Teams still have two weeks to collect rating points in District 5-6 Class AA, so Brandon Bailey figures it’s a bit premature to expend a lot of energy figuring out playoff scenarios.
But the Richland coach is certain of one fact.
His team’s game against visiting Penn Cambria on Friday night will have significant implications in both the 5/6-AA race and the LHAC.
“It’s really tough to try to figure everything out but from a coaching and players’ standpoint you have to take care of your own business,” said Bailey, whose 7-1 Rams currently sit in second place with 910 points,
80 behind 5/6-AA leader Tyrone.
“In terms of the league, we’re very excited. We think we have the opportunity to be tri-champs. There are three teams at 7-1 with us, Johnstown and Forest Hills. I believe if we all finish 8-1 we’d all be champs because this is the last week in the standings in the Laurel Highlands.”
Penn Cambria (6-2) won’t make the path easy for Richland.
Coach Ernie Fetzer’s squad is 6-2 with wins in five of its past six games. Last week the Panthers blanked Bedford 24-0.
“Coach Fetzer does a great job and so does his staff. They’re always in position to make the play,” Bailey said. “They have a strong running game. They can throw when they need to, and defensively they have probably two of the best linebackers in the area.”
Panthers Devin Lawhead and Mac Behe rank one and two, respectively, with 107 and 106 tackles.
“They’re about as good a tandem as I’ve ever coached,” said Fetzer, who has coached more than 40 years. “I’ve had some great linebackers over my years of coaching. To have two of them at that caliber is special.”
Fetzer’s defense will contend with a diverse offense at Richland.
“They present a lot of problems,” Fetzer said. “They are very well-schooled offensively.
“They’re a scoring machine. If you stop one thing, they have three other things they can do.
“Rizzo is a horse and a big one at that. The thing about it is they have a lot of supporting roles too.”
Rizzo is 27 yards away from reaching the career 3,000-yard rushing mark. He has carried 457 times for 2,973 yards, an average of 6.5 per carry since his freshman season. Complete official records weren’t available, but Bailey believes no one in Richland history has rushed for 3,000 yards.
Like Bailey, Penn Cambria’s Fetzer is more concerned about performing on the field than computing playoff scenarios.
“For us, every game seems to be a huge game,” Fetzer said.
“Last week was a huge game.
“The week before too. In Double-A the race is tough. There might be five or six teams with eight wins. There are going to be some teams that are 6-4 and won’t make it.”
Bailey is hoping for a strong finish and at least one home playoff date.
“It’s Senior Night. If we don’t take care of business it might be the last time those senior kids play on that surface,” Bailey said of Herlinger Field. “The difference between being seeded first and fourth or fifth is slim. One through four gets a home game in Week 1 of the playoffs.”