Coaches and football players know better than to glimpse too far down the schedule, or worse yet, overlook an opponent.
Both Richland coach Brandon Bailey and Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes admitted that sometimes they couldn’t help but think about their Week 10 date on the calendar.
“We’re real excited,” said Bailey, whose Rams are 9-0 and Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference champions for the first time. “We looked at this game since back in August.”
Hayes’ Blue Devils have also run the table through nine weeks in the Inter-County League.
“It’s a great challenge,” said the veteran Bellwood coach with 275 career wins. “It’s a great opportunity. The kids have kind of pointed towards this for a while and tried not to overlook anybody else. But as the season progressed we could see it coming. Hopefully we can play up to the challenge.”
Bellwood is ranked 10th in the state by The Harrisburg Patriot-News and third in Class A by Pennsylvania Football News. The Patriot News has Richland as a team to watch in Class AA, and PFN ranked the Rams seventh in the state.
“We’ve been fortunate to win all of our games,” Bailey said. “We’re both 9-0. We both already have wrapped up No. 1 seeds. A lot of people are saying will you rest your starters? Absolutely not.”
Richland (1,280 points) is 330 points in front of Central-Martinsburg, its nearest competitor in the District 6 Class AA rankings through nine weeks. Likewise, Bellwood (1,410) is 260 better than second-ranked Portage in 6-A.
“To play a good team like Richland, you’re going to get an idea of just where you stand one way or another,” Hayes said. “We’re fortunate in that both of us pretty much locked up our position in the seedings in the playoffs. I don’t think anybody is going to get hurt from a standpoint of a loss. It’s good competition. It should help both teams as we move forward.”
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Richland’s offense has benefited from a strong line and diverse attack. Quarterback Matt Shaffer is second in the area with 1,293 passing yards, and running back Tanner Solarczyk is second with 1,382 rushing yards. Receiver Kyle Flick tops the area with 602 yards on 35 receptions.
“They’re very balanced. They have a lot of athletes,” Hayes said. “All of them seem to be able to run well. That gives them great balance, running and throwing, but also offensively and defensively. They throw well. They run well. Put the two together and you have an outstanding team.”
Bellwood also has a versatile offense led by senior quarterback Seth Worthing, a stellar athlete who earned multiple medals in district track and was at the state track and field championships. Worthing has passed for 796 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s netted 289 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Junior Casey Gray has 1,198 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He averages 133.1 yards a game (7.3 a carry). Cameron Worthing is a senior with 15 catches for 329 yards and five scores.
“(Seth) Worthing (quarterback) is so athletic,” Bailey said. “Our scouting, we’ve seen him be in the grasp of a defender and just be able to run away to make an 80-yard run on what should have been a sack. We know he’s athletic. We’ll have to be able to contain him.
“Bellwood was the district champion in track and field last year and a lot of their kids were medal winners at the track meet. Worthing the quarterback was at the state meet in four different events.”
Each team’s defense has been solid. Richland has outscored opponents 357-98. Bellwood has a 320-113 scoring advantage.
“It’s a benchmark game for us,” Bailey said. “We’ll see where we’re at heading into the playoffs. We have a lot of respect for Bellwood and Coach Hayes. We’d like to emulate that program. We’d like to be the team that wins year after year. We’re at the beginning stage of that with our program.”
Bedford at Chestnut Ridge
This border rivalry matches two teams hoping to close the regular season on a positive note.
Bedford (2-7) beat Bishop Carroll 19-6 last week for the Bisons first victory since Week 5 against Westmont.
Ridge (4-5) has lost two straight after falling at Allegany, Md. (42-8) and Fort Hill, Md. (32-28).
The Bisons have won four straight in the series including 2011 (41-15), 2010 (28-0) and 2009 (31-20 regular season and 29-18 in 5-AA title game).
Ridge had taken three straight games from 2006 to 2008. But prior to that Bedford had dominated with 13 straight wins, including playoff contests, from 1991 through 2000. The teams tied in 1990.
An injury prevented Bedford’s Aaron Henry from passing the ball last week, so he rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile his backup, Austin Montgomery ran for 45 yards and a score.
The Bisons’ Luke Campbell has 17 catches for 325 yards. Jacob Wirick leads the area with 135 tackles.
Chestnut Ridge’s Beau Bosch is closing in on 1,000 rushing yards, with 969 on 148 carries. Bosch also has 14 touchdowns and 86 points. Matt Wiley has 115 tackles.
Tyrone at Greater Johnstown
Johnstown (3-6) is looking for a positive to build on after a tough rebuilding season. The Trojans have lost three straight games and five of six.
Sophomore receiver Kareem Gibson has 14 catches for 376 yards, a 26.21 average, and six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Wuanyi Mayo has 521 passing yards. Senior quarterback Philip Madison completed 8 of 15 passes for 98 yards in last week’s 29-24 loss to Forest Hills.
Tyrone (6-3) averages 251.4 rushing yards a game and is led by junior James Oliver’s 1,575 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Oliver averages 8.9 yards a carry. He had 343 rushing yards against Bald Eagle Area, 246 against Huntingdon and 208 against a Class A state-ranked Bellwood-Antis squad.
Central Cambria at Bishop McCort
Bishop McCort (6-3) scored a huge 37-0 win over Bishop Guilfoyle, a team which had won six straight games. That victory boosted the Crushers’ standing in the 6-A playoff chase.
McCort quarterback Zaine Tomkowski is the area’s top passer with 1,300 yards (91 of 170). Receiver Jordan Spangler is second in the area with 577 yards on an area-best 44 catches. McCort’s defense has held opponents to 39 points in the past four games, with two shutouts.
Central Cambria (2-7) fell 35-7 to undefeated Richland, one week after beating Bedford 24-6 for the Red Devils’ second victory.
Quarterback Will Seymour has passed for 641 yards, with Brandon Long making 21 catches for 308 yards and a pair of scores.
Portage at Homer-Center
Portage (8-1) got another big effort from sophomore back Caleb Kephart, who gained 157 yards and scored three touchdowns while going over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Kephart has 1,096 yards and ranks fourth in the area.
The Mustangs have won seven straight games since falling to undefeated Berlin during Week 2. Portage has scored 114 points in its past three games.
Homer-Center (6-3) is coming off a tough 48-15 loss to Heritage Conference champion Penns Manor. The Wildcats have lost two straight, including a tough 14-13 setback at Ligonier.
Bald Eagle Area at Ligonier Valley
Bald Eagle Area (6-3) opened the season with four consecutive victories but is 2-3 over the past five weeks. The Eagles routed Bellefonte 41-0 on the road last week.
BEA’s losses came to undefeated Clearfield (49-8), Tyrone (54-6) and Central (34-0), teams with a combined 22 wins. The Eagles beat one area team, Chestnut Ridge, 28-26.
Ligonier (8-1) won its second straight game, 36-26 at Northern Cambria, spoiling the Colts’ opportunity to win the Heritage Conference crown. Ryan Torrance returned to the lineup after missing a game and ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Torrance went over 1,000 rushing yards (1,078) and ranks fifth in the area.
Cambria Heights at Northern Cambria
The Coal Bowl returns for the first time in seven years and will feature a pair of winning teams in Cambria Heights (7-2) and host Northern Cambria (6-3).
The traditional border rivalry had lost some of its appeal outside the immediate area when one or both of the programs struggled. Conference scheduling often prevented the once regular series.
This year, both teams have been in the mix in their respective conferences and the district.
Cambria Heights quarterback Nathan Bearer has thrown for 687 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, with Andrew Brawley catching 18 passes for 472 yards and seven scores. Tyler Crawford’s 908 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns lead the team.
Northern Cambria quarterback Jeff Hogan has thrown for 962 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, as Adam Polites hauled in 17 passes for 472 yards and six scores. Nate Zachesky (485 yards) and Dartagnan Suchar (438) are leading rushers.
Philipsburg-Osceola vs. Forest Hills at Richland
Winless Philipsburg (0-9) will meet a hot Forest Hills (6-3) squad with four consecutive victories as the 6-AA playoffs approach. The game will be played at Richland because of poor field conditions in Sidman.
Philipsburg fell 42-7 at Clearfield last week. The Mountaineers have given up 74 points to Central, 60 to Tyrone and 56 to Line Mountain as opponents have outscored P-O by a combined 396-75.
The Rangers are led by sophomore quarterback Joe Donoughe, whose 1,081 passing yards (76 of 116) rank fourth in the area.
Blacklick Valley at Saltsburg
Blacklick (6-3) had its playoff hopes take a hit in a 36-22 loss to North Star. But the Vikings still are in contention in 10th place with 700 points – 10 behind ninth-ranked Glendale and 50 back of No. 8 Homer-Center. The top-8 teams advance in 6-A.
Saltsburg (2-7) beat Purchase Line 30-15 to end a three-game skid. Both of the Trojans wins came against teams with a combined one win.
Blacklick’s Johnny Sheesley is sixth in the area with 1,073 rushing yards. The senior broke the Vikings’ career touchdown record with 42 and has 305 career points to complement 2,152 rushing yards, 644 receiving yards and 779 passing yards during his career.
Meyersdale at Tussey Mountain
Tussey Mountain (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 32-7 victory over Mont Union last week.
The Titans’ ground game features Darrin Sipes (825 yards, eight touchdowns), Mitchell Corbin (578, six) and Tyler Husick (519, two).
Meyersdale (1-8) has dropped four straight games. Opponents have outscored the Red Raiders by a combined 310-190.
Bishop Guilfoyle at United
Guilfoyle (7-2) looks to rebound after the Marauders’ six-game winning streak was snapped in a one-sided 37-0 loss to Bishop McCort at Point Stadium.
Guilfoyle still is in the thick of the 6-A playoff field, and a win would solidify its position.
United (0-9) will conclude a tough season in which the Lions only have scored a combined 33 points while being shut out five times.
Conemaugh Valley at Purchase Line
Conemaugh Valley (3-6) has made strides this season even though the Blue Jays sit three games under .500.
Valley had a modest two-game winning streak in Weeks 6 and 7 against Meyersdale and Rockwood, respectively, and back Shane Corson is among the area rushing leaders with 1,053 yards.
A win against Purchase Line (1-8) would end the season on a high note. The Red Dragons beat winless United in Week 7 but fell to Penns Manor and Saltsburg in the past two weeks, respectively.
Berlin Brothersvalley at Windber
Undefeated Berlin (9-0, 8-0 conference) already owns at least a share of the WestPAC title. Windber (7-2, 7-1) has an opportunity to claim part of the conference crown and spoil the Mountaineers’ bid for a perfect regular season record.
Berlin’s Drew Glotfelty is third in the area with 1,285 rushing yards. In last week’s 49-12 win at Rockwood, eight different Berlin runners combined for 372 rushing yards, including Glotfelty with 119 on 14 carries.
Windber’s single wing offense has been complemented by a solid passing game this year, as Dakota Gipe has thrown for 994 yards.
Berlin has won the past two meetings, but Windber had won seven straight games from 2005 to 2009, with the teams meeting in the playoffs in both 2008 and 2009.
North Star at Conemaugh Township
North Star (7-2) has won four straight games since falling to undefeated Berlin in Week 5.
The Cougars beat a very solid Blacklick squad 36-22 last week and will encounter a traditional rival in Conemaugh Township (3-6).
The Indians snapped a four-game losing streak with a 49-0 victory over Ferndale. Township was close in three of those earlier setbacks, including 31-28 in overtime at Blacklick, 19-13 at Homer-Center and 19-6 against Windber.
North Star’s Tony Strasiser has 500 receiving yards. Township quarterback Bruno Rosa has passed for 1,067 yards. His leading receiver Ken Domonkos has 32 catches for 453 yards.
Rockwood at Shade
Rockwood (1-8) will try to end a seven-game losing streak against a Shade (5-4) program in the midst of a breakout season.
The host Panthers have an opportunity for their first six-win season since the 1998 squad went 6-3.
Shade, behind area leading rusher Brock Medva’s 1,507 yards, 11 touchdowns and 70 points, has secured a District 5 Class A playoff spot. The Panthers will make their first playoff appearance since 1989.