With three weeks left to play in the regular season, the District 9 playoff picture is starting to size up and with 13 games on this week’s schedule starting Friday night — two of them with Saturday 1:30 p.m. kickoff times — more than one have at least some playoff implications tied to it.
Karns City’s Ed Conto (left) and Clarion’s Larry Wiser (right) are both over 200 career wins.
And there are some divisional battles to be played this week as well. To note:
— KSAC Large School Division: Unbeaten Clarion meets Karns City. While the two are in different classifications — Class 2A and 3A respectively — they are in the same division and a Gremlins win would likely create a three-way tie for the division title with the Bobcats and Brookville.
— AML North Division: Coudersport travels to Duke Center to take on Otto-Eldred as the two teams settle on who will most likely win the division. Both teams are 3-0 in divisional play.
While we’re at it:
— AML South Division: Kane is the lone unbeaten, but the Wolves still have work to do with this week’s home game with Ridgway and next week’s trip to Brockway.
— KSAC Small School Division: Redbank Valley clinched it a few weeks ago.
— Mountain League: The league that Clearfield is in won’t be won by the Bison this year. It’ll be Huntingdon or Central-Martinsburg this time.
— District 10 Region 5: The league that DuBois is in will be won by Grove City or shared with Conneaut and Meadville if Grove City loses to Meadville in two weeks.
Glance at the playoff picture
There are still nine teams in contention for up to eight playoff spots with Curwensville (6-1), Ridgway (5-2), Coudersport (4-3), Otto-Eldred (4-3), Redbank Valley (3-3), Keystone (3-3), Clarion-Limestone (3-4) and Smethport (2-5) currently making up the top eight positions. Elk County Catholic (2-5) is only 10 points behind Smethport, so the Crusaders still have a shot at the postseason (although some schools have .500 rules that could preclude them going to the postseason even if they qualify under District 9’s standards.
This week will sort things out somewhat with the three-loss teams perhaps clinching a top-eight spot with wins.
The four-team field, which is a combined 25-2 going into this week, looks to be set with Kane (7-0), Brookville (6-1), Clarion (6-0) and Brockway (6-1). Despite losing to Clarion, Brookville currently leads the Bobcats in the point standings because of more game played, but if the Bobcats beat Karns City this week, they’ll likely hold on to the No. 2 seeding. Kane winning its next two appears to clinch the top seed for the Wolves and with the Raiders favored in their last three games, it’ll likely be a Brookville-Clarion rematch in one semifinal with Kane taking on No. 4 seed Brockway in the other semifinal.
Class 3A (District 8-9)
It’s Karns City (5-2), Punxsutawney (3-4), Perry (1-5) and St. Marys (0-6) in the four-team field, so it might not be a busy two weeks in this class. The Gremlins’ 42-32 win over the Chucks earlier this year does make it a little more interesting than last year.
Class 4A (District 5-6-9)
Right now, it’s Bellefonte (6-1), Johnstown (6-1), Bradford (5-2) and Clearfield (4-3) in the power point standings with DuBois (2-5) and Somerset (2-5) looking in.
For the Beavers to crack that top-four, they’ll need to win out and hope and that won’t be easy considering that after this week against one-win Franklin, they’ll face current unbeaten Newport (7-0) and Hollidaysburg (4-3). It’s probably down to playoff positioning for the current top-four teams.
On to this week’s games:
Karns City (5-2 overall, 2-1 KSAC Large) at Clarion (6-0, 3-0)
The Gremlins head to Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium looking to knock off one of the remaining two unbeatens in the district as the Bobcats, ranked No. 2 behind Kane in the latest Allegheny Grille rankings, try to claim an outright division title.
Perhaps the Gremlins are slight underdogs, but they’ve beaten the Bobcats 13 of the last 16 times, including 31-7 last year in Karns City, and they’ve won five straight games since starting the year 0-2.
Clarion averages 420 yards of offense per game — 350 rush, 70 pass — and has a deep group of running backs leading the way. The Bobcats have played their last two games without injured 3,000-yard career rusher Colton Rapp (63 carries, 615 yards, 8 TDs) – Rapp had two carries two weeks ago against Moniteau before getting hurt. Logan Minich (50-380, 5 TDs) has rushed for 267 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games with Rapp missing all but the beginning of the game in which he was hurt.
And don’t forget about speedy Brendan Zerfoss (13-271, 4 TDs), who broke loose for 140 yards on three carries and two touchdowns against Redbank Valley last week. Quarterback Spencer Miller (26-57, 434 yards, 5 TDs, 4 Ints) hasn’t been asked to throw much.
Defensively, the Bobcats have limited teams to 62 points, including a shutout and three one-TD games. Zak Bauer (9.5 tackles per game, 25 tackles for losses, 7 sacks), Miller (7.8 tpg), Colt Stimmell (7.2 tpg, 7 sacks), Nick Porciello (9 sacks), Sterling Conner (4 interceptions) lead the defense.
Karns City has similar offensive numbers, averaging 433 yards per game — 366 rush, 67 pass — with three backs over 350 yards on the ground. Dalton Beham (80-901, 19 TDs) approaches 1,000 yards with Clay Garing (70-488, 6 TDs) and Sebastian Troutman (47-355, 3 TDs) getting significant carries as well. Sophomore quarterback Anthony Kamenski (37-84, 468 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int) runs the offense.
Defensively, Trevor Knox led the team in tackles at 6.5 per game going into the Gremlins’ game against C-L.
In other KSAC crossover games, St. Marys (0-6) travels to Redbank Valley (3-3), Moniteau (2-4) hosts C-L (3-4), Brookville (6-1) visits Union/A-C Valley (1-6) in Rimersburg and Punxsutawney (3-4) travels to Keystone (3-3).
Clint Thurston (116-1,048, 20 TDs) is over 1,000 yards rushing for the Bulldogs, who face the winless Dutch, who are on an eight-game losing streak overall. Tim Beimel and Carter Julian ran for 160 and 134 yards respectively in last week’s 34-28 loss to Keystone. The Dutch had scored 38 points in their first five games.
C-L has lost four straight games since starting the season 3-0. The Lions have moved the ball, scored a lot of points and given up plenty of yards and points as well. Quarterback Brenden Makray, the district’s leading passer with 1,785 yards, has thrown for 802 yards the past two games alone. Lions’ Riley Hummell has been quite the dual-threat, rushing for 649 yards and catching 28 passes for 500 yards. Moniteau quarterback Chance Nagy has thrown for 730 yards.
Brookville freshman quarterback Jack Krug (114-173, 1,777 yards, 27 TDs, 7 Ints) is right behind Makray in passing yardage with most of it going to his 1,000-yard receiver in junior Bryan Dworek (58-1,007, 15 TDs). They are a big reason the Raiders have scored 50 or more points five times this year after doing so just six times in program history prior to 2017. Union/ACV, which lost 18-8 to a Moniteau team that the Raiders just beat 64-28, has quarterback Lucas Bowser (77-171, 953 yards, 10 TDs, 7 Ints) ready to go over 1,000 yards. Greg Duncan (121-566, 2 TDs) leads the team in rushing.
Punxsutawney quarterback Dylan Ishman (70-146, 1,069 yards, 15 TDs, 2 Ints) sports an impressive TD-Interception ratio and he’s second on the team rushing with 214 yards with Stone Smith (80-249) the leading ground-gainer. Tyler Richardson (39-710, 9 TDs) is Ishman’s top receiving target. Keystone beat St. Marys, 34-28, and the Dutch lost 23-6 to the Chucks two weeks ago. Panthers quarterback Nate Wingard (58-112, 925 yards, 12 TDs, 5 Ints) is close to 1,000 yards passing for the year while Corey Rapp is the team’s top rusher (57-307, 5 TDs), receiver (27-449, 7 TDs) and tackler on defense (8.2 per game) with a team-high three interceptions.
In the AML South …
Division leader Kane (7-0 overall, 3-0 AML South) hosts Ridgway (5-2, 1-2), Brockway (6-1, 2-1) visits Bradford (5-2, 1-2) and Curwensville (6-1, 2-1) travels to Elk County Catholic (2-5, 0-3).
The top-ranked Wolves are cruising along, but need to take care of business their last two regular-season games with Ridgway and next week at Brockway. The Wolves’ 52.7 points per game rank third in the state behind California (57.2) of the WPIAL and Wellsboro (53.4) of District 4.
Kane quarterback Reed Williams (74-124, 1,290 yards, 17 TDs, 5 Ints) has been more than effective with teammates Evan DeLong (106-1,132, 19 TDs rushing) and Ray Maze (24-570, 8 TDs receiving) helping lead the offense. Aiden Hulings (7.2 tackles per game, 19 tackles for losses) leads the Wolves’ defense that’s given up just 61 points in seven games.
The Elkers try to get back on track, losers in two of their last three games, after last week’s 14-11 loss to Curwensville. Quarterback Johnny Mitchell (40-81, 531 yards, 6 TDs, 10 Ints passing; 56-286, 3 TDs rushing) and Neil MacDonald (75-605, 7 TDs rushing, team-leading 17-233, 5 TDs receiving) lead the Elkers. Evan Furlong (13 tpg) and MacDonald (9.7) are the top two tacklers.
Brockway tries to take a one-loss division record into next week’s showdown with Kane when it heads north to Bradford. Rovers quarterback Peter Downer (77-128, 1,199 yards, 8 TDs, 5 Ints), running backs Jon Wood (64-525, 7 TDs) and Tyler Serafini (77-387, 4 TDs), and receivers Dylan Lecates (26-407, 1 TD) and Noah Vokes (17-330, 5 TDs) lead the Rovers.
Owls running back John Eakin (107-978, 6 TDs) nears the 1,000-yard rushing milestone while also leading the team in tackles (7.6 per game).
The Golden Tide are coming off two tight low-scoring wins, 14-11 last week over Ridgway and 15-13 over Brockway, and of the 110 points they’ve given up this year, 57 were scored by Kane. The Golden Tide are somewhat balanced offensively with quarterback Bryce Timko (56-105, 922 yards, 8 TDs, 2 Ints.) nearing 1,000 yards passing and running back Nick Stewart (111-810, 14 TDs rushing after missing the season-opener) anchoring the backfield.
ECC running back Alec Bittler (101-607, 8 TDs) leads the team in rushing, but he’s been out the past two weeks.
Falcons and Terrors battle for AML North lead
Two of the three AML North games are Saturday afternoon with the lone Friday night tilt likely determining the division champion as Coudersport (4-3 overall, 3-0 AML North) traveling to Otto-Eldred (4-3, 3-0).
The Falcons go into the game with a four-game winning streak. Quarterback Jared Green (29-55, 335 yards, 4 TDs, 5 Ints) is second on the team in rushing (60-324, 4 TDs) and leads the defense in tackles (9 tpg.) Stevie Kelly (104-544, 6 TDs) is the top rusher while Derek Keglovits (10-108, 2 TDs) is Green’s top receiving target).
Quarterback Sawyer Drummond (95-147, 1,383 yards, 17 TDs, 10 Ints) also leads the Terrors in rushing (69-320) with his top receivers Dylan Close (35-519) and Cameron Magee (34-621).
The Saturday games have Cameron County (0-7, 0-3) visiting Port Allegany (1-6, 1-2) and Sheffield (0-7, 0-3) hosting Smethport (2-5, 2-1).
Port ended a 17-game losing streak in last week’s win over Sheffield. Quarterback Trey Stiles scored all three TDs, running for 113 yards on 18 carries while throwing a TD pass. Cameron County has given up 42 or more points the past five games while scoring 64 points for the season, 34 coming in a loss to Smethport. Ebon Jackson ran for 81 yards on a touchdown in last week’s loss to Otto-Eldred.
Smethport, with an Otto-Eldred win over Coudersport, would still have a chance to claim a share of the division lead if it beats Sheffield and knocks off the Terrors next week. Blake Kinner (65-512, 5 TDs) leads the Hubbers’ running game.
The winless Wolverines got 100 yards rushing from Josh Aguidio in last week’s loss to Port Allegany.
DuBois wraps up D10 Region 5 play
The Beavers (2-5 overall, 2-3 Region 5) host Franklin (1-6, 1-3) in their final division game of the season. They face a Knights team that’s giving up 49.3 points per game, the eighth-worst mark in the state.
Franklin lost to Meadville last week and the Knights lone win was a 44-38 win over Oil City, a team DuBois beat 38-19. DuBois was blanked 42-0 last week against Grove City, which routed Franklin 58-6.
The Beavers try to get their offense kick-started again after being limited to 100 yards against unbeaten Grove City. Quarterback Matt Miller (93-192, 1,226 yards, 10 TDs, 7 Ints), running back Dalton Kruzelak (68-399, 5 TDs) and receiver Kyle Hopson (44-674, 6 TDs) lead the way.
Hopson, with 182 career catches and 2,926 receiving yards, looks to become what’s believed to be the district’s second 3,000-yard career receiver. Port Allegany’s Tyce Miller finished with 177 career receptions for 3,065 yards in 2012.
Franklin hopes to find a run game this week after ending in negative yards because of sacks the last two weeks including a negative 30-yard effort in the loss to Meadville. The Knights have just 401 yards rushing through seven weeks.
The lack of a run game puts a lot of pressure on quarterback Ian Haynes, who has thrown for 1,693 yards and 13 touchdowns but has also tossed 12 interceptions.
Brandon Johnson (39 catches, 696 yards, 6 TDs) and Dalton Buckley (30 catches, 491 yards, 4 TDs) have been the main targets for Haynes.
Bison host BEA
In the Mountain League, Clearfield (4-3 overall, 2-3 ML) hosts Bald Eagle Area (3-4, 2-3).
The Bison are coming off a 35-7 win over Tyrone, which beat BEA two weeks ago, 27-19. BEA lost 45-0 to Huntingdon, which beat the Bison 45-27.
Clearfield quarterback Isaac Rumery (98-1,670 yards, 21 TDs, 7 Ints) ranks third in the district in passing yardage. He’s second on the team in rushing (69-312, 6 TDs) behind Ty Bender (85-487). Micah Heichel (29-603, 8 TDs), Spencer Graham (20-295, 4 TDs), Taye Lynch (15-284, 4 TDs) and Jake Lezzer (18-235) are his leading receivers.
Eli Glass (9.3) leads the Bison defense in tackles.
BEA sophomore quarterback Jaden Jones (64-103, 777 yards, 5 TDs, 3 Ints) runs the Bald Eagles offense.