By Rich Rhoades
Another high school football season in District 9 gets started Friday night and the district’s 25 teams are involved in 14 games, with two kickoffs scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
While the Allegheny Mountain League begins with a cross-over round of scheduling, the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference has five divisional games on the docket. In the KSAC-Large School Division, defending champion Karns City hosts Brookville while Moniteau hosts Punxsutawney. In the KSAC-Small, defending champion Clarion hosts A-C Valley while Redbank Valley visits Clarion-Limestone. Union travels to Keystone.
Elsewhere, the four AML cross-over games Friday night have Coudersport hosting Elk County Catholic, defending champion Kane visiting Cameron County, Port Allegany playing under the lights at home for the first time against Curwensville and Smethport hosting Brockway.
In Friday night non-conference matchups, Bradford hosts St. Marys, DuBois travels to Mifflin County and Clearfield goes out of state to play Keyser, W.V.
Saturday in 1:30 p.m. kickoffs, Ridgway visits Sheffield and Otto-Eldred hosts District 10’s Sharpsville.
Below is a preview of each classification and playoff setup along with a quick look at each team.
Total Teams: 17 (Kane, Brockway, Ridgway, Curwensville, Clarion, Port Allegany, Keystone, Otto-Eldred, Clarion-Limestone, Redbank Valley, Coudersport, Sheffield, Smethport, A-C Valley, Elk Co. Catholic, Union, 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.
Pre-seeded bracket (top to bottom): AML-1 vs. At-Large 2; KSAC-2 vs. AML-3; KSAC-1 vs. At-Large 1; AML-2 vs. AML-4.
Playoff schedule: First Round, Week 11 (Nov. 7-8); Semifinals, Week 12 (Nov. 14-15); Championship, Week 13 (Nov. 21-22). D9 champion plays D10 champion Week 14 (Nov. 28-29) at a D10 site in the PIAA playoffs.
Playoff teams last year: Clarion, Union, Smethport, Brockway, Ridgway, Redbank Valley, Sheffield and Curwensville.
The Skinny: It was an all-KSAC final last year with Clarion routing Redbank Valley to win it all. The Bobcats will certainly be back and they’re the favorite out of the gate. Who else can challenge them? Kane dropping down from Class AA will bolster the contender list. Brockway, Ridgway, Redbank Valley and Curwensville are all legitimate playoff teams as well.
Total Teams: 4 (St. Marys, Brookville, Karns City and Moniteau)
Maximum number of teams in playoffs: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system.
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Week 11 (Nov. 7-8); Championship, Week 12 (Nov. 14-15). D9 champion meets District 5-8 champion in Week 13 (Nov. 21-22).
Playoff teams last year: Kane, Karns City, St. Marys and Brookville.
The Skinny: The Gremlins have enough back to be considered the heavy favorites. Who the Gremlins play in the district final will be the big question. With Kane moving down to Class A again, the second-best team in this classification isn’t a slam-dunk.
Total Teams: Three in D9 (Clearfield, Punxsutawey and Bradford) with two playing in district final in Week 10 (Oct. 31-Nov. 1). Then in the more important District 5-6-8-9 sub-regional playoff, four teams qualify. District 5 team: Somerset. District 6 teams: Bellefonte, Johnstown. District 8 team: University Prep.
Maximum number of teams in sub-regional playoff: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Week 11 (Nov. 7-8); Championship, Week 12 (Nov. 14-15). Winner advances to play the District 4 champion Week 13 (Nov. 21-22).
Playoff teams last year: Clearfield, Johnstown, Somerset, University Prep.
The Skinny: The Bison are retooling, but likely will be in the mix to contend for another sub-regional crown.
Class AAAA (District 6-9)
Total Teams: Three from District 6 (State College, Mifflin County and Central Mountain) and DuBois from District 9.
Maximum number of teams in playoffs: 4
Selection process: PIAA ranking system.
Playoff schedule: Semifinals, Week 11 (Nov. 7-8); Championship, Week 12 (Nov. 14-15).
Playoff teams last year: Just three entered, with DuBois earning the top seed into the finals with Mifflin County playing State College in the semifinal matchup.
The Skinny: The Beavers, first and foremost, have the stated goal of winning a postseason game. That hasn’t happened since 1996 and they’re 0-9 since, including a 41-21 loss in the finals to Mifflin County last year. The Beavers will contend once again with most of their offense returning.
Allegheny Mountain League
Head coach: Mike Kunes (2nd year, 3-7)
What’s the Skinny? Keith Spehalski will be the new quarterback for the Red Raiders under second-year head coach Mike Kunes.
2010: 8-4, AML runner-up
2009: 10-2, AML runner-up
Head coach: Chris Fink (5th year, 20-18)
What’s the Skinny? The Falcons are young with just four seniors on the roster and they have to replace almost all of the key positions because of graduation. Junior Darren Keglovits is the new quarterback.
2009: 9-3, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Virgil Graham (5th year, 11-29)
What’s the Skinny? Sophomore Seth Drummond led the Terrors with 673 yards rushing and receiving with 26 catches for 432 yards. Senior Nick Appleby is the new quarterback.
Head coach: Justin Bienkowski (1st year)
What’s the Skinny? Junior quarterback Jordan Seefeldt is back after passing for 971 yards last year. He may see some time at running back with freshman Jake Kallenborn pushing for some time at quarterback. Junior defensive back Mac Tanner is the leading returning tackler on defense. Justin Bienkowski is the new Gators coach.
2012: 13-1, D9 Class A champion, AML champion
2011: 12-1, D9 Class A champion, AML champion
2010: 7-5, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Dave Fitch (3rd year, 8-14)
What’s the Skinny? The defending AML-North champs have senior quarterback Adam Higby back. He threw for over 1,100 yards.
Head coach: Jim Berlin (3rd year, 9-11)
What’s the Skinny? The Hubbers have senior quarterback Dustin Zetwick back. He threw for 770 yards and rushed for 525 yards, which ranked him second on the team. Junior Adam Shunk rushed for 429 yards.
Head coach: Frank Zocco (3rd year, 16-8)
What’s the Skinny? The Rovers look to the running game to lead the way now as two 1,000-yard receivers return to lead the way in Anthony Benson and Anthony Isabella. Benson also ran for 615 yards. Either junior Braden Martini or sophomore Hunter Miller will start at quarterback.
2011: 8-4, AML South champion/AML runner-up
2010: 12-1 D9 Class AA champion, AML champion
2009: 8-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
Head coach: Andy Evanko (15th year, 114-42)
What’s the Skinny? The Tide have a big roster with 53 players — only two freshmen — which will help replace several key graduated players from last year’s playoff team. Junior Hunter Johnson is the top returning rusher with 209 yards while either senior Travis Lansberry or junior Jake Terry will take over at quarterback. A big key for the Tide is that four offensive lineman starters return.
2010: 11-2, Class A champion
2009: 9-3, AML champion
Elk County Catholic
Head coach: Tony Gerg (2nd year, 0-9)
What’s the Skinny? It’s the second year for coach Tony Gerg. Senior quarterback Mitchell Smith and Jonathan Dippold were the team’s top rushers last year.
Head coach: Todd Silfies (3rd year, 18-5)
What’s the Skinny? Last year’s Class AA runner-up drops down to Class A. The Wolves return the district’s top returning rusher in John English (1,307 yards, 13 TDs) along with their own top three rushers in junior Tyler Rolick and senior fullback James Lingenfelter, who also led the team with 135 tackles.
2013: 11-1, D9 Class AA runner-up
2012: 7-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
Head coach: Mark Heindl (7th year, 20-40)
What’s the Skinny? The Elkers return senior quarterback Ben MacDonald, who passed for 1,147 yards and led the team with 570 yards rushing. They’ll run the wing-T offense and also have senior Cole Myers, who ran for 450 yards.
Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference
Large School Division
Head coach: Chris Dworek (18th year at Brookville, 105-90; 19th overall, 109-95)
What’s the Skinny? The Raiders will try to replace their all-time leading rusher and graduated Zach Vroman as quarterback Bobby McGranor returns for his second year as a starter. Jonah Sampson looks to be the No. 1 running back and is the leading returning tackler on defense at linebacker.
2010: 9-3, D9 Class AA runner-up
Head coach: Ed Conto (15th year at Karns City, 127-41; 25th overall, 150-105-3)
What’s the Skinny? The Gremlins are ranked No. 10 in Class AA by the PFN. They have enough back to be considered the heavy favorite in the division and Class AA. Senior Cody Deal is a PFN preseason all-stater at linebacker and either Deal or Caleb King will be the new quarterback.
2013: 12-2, D9 Class AA champion, KSAC-Large School champion
2012: 10-4, D9 Class AA champion, KSAC-Large School champion
2011: 8-4, D9 Class AA runner-up
2009: 10-3, D9 Class AA champion, KSAC Co-Champion
Head coach: Wade Vogan (1st year)
What’s the Skinny? The Warriors have a new coach in Wade Vogan. Senior quarterback Cody Skiver is back after passing for 916 yards and rushing for 672 yards.
2011: 12-1, D9 Class AA champion, KSAC-Large School champion
Head coach: Alan Nichol (6th year at Punxsutawney, 30-24; 10th overall, 41-41)
What’s the Skinny? The Chucks return key players in quarterback Dakota Thomas, running back Perry Arrington, receiver Dakota Byers and Dalton Maines.
2010: 10-1, D9 Class AAA runner-up, KSAC-Large School champion
2009: 9-3, D9 Class AAA champion, KSAC Co-Champion
Head coach: Tony Defilippi (6th overall at St. Marys, 12-38; 10th career, 44-52)
What’s the Skinny? The Flying Dutchmen have a new head coach in Tony Defilippi, who coached four years at Cameron County from 2005-08. Junior Nick Cunninghman passed for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and his top receiver returns in junior Brady Bauer, who caught 40 balls and six TDs. Nate and Jordan Straub will try to replace graduated workhorse Alex Feldbauer.
2011: 5-5, D9 Class AAA runner-up
Small School Division
Head coach: Brad Dittman (3rd year, 3-16)
What’s the Skinny? Junior quarterback Evan Redding is back after passing for 723 yards and rushing for 219 yards. Two of the top three receivers are back, including seniors Cody Jones and Hunter Defibaugh, who’s the leading returning tackler as a linebacker. The Falcons are on a 12-game losing streak.
Head coach: Larry Wiser (26th year overall, 180-84-1)
What’s the Skinny? The Bobcats have been untouchable in the division since the conference split into two parts prior to the 2010 season. Will anything be different in the divisional race? It’ll be hard to bet against the Bobcats, who could be the favorites to repeat their District 9 Class A title. as they’re ranked No. 8 in the state by the Pennsylvania Football News. Head coach Larry Wiser enters his 26th season and he has 1,200-yard rusher and senior Ian Corbett back. Corbett is a PFN Class A preseason all-state selection as a defensive lineman. He may move to outside linebacker, teaming up with senior Destin Strauser who led the team in tackles from the outside backer stop. He’ll be in the middle this year. The Bobcats’ new quarterback will be a junior, either Taylor Smith or Brendan Miller. One will be a receiver.
2013: 14-1, D9 Class A champion, KSAC-Small School champion
2012: 12-1, D9 Class A runner-up, KSAC-Small School champion
2011: 8-5, D9 Class A runner-up, KSAC-Small School champion
2010: 5-6, KSAC-Small School champion
2009: 10-4, D9 Class A champion
Head coach: Dave Eggleton (2nd year, 2-7)
What’s the Skinny? The Lions enter the year with a freshman quarterback in Brendan Makray running the offense. Sophomore running back Mike Macefe is the leading returning rusher.
Head coach: Dan Reed (9th year overall, 1st in second stint, 38-37)
What’s the Skinny? Dan Reed is back coaching the Panthers. He coached them for eight years with his first tenure ending in 2003. Zach Stiglitz returns after leading the team in rushing and quarterback Austin Chambers moves to tight end. The new QB is senior Bryce Altman.
Head coach: Ed Wasilowski (15th year overall, 3rd in second stint, 75-58)
What’s the Skinny? Fourth-year starting quarterback Jake Dougherty leads the Bulldogs, needing just 102 yards to break the team’s career passing yardage record. Last year, he passed for 1,612 yards and 12 touchdowns. Connor Shoemaker is the top returning receiver with 21 catches for 251 yards.
2013: 8-4, D9 Class A runner-up
Head coach: Dave Louder (5th year, 24-19)
What’s the Skinny? The Knights return their starting quarterback in Lane Cicciarelli, who broke the team’s single-season yardage record last year and finished with 1,682 yards with 18 touchdowns. One of his top targets was senior Chet Carmichael, who is also a threat running the ball. He caught 30 balls for 601 yards and ran for 204 yards.
Head coach: Jeff Puglio (6th year, 23-27)
What’s the Skinny? The Owls return almost their entire lineup, including senior quarterback Zach Bartlebaugh who will run the team’s traditional wing-T offense. Junior Alex Colosimo led the Owls in rushing with 626 yards.
2012: 4-6, D9 Class AAA runner-up
Head coach: Frank Varischetti (4th year at DuBois, 22-10; 7th overall, 52-26)
What’s the Skinny? The triumverate of quarterback Gabe French, running back Devin Clark and receiver Bryson Paulinellie give the Beavers plenty of ammunition going into the season. French threw for over 2,700 yards and 27 TDs while Paulinellie caught 71 passes for 1,262 yards. Clark rushed for 1,235 yards and 22 TDs.
Head coach: Tim Janocko (30th year, 229-96-3)
What’s the Skinny? The Bison retool with a likely quarterback rotation in junior Cody Spaid and senior Erik Sellers. Spaid will start while Sellers sees time at running back. Sophomore Seth Caldwell ran for 800 yards as a freshman. Senior kicker Spencer Herrington is a Pennsylvania Football News Class AAA preseason all-stater.
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
2011: 11-2, D9 Class AAA champion, Mountain League-Allegheny Division champion
2010: 13-1, D9 Class AAA champion, Mountain League-Allegheny Division champion
2009: 7-4, D9 Class AAA runner-up