Somerset spent the week preparing for its first foray into the postseason in six years.
The Golden Eagles (5-5) fell 21-7 to Hollidaysburg in that District 6 Class AAA first-round game in 2007.
Somerset will hope for a different outcome this time as it moves into PIAA subregional action on Friday night. The squad finished as the third seed in the District 5-6-8-9 Class AAA region and will play second-seeded University Prep at 7 p.m. at Cupples Stadium in Pittsburgh in semifinal action.
At this point in the season, Somerset coach Bob Landis is looking for consistency from his team.
“The effort from our players has been there,” Landis said. “We just have to be more consistent and eliminate turnovers. We suddenly have the turnover bug. Obviously, in big games, you cannot have turnovers. You have to force turnovers.”
The Golden Eagles (5-5) - who last won a playoff game in 1989, a 20-12 victory over Penn Cambria in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals and then fell to Bellefonte 47-8 in the championship - enter the postseason on a three-game skid, including last week’s 16-14 loss at Penn Cambria.
“We’ve lost three in a row, but we were in two of three of those games,” Landis said.
The Wildcats (5-3) also lost their last game, falling 9-6 in overtime to Perry Traditional Academy in the City Championship game.
“We just got film on them and they are very, very athletic,” the Somerset coach said. “They run a spread offense and a 4-3 cover two on defense. Their quarterback Akil Young likes to throw the ball and they use four or five wides.”
The senior quarterback has been a catalyst for the Wildcats offense, having thrown for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in the team's seven-game regular season. Against the Commodores, Young was 12 of 32 for 191 yards, but he also had three interceptions.
Marcus Johnson had five catches for 86 yards and Ryan Daniels scored the team’s lone touchdown against Perry.
Coach Lou Berry’s Wildcats average 36.4 points a game.
Somerset’s balanced offense has rushed for an average of 152 and passed for 142.7 yards per game and has scored 18.5 points a game. On defense, the Golden Eagles have allowed 20.2 points a game.
Junior quarterback Tanner Stull has completed nearly half of the passes that he has thrown this season for the Eagles, going 80 of 163 for 1,243 yards.
Stull also leads the team in rushing with 500 yards on 129 carries.
Zach Baker has 22 receptions for 397 yards and Bryce Mostoller has 17 for 291 yards. Doug Berkebile has 12 catches for 208 yards and Jordan Wilkow has 12 catches for 200 yards.
Matt Boyer has rushed for 380 yards on 70 carries with Blake Faulkner adding 331 yards on 74 carries.
“Tanner Stull makes our offense go, but I am pleased with the way our offensive line has come together,” Landis said. “Matt Boyer has found his stride in the later part of the season, but we have a lot of different players that have made significant contributions for us.”
Landis, in his second year with the Eagles, is proud of the strides forward that the team has taken.
“We’ve had a mentality change,” the Somerset coach said. “This group of juniors had some success through the system and that carries over.
“Also, there was always a core group that lifted and worked out in the off season, now the majority of our kids are in the weight room and working out. This group has something invested and is looking to continue the rebuilding effort.”
The winner of the Somerset/University Prep game will face the winner of the other semifinal between top-seeded Clearfield and No. 4 Punxsutawney.