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District 9 Playoffs Kick Off Tonight

The D9 Playoffs begin this week with the Class A and AA semifinals, as well as the Class AAA Finals between St. Marys and Clearfield. Six other non-playoff games are also scheduled, as several teams look for their first victory of 2020.

(Photo Courtesy of: Jared Bakaysa)

D9 Class A Playoffs

Redbank Valley vs. Coudersport

The #2 seeded Redbank Valley Bulldogs will face the #3 seeded Coudersport Falcons in the first round of the D9 Class A playoffs. Redbank Valley is a perfect 4-0 on the season, defeating Union/A-C Valley and Keystone to top the Small School South Division. Redbank Valley’s defense is tenacious, and the Bulldogs have only allowed 14 total points in four games this season. Joe Mansfield leads the Bulldogs with 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks, while Hudson Martz has a team-high 27 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for a loss. The Bulldogs love to run the football, rushing for just over 150 yards per game. Martz and Ray Shreckengost are the top ball carriers for the Bulldogs, and both average around 50 rushing yards per game.

Last week, Coudersport fell to 4-1 in 2020 after losing their first game in nearly two years against Smethport. The Falcons will be eager to get back on the winning track against Redbank Valley. The Falcons’ famed triple option offense has powered Coudersport to 276 rushing yards per game this season, with both quarterback Hayden Keck and running back Brandt Kightlinger averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground. Coudersport’s defense has been beyond exceptional at forcing turnovers, snagging eight interceptions and recovering 17 fumbles in only five games.

One Thing to Watch: The matchup should be an intriguing battle of rushing defenses. Ball security will be the name of the game for the Bulldogs, who must avoid costly turnovers to put points on the board. Meanwhile, in last week’s loss, Coudersport struggled to adapt once Smethport shut down the Falcons’ triple option attack. Will Coudersport find another method of attack if Redbank is able to stuff the run?

Smethport vs. Union/ A-C Valley

The #1 seeded Smethport Hubbers will host the #4 ranked Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights in the other first round matchup in the D9 Class A playoffs. The Hubbers advanced to 5-0 after knocking off Coudersport last week. Smethport’s defense has been strong, allowing only 18 points in their five games this season, including an impressive shutout of Coudersport. Smethport’s defense has also forced eight turnovers in five games. The Hubbers’ rush heavy offense revolves around the work of quarterback Noah Lent and running back Braedon Johnson, both of whom rush for over 115 yards per game.

Union/A-C Valley is 5-1, dropping a narrow decision to Redbank Valley for their only loss of the season. The Falcon Knights’ defense has been firm, allowing no more than 14 points in any contest this season. Union/A-C Valley has forced 16 turnovers in their six games, and Caden Rainey leads the Falcon Knights with four interceptions. On offense, Tanner Merwin throws for just under 100 yards per game, with Rainey and Karter Vogle functioning as Merwin’s top targets. The Falcon Knights run by committee on offense, and five players have over 100 rushing yards this season.

One Thing to Watch: Just as in the other playoff matchup, both teams will look to ride the running game to victory. While both teams have proven they can stop high-powered rushing offenses, Smethport has more offensive firepower, and they possess the depth to go the distance. Will Union/A-C Valley be able to make a statement against their favored opponents? Do the Falcon Knights need to pass to make headway against the strong Hubbers defense?

D9 Class AA Playoffs

Brookville vs. Ridgway

In the first D9 AA Semifinal matchup, the undefeated 6-0 Brookville Raiders come in as the #1 seed. They are heavy favorites over last year’s D9 AA champion Ridgway, who is seeded fourth. The Raiders are led by their spectacular passing offense, throwing for just over 300 yards per game. Quarterback Jack Krug has 1814 passing yards and 25 touchdowns this season, making him the premier offensive threat in D9. The Raiders have a triad of 400 yard receivers in Kyle Macbeth, Brayden Kunselman, and Robert Keth, making it a challenge to slow down Brookville’s passing game. Defensively, the Raiders are skilled at forcing turnovers, notching 12 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in six games. Kyle Macbeth is Brookville’s primary defensive playmaker, snagging four interceptions and recovering two fumbles this season.

Ridgway is 3-2 in 2020, dropping both of their losses to St. Marys. Ridgway’s sturdy defense has been vital to their success, as they have forced key turnovers in each of their wins. Ridgway has 10 turnovers and 10 sacks in five games, and they will need to generate turnovers to keep pace with Brookville. The Elkers have struggled offensively this season, registering only 183 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Ben Briggs has 473 passing yards on the year, while Eric Salberg and Camron Marciniak each have over 100 yards rushing.

One Thing to Watch: Ridgway failed to contain St. Marys’ passing offense in the Elkers’ two losses, and they will have their hands full against a Brookville squad who loves to throw the football. Can Ridgway create the turnovers and stops needed to shut down Brookville’s passing game, or will the Elkers remain unable to slow another high-flying offense?

Central Clarion vs. Karns City

In the second D9 AA playoff, the #2 seeded 5-1 Central Clarion Wildcats will face the #3 seeded Karns City Gremlins, who are 4-2 this season. In the first matchup between the two teams, Karns City rode their running game to an early lead. The Gremlins saw their sizeable lead evaporate in the fourth quarter, as Central Clarion took advantage of several Gremlins’ turnovers to take a late lead. Karns City scored a last-second touchdown, but failed on their game tying two point conversion attempt, giving Central Clarion a narrow 43-41 victory.

Larry Wiser’s Central Clarion team has diverged from their traditional identity as a run-dominant offense, instead turning to a high-powered passing game to generate offense. Cal German has rewarded Wiser’s confidence, throwing for 278 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Ethan Burford leads all Wildcat receivers with 673 yards and ten touchdowns, while running back Cutter Boggess has 516 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. On defense, the Wildcats have snagged 11 interceptions in six games. Burford leads the way with four interceptions, while Ryan Hummell has three picks in 2020.

Karns City will look to continue their momentum from their dominating effort during the first three quarters of their loss to Central Clarion. The Gremlins love to run the football behind their workhorse offensive line. Despite having 908 yards of total rushing, no Gremlins player has over 200 yards on the ground, a testament to the versatility of the Gremlins offense. Cole Coon and Jayce Anderson are the top rushers for Karns City, registering 200 and 179 rushing yards respectively. On the other end of the football, the Gremlins have a solid rushing defense, allowing no more than 14 points in their four wins against run-first offenses. Unfortunately, the Gremlins have struggled to contain opposing passers, conceding 44 points to Brookville and 43 points to Central Clarion in their two losses.

One Thing to Watch: The matchup should be an exciting clash of styles. Karns City will look to use their size and power to bully Central Clarion, while the Wildcats will turn to their passing game to throw over the Gremlins. The deciding factor in their first meeting were a few costly Gremlins turnovers. Will we see the same this week?

D9 Class AAA Championship

St. Marys vs. Clearfield

In the Class AAA Title Game, St. Marys is looking to conclude their 5-0 regular season with a conference title, as they face off with 3-1 Clearfield.

The Flying Dutch have scored 220 points in five games, using a solid passing attack to pick apart opponents. Quarterback Christian Coudriet has thrown for 1218 yards and 15 touchdowns in five games. Coudriet spreads out the football on offense, as four St. Marys receivers have 200+ receiving yards. On defense, St. Marys has had a solid season, keeping opponents comfortably out of reach of their offensive output. Sean Lathrop leads the Flying Dutch with four sacks, and James Davis has an interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery.

Clearfield plies their trade in the Frontier League, and their only loss this season comes to 6-0 Central High School. The Bison have fantastic offensive balance, throwing for 184 yards per game while also rushing for 148 yards per game. Quarterback Oliver Billotte has 708 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, the majority of which are targeting Jake Lezzer, who has 470 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2020. Clearfield also has three 100+ yard rushers, as the Bison distribute their carries amongst a variety of skilled runners. The Bison don’t create a ton of turnovers on defense, but they have only allowed 45 total points in their four games. Nate Natoli leads the Bison with two interceptions.

One Thing to Watch: Clearfield has a championship pedigree, while St. Marys is looking to put cap off their perfect regular season. Clearfield will need to utilize their big game experience to force St. Marys turnovers, stopping the Flying Dutch’s passing attack. On the flip side, St. Marys will hope to avoid costly mistakes, generating the offensive rhythm and momentum necessary to pull off the upset.

D9 Non-Playoff Games

DuBois vs. Brockway

DuBois is 2-4, but their solid performances over the last few weeks have them ready to take on 2-4 Brockway. DuBois has developed a solid running game in 2020, and they have shown the defensive skill to give Central Clarion, Moniteau, and Brookville some trouble on offense. Brockway is coming off of a blowout loss to Union/A-C Valley, but Brockway has tuned in solid defensive performances against teams of their caliber. If the Rovers can avoid mistakes and stand up to DuBois’ large offensive line, Brockway should be in the mix against DuBois.

Bucktail vs. Curwensville

1-5 Bucktail is set to battle 0-4 Curwensville on Friday. Bucktail has struggled defensively this season, allowing 40+ points in 3 of their five losses. Curwensville is 0-4, but lost a barn burner to Brockway and a close contest with Keystone. If Curwensville can hold the Bucktail pass rush, the Golden Tide should be able to get their passing game rolling and take advantage of Bucktail’s leaky defense.

Punxsutawney vs. Moniteau

The 0-6 Chucks are looking for their first win of the season against 1-5 Moniteau. The first contest between the two teams saw Moniteau pull out a 21-14 win. Punxsutawney has struggled for offense in 2020, failing to score more than 14 points in a game this season. They’ll have to grapple with the solid line play and running game of Moniteau, who has a 600 yard rusher in Mason Mershimer. Moniteau should be the favorite in this contest, which promises to be a battle in the trenches.

Elk County Catholic vs. Cameron County

The 3-2 Elk County Catholic Crusaders look to add to their win total against 0-4 Cameron County. Elk County Catholic defeated Cameron County 32-6 in their first meeting. The Crusaders have a strong rushing offense, and should be heavy favorites over Cameron County. The Raiders have only scored 14 points this season, and have failed to allow less than 30 points in a game. Cameron County will need some key stops and a renewed push up front to stay competitive.

Otto-Eldred vs. Kane

The 1-3 Otto-Eldred Terrors have a solid passing offense, and they are set to grapple with 2-3 Kane’s balanced attack. The Terrors are led by quarterback Cole Sebastian, who throws for just under 200 yards per game and has seven touchdowns in 2020. Kane is driven by the passing and rushing of Zuke Smith, while running back Harley Morris leads the team in rushing yards. Kane will need to show some defensive improvement to boss the contest and stop the Terrors’ high-flying passing game.

Bradford vs. Port Allegany

The 0-5 Bradford Owls are set to face off against the 1-4 Port Allegany Gators. Bradford struggled with turnovers early in the season, but the Owls have cut down on turnovers and kept things close in each of their last two games. Port Allegany has a good passing game, but has conceded 40+ points in all four of their losses. The contest could hinge on turnovers, as both teams have a tendency to give away the football. Which side will punish the other’s mistakes?