Dalvin Williams and Gap Barbin are two of the area’s most dominating players this football season, but the foundation of their respective success might be traced to last season.
That’s when Williams, Johnstown’s big-play senior linebacker, learned valuable lessons while playing on a unit led by Tribune-Democrat Defensive Player of the Year Alkwan Williams.
“I just watched them in practice and learned from them and how they reacted to plays and how fast they could read them,” said Dalvin Williams, the area’s leading tackler with 91 stops through six weeks. “I picked it up from there.”
A year ago, Barbin, Bishop McCort’s star two-way lineman, dealt with adversity after suffering a season-ending leg injury during the third quarter of a Week 5 game against Richland. As difficult as it was for Barbin to watch, he remained a presence in the locker room and on the field.
“Gap Barbin just has a great attitude about all things in life,” McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. “He’s very positive. He is very focused. He refuses to get down about things. So, he’s a good model for our team.”
Johnstown (3-3) will visit Bishop McCort (4-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Point Stadium in a city rivalry game that will have significant implications in the LHAC.
“Through the course of a season, through the course of a game there are always ups and downs,” Sheridan said. “It’s always about what you do with the next play, the next game, the next season. Gap Barbin lives that way.”
Barbin has made the most of his comeback senior season. The 6-foot, 198-pounder anchors a line that has allowed McCort to pass for 159.5 yards and rush for 121.8 yards a game. On defense, he’s made 51 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown in last week’s 35-0 victory at Westmont.
“The defensive end tipped the ball. It bounced right into my hands,” Barbin said. “I picked it up and saw the end zone. As an offensive and defensive lineman. ... That just doesn’t happen. I think I ran as fast as I’ve run in my life.”
Barbin and Williams almost certainly will encounter each other at the Point. Johnstown took the past two games in the series after McCort had won six in a row, and eight of nine in the rivalry.
“Dalvin brings a presence inside which makes it tough to run the ball,” Barbin said. “They’re physical. They have great team speed and they fly to the football. As far as outside runs, it makes it almost impossible.”
Dalvin Williams emerged as a junior, making 111 tackles last season, second on the team only behind Alkwan Williams’ 136.
Alkwan graduated and drew Division I interest from Temple and Pitt. That meant it was Dalvin’s turn to move into the spotlight. Even though they share the same last name – and possess extraordinary skills at linebacker – the players are not related.
Johnstown coach Tony Penna Jr. believes Dalvin Williams had plenty of motivation during practices and games last season.
Now, he’s the leader.
“Dalvin is an absolute animal out there at linebacker,” Penna said. “The guys around him are getting better every week.
“Playing with Alkwan really helped him,” Penna added. “He’s explosive. He’s strong and he’s tough. He’s a real quiet kid and he doesn’t say too much. He has a nose for the football.
“When you watch tape, he’s a guy you marvel at. He’s the real deal.”
This season the Trojans are a relatively young bunch. Injuries and a few defections have also affected the lineup on an almost weekly basis.
“We just show up to practice on Monday, ready to play the next team,” Dalvin Williams said. “I’m just trying to help the defense out and hopefully be the leader. I want to step up and carry the team.”
Sheridan expects to see plenty of him on Friday. The 6-2, 200-pound Williams has four sacks, one blocked punt and a fumble recovery.
“Dalvin Williams is very instinctive and he covers a lot of ground,” the Crushers coach said. “He has a knack as a blitzer. He plays well side to side but he also does a good job of playing gaps and timing the counts and spending time in the other team’s backfield. He’s always around the ball.”
Likewise, Johnstown’s Penna will focus on Barbin.
“They get off the ball. They’re tremendous up front, and it all starts with Barbin,” Penna said. “He’s so impressive.”
Chasing 1,000: Several running backs have positioned themselves to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.
Shade’s Brock Medva leads the area with 973 rushing yards. Ligonier’s Ryan Torrance (898), Berlin’s Drew Glotfelty (864), Richland’s Tanner Solarczyk (791) and Blacklick Valley’s Johnny Sheesley (766) round out the top-5.
Passing lane: McCort’s Zaine Tomkowski quietly moved into the area’s top passing spot with 957 yards (67 of 121 pass attempts, seven touchdowns, four interceptions).
Richland’s Matt Shaffer (844) and Ferndale’s Chad Eisenhuth (808) also have more than 800 passing yards. Shaffer had led the statistics most of the year, but the undefeated Rams’ diverse offense has really established the running game behind junior Solarczyk during the past two weeks. Solarczyk had five touchdowns in a win at Somerset last week, and he had both TDs in a narrow 17-14 win over McCort in Week 5.
Scoring machine: Ligonier’s Ryan Torrance leads the area with 18 touchdowns and 112 points. Glotfelty is second with 13 TDs and 78 points.
Ligonier’s Maddy Grimm has an area-high 31 kicking points.
Win column: It wasn’t easy, but Ferndale snapped a
24-game losing streak on the field with a dramatic 34-32 overtime victory against visiting Rockwood on Saturday.
The Jackets had built an 18-0 advantage only to watch the Rockets storm back and force OT.
Ferndale technically had a forfeit win over Freedom Academy during Week 9 in 2010.
The victory helped the Jackets, especially their seniors, celebrate homecoming.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.