gators, who are coming off a winless season with a new coach in Pat Warnick.
2015: 6-5, AML-North champion, AML runner-up
2012: 13-1, D9 Class A champion, AML champion
Head coach: Dave Fitch, 6th season (13-38)
What’s the Skinny? Running back Kevin Evans, who combined for 700 yards of rushing/receiving with six TDs, returns for the Wolverines.
Head coach: Adam Jack, 1st season
What’s the Skinny? The first-year head coach has last year’s starting quarterback Grant Ognen and top receiver Blake Kinner, both juniors, back from last year’s squad.
Head coach: Jeff Puglio, 9th season (30-50)
What’s the Skinny? Coming off their first season in the AML, the Owls will try to notch their first winning season since 2010. Most likely, it’ll be a power running approach led by their top two rushers from last year in senior John Eakin (695 yards, 9 TDs) and Donny Pattison (633 yards, 6 TDs). Senior Isaac Gralak (7.4 tpg) and Eakin (7.3) are the top two returning tacklers.
2012: 4-6, D9 Class AAA runner-up
Head coach: Frank Zocco, 6th season (41-19)
What’s the Skinny? It’ll be a retooling of sorts for the Rovers, who will have a new quarterback and a new backfield. However, a few receivers are back with some numbers, including seniors Dylan LeCates (21 catches, 398 yards, 5 TDs) and Cameron Baka (19 catches, 331 yards).
2015: 10-3, D9 Class A runner-up
2014: 7-6, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Andy Evanko, 18th season (134-55)
What’s the Skinny? The Golden Tide return their quarterback and leading rusher from last year’s playoff team and considering senior tailback Nick Stewart accounted for over 65 percent of the team’s yards from scrimmage, that’s says a lot. Stewart ran for 2,030 yards and 25 touchdowns and he heads into the season No. 3 on the district’s all-time rushing list with 5,534 yards, trailing two ex-Tide stars Nick Sipes (5,963) and Alex Holland (5,734). Senior quarterback Bryce Timko threw for 619 yards and seven TDs.
Elk County Catholic
Head coach: Tony Gerg, 5th season (23-19)
What’s the Skinny? Gerg’s Crusaders lost nearly every significant player who put up statistics from last year’s Class 1A runner-up squad. Junior running backs Tyler Dilley and Alec Bittler are the top returning running backs with a combined 26 carries.
2016: 8-4, D9 Class 1A runner-up
Head coach: Todd Silfies, 6th season (52-11)
What’s the Skinny? The Wolves go for a three-peat and have some solid ammunition back on the roster to make that happen as the senior trio of quarterback Reed Williams (2,308 yards passing, 28 TDs), running back Erik Delong (1,735 yards, 21 TDs) and receiver Ray Maze (902 yards, 10 TDs) led the team in those categories. Senior Ange Costanzo and Delong were 1-2 on the team in tackles on defense.
2016: 13-1, AML-South champion, AML champion, D9 Class 2A champion, PIAA quarterfinals
2015: 12-1, AML-South champion, AML champion, D9 Class A champion
2013: 11-1, D9 Class AA runner-up
2012: 7-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
Head coach: Mark Heindl, 10th season (43-51)
What’s the Skinny? The defending champion Elkers have plenty of key players back from their title run, including senior quarterback Johnny Mitchell (696 yards, 10 TDs passing; 498 yards rushing, 9 TDs), senior running back Neil MacDonald (1,112 yards, 13 TDs rushing). On defense, MacDonald and senior Joey Elinski ranked 1-2 in tackles while senior Max Cowan’s eight sacks ranked second on the team.
2016: 10-3, D9 Class 1A champion
2014: 9-2, AML South champion, AML Champion
Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference
Large School Division
Head coach: Scott Park, 3rd season (5-14)
What’s the Skinny? Park added two former head coaches to his staff, including former DuBois coach Frank Varischetti and previous Raiders boss Chris Dworek. With Varischetti on board, the Raiders are going to the spread offense and they’ll do it with freshman quarterback Jack Krug. Seniors Brandon McGranor (475 yards, 5 TDs) led the Raiders in rushing while senior John Frank (25 catches, 420 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Bryan Dworek (22 catches, 418 yards, 2 TDs) led the team in receiving. Dworek intercepted six passes on defense.
Head coach: Larry Wiser, 29th season overall (205-93-1)
What’s the Skinny? The Bobcats have plenty back to make a run at both the KSAC-Large and Class 2A titles. Senior quarterback Spencer Miller (1,035 yards, 19 TDs passing; 164 yards rushing) and senior running back Colton Rapp (1,651 yards, 16 TDs) lead the offense while senior Colt Stimmell, Rapp and senior Tom Wurster are back on defense after finishing as the top three tacklers. Wurster and Stimmell had seven and five sacks respectively. The Bobcats are three wins away from 500 in program history.
2016: 9-2, D9 Class 2A runner-up
2014: 10-2, KSAC Small School champion
2013: 14-1, KSAC Small School champion, D9 Class A champion
2012: 12-1, KSAC Small School champion, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Ed Conto, 18th season at Karns City (160-47; 30th overall (196-121-3)
What’s the Skinny? The Gremlins gun for a sixth straight district title and will retool most of its offensive skill positions starting with a sophomore quarterback in Anthony Kamenski. Senior running back Caleb Garing saw limited action last year out of the backfield and he’s the leading returning tackler (74) along with Sebastian Troutman (66). Conto, in his 30th season overall counting 12 years at A-C Valley, is four wins away from 200 for his career.
2016: 10-3, KSAC Large School champion, D8-9 Class 3A champion
2015: 12-1, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class AA champion
2014: 11-2, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class AA champion
2013: 12-2, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class AA champion
2012: 10-4, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class AA champion
Head coach: Jon McCune, 1st season
What’s the Skinny? New coach Jon McCune has junior quarterback Chance Nagy (828 yards passing, 8 TDs; team-high 334 yards rushing, 5 TDs) and sophomore Nick Martino (314 yards rushing, 2 TDs), his second-leading rusher, back as well as senior receiver Wyatt Geibel (16 catches, 265 yards, 2 TDs). Defensively, junior Cody Wise (89), junior James Parenti (69) and Martino (66) are the top returning tacklers.
Head coach: Brad Wright, 3rd season (5-14), 29-43 overall in six seasons.
What’s the Skinny? Junior quarterback Dylan Ishman (764 yards, 5 TDs passing) and leading rusher Tyler Richardson (337 yards, 1 TD; 12 catches, 124 yards receiving; 4 interceptions, 61 tackles on defense) and senior Stone Smith (223 yards rushing; 43 tackles) are back to lead the Chucks.
Head coach: Tony Defilippi, 9th season at St. Marys (4th in 2nd stint, 33-50; 12th overall, 65-64)
What’s the Skinny? Senior Tim Beimel, who rushed for 418 yards and 2 TDs last year, is the leading returning rusher for a Dutch team that lost plenty to graduation.
2014: 8-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
Small School Division
Head coach: Dave Eggleton, 5th season (15-24)
What’s the Skinny? Coming off a semifinal run in the Class 1A playoffs, the Lions have their senior quarterback returning in Brenden Makray (1,739 yards passing, 17 TDs) and two-way threat senior Riley Hummell (405 yards rushing, 3 TDs; 40 catches, 582 yards, 4 TDs). Also back is senior Chris Peace (396 yards rushing). Hummell (79) and junior Justin Goodman (71) are the top returning tacklers.
2016: 8-3, KSAC Small School Division champion
Head coach: Dan Reed, 12th season overall, 4th in second stint, (46-59)
What’s the Skinny? Senior quarterback Nate Wingard (1,334 yards, 9 TDs passing) has two of his top receivers back in senior Corey Rapp (30 catches, 489 yards, 3 TDs) and senior Kyle Kapp (20 catches, 243 yards, 1 TD). Junior Camden Boggess led the team with 82 tackles.
Head coach: Ed Wasilowski, 18th season overall, 6th in second stint (95-69)
What’s the Skinny? The Bulldogs have some key skill players back with junior quarterback Keaton Kahle (903 yards, 8 TDs passing), fullback Clint Thurston (393 yards, 7 TDs rushing) and receiver Brock Barrett (30 catches, 432 yards), who also led the team with eight interceptions.
2015: 8-3, KSAC Small School champion
2013: 8-4, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Dave Louder, 8th season overall (37-37)
What’s the Skinny? The Falcon Knights have their quarterback returning in senior Lucas Bowser (1,055 yards, 11 TDs passing) and top returning rusher in senior Greg Duncan (309 yards, 3 TDs rushing). Bowser (52), Duncan (51), senior Isaac Yoder (49) and senior Chase Terwilliger (47) are the leading returning tacklers on defense.
5-year-trend (2nd year of co-op, Union and then ACV listed after)
Head coach: Justin Marshall, 1st season
What’s the Skinny? Marshall, a former running back star for the Beavers, replaces Frank Varischetti as the head coach. He has senior quarterback Matt Miller back after he threw for 2,506 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’ll be looking to move up the district’s all-time passing ladder. With 6,126 career yards, he ranks No. 5. Miller also has his top receiver back in senior Kyle Hopson, who put up prolific numbers last year with 101 catches for 1,665 yards and 18 TDs. Also back are junior Dylan McCluskey (41 catches, 462 yards) and senior Kenny Garvey (22 catches, 312 yards, 2 TDs), who also led the defense with 100 tackles.
Head coach: Tim Janocko, 33rd season (257-103-3)
What’s the Skinny? The Bison have their dual-threat junior quarterback Isaac Rumery (1,957 yards, 19 TDs passing; 575 yards, 4 TDs rushing) back with one of his two main receiving targets back in senior Micah Heichel (38 catches, 889 yards, 9 TDs), who is the top returning tackler on defense (68). Ty Bender (278 yards, 2 TDs rushing) is also back after getting some carries out of the backfield.
2016: 10-2, D5-6-9 Class 4A runner-up, Mountain League champion
2015: 9-2, D9 Class AAA champion, Mountain League champion
2014: 9-3, D9 Class AAA champion, D6-8-9 Class AAA runner-up
2013: 13-1, D9 Class AAA champion, D6-8-9 Class AAA champion, Mountain League champion
2012: 11-1, D9 Class AAA champion, D5-6-8-9 Class AAA runner-up, Mountain League champion