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Brand-new look: D9 football kicks off season Friday

District 9 has never had a season of football like this.

(Photo of Brookville’s Jack Krug. Photo by Kyle Yates

The reshuffling and formation of the District 9 League — the Large School and Small School South and North — now accounts for 22 of the 24 teams in the district and to top it off, nine new head coaches start the season Friday night or over a third of the coaches in the district.

The lone two teams out of that circuit are Clearfield and DuBois. The Bison are back in the Mountain League comprised of District 6 teams while the Beavers are in District 10 Region 7 after spending the last handful of years in District 10 Region 5 (although most of the teams in the Region are the same as in previous seasons).

This week’s 12-game schedule jumps right into divisional play with five Large School games and three apiece in both Small School divisions with Clearfield traveling to DuBois for the 106th meeting between longtime rivals.

In the Large School Division, Brookville hosts Bradford, Brockway visits Karns City, Clarion hosts Punxsutawney, Moniteau visits Kane and Ridgway heads to St. Marys.

The Small School South games have Clarion-Limestone hosting Union/A-C Valley, Redbank Valley traveling to Keystone and Elk County Catholic visiting Curwensville. The Small School North matchups are Cameron County at Coudersport, Port Allegany at Otto-Eldred along with Smethport’s trip to Sheffield on Saturday afternoon.

Coaches making debuts with their new teams: Brockway’s Tom Weaver, Cameron County’s Jody Bailey, Kane’s Jim Hillman, Karns City’s Joe Sherwin, Keystone’s Ryan Smith, Moniteau’s Bob Rottman, Otto-Eldred’s Troy Cook, Sheffield’s Chris Korbar and Union/A-C Valley’s Brad Dittman.

In addition to preview information below, check out the team video camp preview segments here.

Playoff format/calendar

Once again, the district’s 24 teams dropped into the smallest four classifications in the second PIAA cycle since the six-class setup was initiated before the 2016 season:

Class 1A

Teams in field (11): Coudersport, Redbank Valley, Curwensville, Otto-Eldred, Smethport, Sheffield, Port Allegany, Union/ACV, Clarion-Limestone, Elk Co. Catholic, Cameron County.

Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket: Eight. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.

Playoff schedule: Quarterfinals, Nov. 2-3; Semifinals, Nov. 9-10; Final, Nov. 16-17; PIAA Quarterfinals vs. District 5 or 10, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinal, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

The Skinny: Ridgway has moved up to Class 2A, so there will be a new Class 1A champion this year after the Elkers took the title the last two seasons. The power of Class 1A appears to be in the South Division — with the exception of Keystone which is Class 2A — between Curwensville, Redbank Valley and Clarion-Limestone.

Class 2A

Teams in field (8): Kane, Brookville, Moniteau, Brockway, Karns City, Ridgway, Clarion, Keystone.
Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket: All eight. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.
Playoff schedule: Quarterfinals, Nov. 2-3; Semifinals, Nov. 9-10; Final, Nov. 16-17; PIAA Quarterfinals vs. District 5 or 10, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinal, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

The Skinny: Clearly the most interesting playoff race for positioning obviously, considering that all eight teams could advance to the playoffs. But since all but Keystone play each other during the season, it’ll be stacked up in some order going into the postseason. How will it be in November? Clarion, Ridgway and Karns City are the returning Class 1A, 2A and 3A district champions, but all three have to replace key players lost to graduation. Kane has enough back to be dangerous and Brookville returns its high-powered offense, and you can’t rule out anything about Brockway going into the season.

Class 3A (D9-5-8 Sub-Regional)

Teams in field (6): Punxsutawney and St. Marys from D9, Somerset and Bedford from D5, and Westinghouse and Perry from D8.

Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket: Four. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.

Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Nov. 2-3; Final, Nov. 9-10; Regional matchup vs. District 6, Nov. 16-17; PIAA quarterfinals vs. District 10, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinals vs. WPIAL, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

The Skinny: Punxsutawney is the only returning Class 3A playoff team since champion Karns City dropped to Class 2A, there were no D8 playoff teams last year in the class and Bedford both had losing seasons. Westinghouse had a 5-4 season, making the Bulldogs the only team with a winning record last year. Are the Chucks the favorites?

Class 4A (D6-9 Sub-Regional)

Teams in field (6): DuBois, Clearfield and Bradford from D9, and Bellefonte, Johnstown and Juniata from D6.

Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket:
Four. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.

Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Nov. 2-3; Final, Nov. 9-10; Regional matchup vs. District 8/10 winner, Nov. 16-17; PIAA quarterfinals vs. WPIAL, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinals vs. District 3, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

The Skinny: Clearfield and Bradford were knocked out in the semifinals by Bellefonte and Johnstown while DuBois missed out on the four-team playoff. Bellefonte went on to beat Johnstown in the sub-regional final then wrapped up a 10-3 season with a 37-3 loss to D4’s Selinsgrove. The Red Raiders lost almost all of their top talent to graduation as did Johnstown.

Team-By-Team Reports

Large School


Head coach: Jeff Puglio (10th season, 37-53)

What’s the Skinny: The Owls lost powerful John Eakin and his 1,500 rushing yards to graduation, but they’ll still run the ball. senior Jaron Ambrose, junior Derek Sunafrank and senior Donny Pattison lead the offense, with Pattison moving from quarterback to running back. Junior Caleb Nuzzo and senior Nate Blauser shared the team lead in interceptions with four.

5-Year Trend
2017: 7-3
2016: 4-6
2015: 1-9
2014: 2-8
2013: 2-8


Head coach: Tom Weaver, 1st season

What’s the Skinny: Tom Weaver, a former assistant coach at Brookville, is the new Rovers boss. Quarterback Peter Downer returns after throwing for 1,811 yards. Jon Wood led the Rovers with 756 yards rushing and eight TDs.

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-4
2016: 8-2
2015: 10-3, Class 1A runner-up
2014: 7-6, Class 1A runner-up
2013: 7-5


Head coach: Scott Park (4th season, 14-16; 9th overall, 9-34 at Sheffield)

What’s the Skinny: It’s sophomore quarterback Jack Krug and all-state receiver Bryan Dworek returning to lead the Raiders. Krug threw for 2,856 yards and 40 touchdowns while Dworek hauled in 85 passes for 1,406 yards and 21 TDs. Those two and sophomore Ian Thrush made up three-fourths of the track team’s two state medaling sprint relays in the spring. Senior Cabe Park was effective finding the end zone and helped the spark a takeaway defense that forced 27 turnovers and scored nine touchdowns and three safeties.

5-Year Trend
2017: 9-2
2016: 3-6
2015: 2-8
2014: 2-8
2013: 6-5


Head coach: Larry Wiser (30th year, 217-94-1)

What’s the Skinny: It’s year 30 for the veteran head coach Larry Wiser. He lost a veteran group from last year’s 12-1 run to the PIAA quarterfinals, but the Bobcats always have enough talent to contend. Logan Minich is back after running for 908 yards and 12 touchdowns.

5-Year Trend
2017: 12-1, KSAC Large champion, Class 2A champion, PIAA quarterfinals
2016: 9-2, Class 2A runner-up
2015: 6-5
2014: 10-2, KSAC Small School champion
2013: 14-1, KSAC Small School champion, Class 1A champion


Head coach: Jim Hillman, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: Hillman takes over for Todd Silfies, who had a great run with the Wolves, including a 36-3 record over the past three seasons with three AML titles and two district titles. Last year, the Wolves came up just short. They have enough back to be a legitimate title threat, but receiver Jake Alcorn is the only significant skill player back after catching 33 passes for 498 yards.

5-Year Trend
2017: 11-1, AML champion, Class 2A runner-up
2016: 13-1, AML champion, Class 2A champion, PIAA quarterfinals
2015: 12-1, AML champion, Class 1A champion
2014: 9-4
2013: 11-1, D9 Class AA runner-up

Karns City

Head coach: Joe Sherwin, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: It’s a new coach for the Gremlins, but hardly a new face as Sherwin was the offensive coordinator the past 18 seasons for retired coach Ed Conto. Quarterback Anthony Kamenski returns, but the Gremlins will be primarily featuring new skill players.

5-Year Trend
2017: 7-5, D8-9 Class 3A champion
2016: 10-3, KSAC Large School champion, D8-9 Class 3A champion
2015: 12-1, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class 2A champion
2014: 11-2, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class 2A champion
2013: 12-2, KSAC Large School champion, D9 Class 2A champion


Head coach: Bob Rottman, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: Rottman takes over the Warriors, who have their quarterback returning in senior Chance Nagy. He threw for 1,193 yards a year ago. He and senior Cody Wise are the top returning rushers with just over 300 yards.

5-Year Trend
2017: 3-6
2016: 3-7
2015: 5-7
2014: 5-6
2013: 3-7


Head coach: Brad Wright (4th season, 9-21; 8th overall, 24-29 at Warren)

What’s the Skinny: The Chucks have six starters back on both sides of the ball, led by senior quarterback Dylan Ishman who threw for 1,554 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 384 yards. He and senior Alex Gianvito (315 yards) are the top returning rushers with Gianvito his top returning receiving target with 22 catches for 327 yards.

5-Year Trend
2017: 4-7, D8-9 Class 3A runner-up
2016: 2-7
2015: 3-7
2014: 6-5
2013: 4-7


Head coach: Mark Heindl (11th season, 52-55)

What’s the Skinny: Linebacker Evan Furlong was an all-state selection for the defending Class 1A champions last year. He’s also the only returning offensive starter back at fullback. Chase Pontious, Robert Briggs and Daunte Allegretto return with Furlong to anchor the defense.

5-Year Trend
2017: 9-4, Class 1A champion
2016: 10-3, Class 1A champion
2015: 4-6
2014: 9-2, AML South champion, AML Champion
2013: 5-6

St. Marys

Head coach: Tony Defilippi (10th season, 33-59; 14th overall, 65-73)

What’s the Skinny: The Dutch try to end an 11-game losing streak going into the season. Senior quarterback Todd Taylor is one of six returning starters on offense.

5-Year Trend
2017: 0-9
2016: 6-4
2015: 7-4
2014: 8-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
2013: 6-5

Small School South


Head coach: Dave Eggleton (6th season, 21-21)

What’s the Skinny: Eggleton has 19 players on his roster, so staying healthy will be of utmost importance. But the Lions have been here before and have a talented and experienced line — seniors Matt Coleman, Justin Goodman and Jim Gunning along with juniors Ben Smith and Mitch Knepp — to build around on both sides of the ball. Senior Colby Himes will be the new quarterback while senior Ayden Wiles and junior Austin Newcomb are the leading returning rushers and receivers.

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-5
2016: 8-3, KSAC Small School Division champion
2015: 4-5
2014: 1-9
2013: 2-7


Head coach: Andy Evanko (19th season, 143-58)

What’s the Skinny: The Golden Tide lost a whole bunch of production to graduation in the district’s all-time leading rusher in Nick Stewart and quarterback Bryce Timko, but Evanko always seem to be able to plug in quality performers year to year. Seniors Blake Passarelli and Avery Francisco, their second and third leading rushers, and senior receiver Noah Von Gunden, the second leading catcher, are all back as well as linebacker Cole Bressler with Von Gunden and Francisco on defense.

5-Year Trend
2017: 9-3, Class 1A runner-up
2016: 6-5
2015: 8-4
2014: 6-5
2013: 9-2

Elk Co. Catholic

Head coach: Tony Gerg (6th season, 25-26)

What’s the Skinny: The Crusaders have a combined seven starters back on both sides of the ball from last year. Most of the offensive line is back with Alex Breindel, Ethan Alexander, Dan Wimer and Alex Fedus. Ben Sherry, Brennan Klawuhn and Ryan Fritz are back on the defensive side of the ball.

5-Year Trend

2017: 2-7
2016: 8-4, Class 1A runner-up
2015: 7-3
2014: 8-3
2013: 0-9


Head coach: Ryan Smith, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: Former C-L Lion Ryan Smith takes over the Panthers. He’ll have junior Isaak Jones, one of the leading returning receivers from last year, as his quarterback. Junior Jayden Blazosky, like Jones, caught 12 passes last year.

5-Year Trend
2017: 3-6
2016: 0-10
2015: 5-5
2014: 3-7
2013: 1-9

Redbank Valley

Head coach: Ed Wasilowski (18th season, 101-74)

What’s the Skinny: Although the Bulldogs lost just three players to graduation, they were big contributors. Still, head coach Ed Wasilowski has his quarterback returning in Keaton Kahle, who threw for 769 yards and ran for 442 yards.

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-4, KSAC Small School champion
2016: 5-5
2015: 8-3, KSAC Small School champion
2014: 7-3
2013: 8-4, D9 Class A runner-up

Union/A-C Valley

Head coach: Brad Dittman, 1st year (3-36 in four years at A-C Valley)

What’s the Skinny: Dittman was the last A-C Valley coach before the co-op began, so he’ll jump in with the Falcon Knights this year. He’ll be working with a new quarterback in junior Luke Bowser with seniors Jonathan Powell, Nolan Cumberland and Dalton Callander the leading returning skill players. Senior Joe Dehart anchors both lines.

5-Year Trend (3rd year of co-op, Union and then ACV listed after)
2017: 1-9
2016: 2-7
2015: 5-5/0-10
2014: 6-6/0-10
2013: 4-7/0-10

Small School North

Cameron County

Head coach: Jody Bailey, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: It’s Bailey’s first year with the Red Raiders. He’ll build around five returning starters on both sides of the ball — Caleb Pifer, Devin Geitner, Ebon Jackson, Nick Peters and Josh Summers.

5-Year Trend

2017: 1-8
2016: 1-8
2015: 2-7
2014: 4-6, AML runner-up
2013: 3-7


Head coach: Tom Storey (2nd season, 6-5)

What’s the Skinny: The Falcons lost standout Jared Green to graduation, but a lot returns after that with leading rusher Stephen Kelly (879 yards, 9 TDs) and sophomore Hayden Keck (358 yards, 3 TDs). Other two-way returning starters back are Preston Cobb, Eli Ayers, Koby VanWhy, Travis Gleason, Brandon Goss and Cale Ayers.

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-5
2016: 5-5
2015: 5-5
2014: 1-8
2013: 4-5


Head coach: Troy Cook, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: The Terrors have a combined 14 returning starters for their first-year coach, led by junior Cameron Magee who caught 52 passes for 783 yards. He’s also the returning leading rusher (152 yards) while senior linebacker Chris Connelly led the team in tackles.

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-5, AML runner-up
2016: 5-6, AML runner-up
2015: 2-8
2014: 4-6
2013: 4-6

Port Allegany

Head coach: Pat Warnick (2nd season, 2-7)

What’s the Skinny: The Gators have a lot back from last year, including quarterback Jared Mahon. Other two-way starters back are Devon Smoker, Wayne Shelly, Dalton Distrola, Derek Kallenborn, Isaac Smoker and Justin Young.

5-Year Trend
2017: 207
2016: 0-9
2015: 6-5, AML runner-up
2014: 3-6
2013: 3-6


Head coach: Chris Korbar, 1st year

What’s the Skinny: The Wolverines will try to get in the win column with first-year Korbar, who will rely on four returning two-way starters in quarterback Matt Dunham, Nick Knowles, Walker Kyler and Ryan Weaver.

5-Year Trend
2017: 0-10
2016: 3-7
2015: 0-10
2014: 2-8
2013: 5-6


Head coach: Adam Jack (2nd season, 3-6)

What’s the Skinny: The preseason coaches poll had the Hubbers as the favorite. Jack has seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, led by all of their skill players back in quarterback Grant Ognen (724 yards, 7 TDs), and running backs Blake Kinner (722 yards, 5 TDs) and Nathan Hollowell (630 yards, TDs).

5-Year Trend
2017: 3-6
2016: 3-6
2015: 3-6
2014: 4-5
2013: 5-5



Head coach: Justin Marshall (2nd year, 3-7)

What’s the Skinny: Marshall will go with new quarterback Eric Schneider and his top returning receiver is Dylan McCluskey (25 catches, 413 yards, 3 TDs), who appears to be getting some carries out of the backfield this year. Also back on the line are senior Jordan Frano, junior Alex O’Harah and sophomore Bobby Kennis. Look for junior Chase Husted to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

5-Year Trend
2017: 3-7
2016: 6-5
2015: 5-6
2014: 8-3
2013: 6-5


Head coach: Tim Janocko (34th season, 263-108-3)

What’s the Skinny: The Bison have their senior quarterback returning in Isaac Rumery, who threw for 2,643 yards and 33 touchdowns along with rushing for 359 yards and eight TDs. The backfield returns intact as well with senior Ty Bender (773 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Brett Zattoni (486 yards, 3 TDs). Three of the top four receivers return, led by senior Taye Lynch (30 catches, 601 yards, 7 TDs), sophomore Jake Lezzer (29 catches, 460, 4 TDs) and senior Spencer Graham (26 catches, 377 yards, 6 TDs).

5-Year Trend
2017: 6-4
2016: 10-2, D5-6-9 Class 4A runner-up, Mountain League champion
2015: 9-2, D9 Class 3A champion, Mountain League champion
2014: 9-3, D9 Class 3A champion, D6-8-9 Class 3A runner-up
2013: 13-1, D9 Class 3A champion, D6-8-9 Class 3A champion, Mountain League champion