With 13 District 9 football teams heading into the postseason, five games involving eight D9 teams get the playoff schedule started Friday.
(Nick Weaver helps lead the Keystone Panthers into their first-ever home playoff game Friday night against Karns City. Photo by Kyle Yates www.facebook.com/YatesPhoto)
In Class 1A, it’s one preliminary round game of a five-team bracket as No. 5 seed Smethport visits No. 4 Elk County Catholic at St. Marys Area High School’s Dutch Country Stadium. These teams played just last week with ECC earning home-field advantage for this week’s game with an 18-0 win in Smethport.
Two Class 2A first-round games start a six-team bracket with No. 6 seed Kane visiting No. 3 seed Brookville and No. 5 seed Karns City at No. 4 seed Keystone.
St. Marys and Clearfield are part of sub-regional brackets in Class 3A and 4A. The Dutch, seeded No. 3 in a four-team District 5-8-9 Class 3A tournament, travel to Pittsburgh to play No. 2 seed Westinghouse at Cupples Stadium.
And Clearfield, seeded No. 2 in the three-team District 4-6-9 Class 4A Sub-Regional bracket, is at home against No. 3 seed Juniata with the winner playing top-seeded Bellefonte next week. The Red Raiders received a bye.
All of the games have a Friday 7 p.m. kickoff time.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games:
Who gets the week off? Three teams. Top-seeded Coudersport (9-0) and No. 2 and 3 seeds Redbank Valley (8-2) and Union/A-C Valley (7-3). Coudersport gets the Smethport/ECC winner while the other two play each other next week at a neutral field at a time and day to be announced.
Smethport (5-4) at Elk Co. Catholic (5-4)
Just last week, the Crusaders blanked the Hubbers in Smethport, 18-0, limiting them to just seven first downs. Sam Kaul ran for 169 yards and two touchdowns while Stephen Bobby kicked a 34-yard field goal.
The Crusaders started the season 1-2, but have won four of six games since, including losses to Union/ACV and a 44-41 shootout loss at home to Keystone. The Hubbers started 4-0, but have lost four of five and the last three straight to Keystone (52-24), Coudersport (42-0) and the Crusaders.
Kaul leads the Crusaders’ run-heavy offense with 1,148 yards and 12 TDs, taking over the team’s lead ball-carrying duties after an early-season injury to Bobby, who’s back and getting limited touches. He ran for 10 yards on six carries last week, raising his season total to 247 yards. Quarterback Mason McAllister has thrown for 863 yards and nine TDs against eight interceptions.
Smethport also mostly runs with quarterback Noah Lent leading the team with 731 yards and seven TDs. He’s thrown for 486 yards and seven TDs against six interceptions. Braedon Johnson (580 yards, 3 TDs) is the second-leading rusher and Lent’s top receiving target (21-258, 3 TDs).
The Crusaders and Hubbers met just once before in the playoffs, a 9-8 Smethport win in a semifinal matchup back in 1995. Last year, the Hubbers won a playoff game for the first time since 1998 and reached the district final before losing to Coudersport. The Crusaders are looking for their first playoff win since reaching the 2016 Class 1A finals before losing to Ridgway. They beat Redbank Valley and C-L in the first two runs.
Who gets the week off? The top two seeds Ridgway (9-1) and Clarion (9-1). The Elkers play the Karns City/Keystone winner while Clarion gets the Kane/Brookville winner in next week’s semifinals on neutral fields at a time and day to be announced.
Karns City (7-3) at Keystone (9-1)
The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and haven’t won a postseason game since their run to the Class 1A state final in 1989. They’ll face the Gremlins for the first time ever in the playoffs and overall since their last KSAC matchup in a 58-14 loss in 2017. Karns City, meanwhile, is back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
Keystone, which wound up sharing the Small School South Division title with Redbank Valley and Union/ACV, started the year with a 29-8 loss to Redbank Valley and hasn’t lost since, scoring 40 or more points in its last five games, mostly running the ball although the Panthers threw for 192 yards and three TDs in last week’s 45-10 win at Moniteau. Quarterback Isaak Jones (67-for-116, 1,269 yards, 17 TDs, 7 Ints.; 295 yards rushing, 10 TDs) runs the offense that averages 422 yards per game with nearly a two-back 1,000-yard duo in juniors Nick Weaver (121-1,132, 15 TDs) and Taylar Altman (120-905, 7 TDs). Jayden Blazosky (24-404, 5 TDs) and Alex Rapp (16-377, 7 TDs) are Jones’ top receiving targets.
Defensively, Kirk Wolbert (7.7) and Altman (5.6) lead the Panthers in tackles per game. Zander McHenry and Rapp have six and five interceptions respectively.
The Gremlins finished fourth in the Large School Division, their losses coming to the three teams above them in the standings — Ridgway (19-13), Brookville (42-41, 2 OTs) and Clarion (42-140. The Gremlins finished the regular season with a 35-13 rout of Titusville last week.
Karns City is run-heavy, averaging 308 of its 362 yards of offense on the ground. Senior quarterback Anthony Kamenski has rushed for 1,047 yards and 10 TDs while throwing just 79 passes all season, completing 29 for 542 yards with seven TDs and five interceptions. Senior Hunter Rowe (126-809, 12 TDs) is also closing in on 1,000 yards with sophomore Luke Garing (83-511, 8 TDs) getting carries as well. Kaden Scherer (9-325, 5 TDs) is the top receiver who also has three return TDs and a team-high four interceptions on defense.
Also on defense, Nathan Waltman (7.0), Garing (6.7) and Scherer (6.1) are the top tacklers per game. Colton Craig has a team-high five sacks.
Kane (5-4) at Brookville (8-2)
After not playing a game in Brookville in 64 years, Kane plays the Raiders there again for the second time 22 days later as the Raiders beat the Wolves 33-14 during the regular season.
For the Raiders, they’ll try to win a home playoff game for the first time in 20 years, their last win coming in the 1999 semifinals against Brockway. Since then, they’ve lost four straight at home, the last coming in a 38-12 loss to Moniteau in 2007. The Raiders haven’t won a playoff game since 2010, a semifinal win over Moniteau at Clarion University, and they’ve lost six since including back-to-back games at Kane in 2012 and 2013, the 2012 game ending in a 35-34 overtime win for the Wolves.
For Kane, it’s back in the postseason after a one-year layoff when it finished 2-8 last year. The Wolves lost to Clarion in the 2017 Class 2A final after winning three straight D9 titles, 2014 and 2015 in Class 1A and 2016 in Class 2A.
In the Raiders’ 33-14 win in their first meeting, the teams combined to throw nine interceptions, four each from Kane’s Zuke Smith and Brookville’s Jack Krug, and another from the Wolves’ Harley Morris. The Raiders jumped out to a 20-0 lead, then traded TDs with Kane the rest of the way, leading 33-7 going into the fourth quarter.
Krug completed 24 of 44 passes for 291 yards with five TDs, two of them going to Ian Thrush, who caught eight passes for 113 yards. The Raiders outgained the Wolves, 372-265, most of Kane’s yards coming through the air with Smith completing 10 of 22 for 122 yards and Morris throwing for 79 yards on just two completions.
The Raiders are averaging 339 yards per game offensively — 266 passing and 93 rushing. Krug is up to 1,955 yards and 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions, completing 167 of 281 passes. He also leads the team in rushing with 428 yards on 52 attempts with seven TDs. Thrush (71-931, 7 TDs), Robert Keth (46-574, 7 TDs), Kyle MacBeth (40-522, 3 TDs) and Ryan Daisley (25-244, 3 TDs) are the top receiving targets while Cole LaBenne (72-264, 3 TDs rushing; 20-177, 3 TDs receiving) is another playmaking option.
MacBeth leads a strong Raiders turnover defense with seven interceptions. The Raiders have forced 31 turnovers this year, 16 of them interceptions.
Kane started the season 5-0, which included a 25-21 upset win over Large School Division champion Ridgway, but the Wolves have lost their last four and in the only game since their loss to the Raiders they were routed 50-21 by another pass-heavy team St. Marys.
Smith (62-for-146, 1,098 yards, 12 TDs, 12 interceptions) and Morris, who has attempted 15 passes, have been sharing snaps somewhat the past few games. The running game is led by Jake Alcorn (82-455, 5 TDs) and Teddy Race (66-424, 4 TDs) while Alcorn (17-443, 5 TDs) and Bobby Rumcick (12-206). Race leads the team in tackles per game (13.4) and sacks (7.5) while Alcorn has five returns for TDs, two punts, two kicks and one interception.
Who else is in the bracket? Top-seeded Bedford (8-2) hosts No. 4 seed Somerset (3-7) in a battle of District 5 teams in the other semifinal also Friday at 7 p.m. The winners meet on a neutral field in next week’s sub-regional final at a date and time to be announced.
St. Marys (6-4) at Westinghouse (7-3), Cupples Stadium
It’s back to the playoffs for the Flying Dutchmen for the first time since 2016 when they played another City League team in a 38-27 loss to Perry at home in a sub-regional semifinal. This time around, they’ll face City League champion Westinghouse, which won that title for the first time since 1996 after a 12-2 win over USU, a co-operative team with University Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama Academy.
Prior to that win, the Bulldogs needed two overtimes to beat Allderdice to get to the City League final, 20-14. They haven’t lost since starting the season 0-3 with losses to Our Lady of Sacred Heart (33-30, Linsly, W.V. (26-18) ad University Prep (32-22). The rest of the wins came against City League foes with the exception of District 10’s Hickory (58-14) on Oct. 4. The Hornets are in the D10 Class 3A playoffs.
Westinghouse quarterback Troy Lanier threw two TD passes in the win over Westinghouse. The Bulldogs have a Pitt commit on their defensive line in Dayon Hayes.
It’s been an up-and-down turnaround season for the Dutch, who started the season 3-1 before losing three straight games then closing with three straight wins in high-scoring performances against Moniteau (47-11), Kane (50-21) and Franklin (62-28) last week.
The Dutch feature the district’s leading passer in sophomore quarterback Christian Coudriet (167-for-270, 2,456 yards, 21 TDs, 9 Ints.). His top receivers are Bryce Walker (50-618, 3 TDs), Michael Fitzgerald (31-599, 7 TDs) and Terry Williams (29-418, 5 TDs). Jacob Kline (93-694, 11 TDs) and last week’s D9Sports.Com Player of the Week Cain Pfoutz (62-528, 8 TDs) are the top running backs.
Who else is in the bracket? Just top-seeded Bellefonte (8-2), which plays the Clearfield/Juniata winner next week in the sub-regional final at a neutral field at a site and time to be announced.
Juniata (4-6) at Clearfield (8-2)
The Bison host the Indians in what is just the third meeting ever between the teams. Clearfield won both regular-season matchups, 42-14 and 41-13.
This time around, it’s a postseason game with the Bison looking for a second straight sub-regional title after beating DuBois and then Bellefonte for the title last year. The Red Raiders await the winner of this one next week.
Clearfield started its season 5-5 before splitting its last four games on the field with the loss to the Red Raiders (28-19) and Bale Eagle Area (36-28) while getting wins over Tyrone (28-14) and Bishop Carroll (51-8) last week along with the forfeit win two weeks ago over Philipsburg-Osceola.
The Bison go into Friday averaging 349 yards per game — 183 rushing, 166 passing — with quarterback Oliver Billotte (105-for-189, 1,659 yards, 16 TDs, 6 Ints.; 100-388, 13 TDs rushing), running back Brett Zattoni (145-832, 9 TDs) and receivers Matt Pallo (23-423, 6 TDs) and Nick Domico (14-181, 2 TDs) leading the way. Defensively, Domico (7.9) and Ian Billotte (4.5) lead the team in tackles per game.
The Bison and Indians share no common opponent this year. The Indians of District 4 won two of their final three games, finishing the regular season with a 21-19 loss to Newport. Offensively, they average 293 yards per game, 176 of it coming on the ground with sophomore quarterback Jacob Condo (76-for-146, 1,097 yards, 13 TDs, 6 Ints.; 101-460, 7 TDs) accounting for much of the yardage. Jamie Bailer (90-539, 6 TDs) is the leading rusher while Emmanuel O’Donell (22-303, 3 TDs) and Steven Ranck (19-285, 5 TDs) are the top receivers.