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2005 Helmets and Sweats

Helmets and Sweats #1

I have come to not trust weathermen over the years. The conspiracy theorist in me believes they are in cahoots with the grocery store owners, especially in the winter. Freak snow storms turn out to be nothing more than a dusting but try finding a loaf of bread or gallon of milk in your local Giant Eagle.

Yes, I expected the weather of Hurricane Katrina to travel north and cause much rain but not the level we saw last year with the flooding following Hurricane Ivan. But every weather report I saw promised that things would clear up by the weekend and the FolkFest and high school football would be played on nice dry fields all over the region.

Needless to say I was concerned when I heard a pretty hard rainstorm two nights ago. Although it only last about 15 minutes, it was coming down pretty hard. Even if there is a lot of sun the next few days, will it be enough to dry the fields around the region?

I know what you’re thinking, who cares? We have an artificial surface, weather does not matter. Slow down. Anyone that watched the Pennsylvania Kickoff Classic this past Saturday can see rain can cause problems regardless of the surface. Central Catholic’s Nate Williams fumbled in two key situations for the Vikings while they were deep in St. Edward’s territory. The fake grass doesn’t make the ball less slippery and towels can only keep the ball so dry. Plus, if the towel is wet you could just be wiping the water around the ball and not completely off it.

Aside from that, rain and wet weather conditions can wreak havoc on a passing game. I think Jerry Davitch and Brian Mangiafico are still cringing from all that rain they got out in Canon MacMillan for a 1990 playoff game that saw the Trojans take on Hopewell. Many in the Trojan Nation also remember yet another WPIAL/PIAA laughable “neutral site” but… …another day! Tony Dorsett’s alma mater crushed the Trojans 45-7 and kept JHS from making a Three Rivers Stadium appearance in the WPIAL championships.

A wet ball is difficult to throw and catch. Gloves worn by receivers can also add to the problems as they get wet during the game to the point of saturation. This was most likely the problem Williams had for Central over the weekend.

The rain would probably affect the Trojans passing game horizontally rather than vertically. I say because of high-risk vs. low-risk. If you go deep and the ball is intercepted, chances are the pass acts as a punt and pins the opponent deep in their own end of the field. If timing passes to the flat or quick hitches or outs are disrupted by rain an interception could be a disaster, a pick-six if you will.

I know, I know, the forecasts are all for good weather and I hope they’re right, but I’ll believe it when I see it!

In other news regarding the Trojans the Harrisburg Patriot-News released its preseason football rankings yesterday. They have JHS listed as an honorable mention team in Class AAA and I believe that is a fair assessment of things around the state at AAA. HPN is the second outlet to give the Trojans an Honorable Mention listing as Pennsylvania Football News listed them as a “team to watch”.

There are some slight differences in the two lists but the overtone is the same: the usual suspects. Thomas Jefferson, Berwick, Manheim Central, Strath Haven and West Allegheny are programs that have graced the elite of the class for at least five years, many more in some cases. Truthfully I could see scenarios where Johnstown could actually slip from honorable mention status because other programs moving up the ranks. This is no knock on the Trojans per se, but it has everything to do with the reputation that District 6 and LHAC have on a statewide level. Teams from the WPIAL and District 2, 3 or 4, all things being equal with the teams, will normally get the nod. Not that I think this is fair or right but the way I look at it is it really doesn’t matter. Rankings, especially at this point of the season are for websites like this and newspapers to create to stir the pot.

I still think the Trojans will handle their business in the 6-AAA scene and be at Mansion Park again playing for the D-6 title. If they do it under the radar of the statewide pundits, that’s probably all the better.

And now for a couple of parting shots from down here in WPIAL-land where I telecommute to the Nation from each day! Although the Pennsylvania Kickoff Classic got a lot of coverage over the weekend there were two games that slide under the mainstream radar. The first was Aliquippa-Ambridge which is a heated, “battle for the bridge” type rivalry. Don Yanessa cut his coaching teeth out at The Pit in Aliquippa but things haven’t gone well for him since leaving, first for greener pastures at Quad-A Baldwin and now at Ambridge. He has yet to beat the Quips since he has left them even though his Bridgers this year were highly favored over a young upstart Aliquippa squad that is not only starting some sophomores but some freshmen as well. Oh, and don’t forget, the Quips are “playing up” as their enrollment would allow them play at Class A but they opt to play at AA.

I wonder how many of the Class A titles Southern Columbia has won in the past would remain in their trophy case if the Quips would participate at their proper classification? Truthfully, some of their teams in the past five years would have contended at AAA.

The other story was from a game that didn’t happen. Greensburg Central Catholic was set to face off against Duquesne on Saturday afternoon but there was one minor detail missing: no officials!!! Now, this isn’t like City Colt league where you can just offer $10 to some schmoe in the stands and let him ump the game!

Officials not showing up for a varsity game in the WPIAL, the biggest athletic district in the commonwealth! I’m not sure what’s lamer, the incident itself or their excuse. It seems that rather than driving to Duquesne High School they drove to Duquesne University! I sure hope some harsh verbal reprimands and/or suspensions will be handed down in the case. There is absolutely no excuse for officials showing up for games.

I sure hope the crew gets to the Trojan Stadium on time Friday… maybe they’ll head up to UPJ instead!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

Helmets and Sweats #2

Here we are, one day away from week two of the season already. This is the day coaches do some fine tuning and have that final walk through before the big game Friday night. Teams spend all week preparing for their opponent and if you're not ready for them by now, you won't be ready come tomorrow!

After leading the dust settle on the Central game there is one aspect I'd like to highlight and that is the highly efficient passing games that both teams used. Brandon Hody completed 80% of his passes while Chad Saylor was good on 77% of his. And make no mistake about it, these weren't all low percentage, west coast style throws. Saylor stretched the field quite nicely when he hit Kody Stiffey for a touchdown as did Hody on hookups with Xavier Thomas.

Is our area evolving with the rest of the football world and taking pages out of Urban Meyer's playbook? One might say yes. Although teams might not be emulating that offense to a tee, a quick peek around the LHAC sees some pretty talented quarterback play. Travis Rearick looked good back in the first preseason scrimmage and from the highlights package against Richland he's still throwing the ball well. Mike Sheridan at McCort had two touchdown passes in the Crushers' win over Central Cambria. Sophomore Marco Pecora calls the signals at a much improved Richland squad and started a year ago as a freshmen. If he stays healthy, he'll probably be a four-year starter at quarterback. That is almost unheard of, even for a Class A school. Bishop Carroll was running plays out of shotgun against Cambria Heights Friday night. Make no mistake about LHAC coaches know if they want to be successful in conference play and beyond they have to be balanced.

Sure, none of these kids is a bona fide Division 1 big time recruit as of right now but they serve their purposes well. They make throws and help their teams win without too many mistakes. For instance, between Hody and Saylor Friday night they threw 28 passes, none being intercepted and five were for touchdowns. The quarterback isn't simply the guy handing off to the running backs anymore. The guy has to be able to make plays and the LHAC QBs named above can do just that.

It used to be that the weather in Western Pennsylvania was a deterrent to the passing game. Well, pretty soon more teams will have artificial surfaces than won't so even in cold, rainy weather as long as the ball is kept dry QBs and WRs will be able to do their thing. Even in the WPIAL, where old-timers are still complaining that Dan Marino (or "Danny" as he was known as back then) didn't throw enough when he was at Central Catholic, times are changing. Two weeks ago Gateway's Aaron Smith took every snap, even to take a knee at the end of the game, from shotgun! Keith Howell at Woodland Hills, Kevan Smith at Seneca Valley and Desmond Brantley of Perry of the City League are all capable QBs.

Now, back to Johnstown's opponent Penn Cambria. They used two quarterbacks in their week one win over Somerset and from an article in the Tribune Democrat today it appears they will do the same this week alternating with each possession between Luke Tomaselli and George Klayko. I'm normally not a fan of this type of system, as the saying goes "if you are playing two quarterbacks that means you don't have one". However, I'd give Fetzer the benefit of the doubt here. He's in his first season at Penn Cambria with a new system and he's getting to learn the players he has and how they fit. Give him time and he'll probably settle on one. If one QB doesn't separate from the other you no choice but to play two.

So the balance I was calling for last year appears to be here in 2005. Not only from the Trojans but around the league, the district and the state for that matter. This is especially important at the big school classifications. Last years' PIAA champions at AAAA and AAA (Central Catholic and Thomas Jefferson respectively) were both able to throw the ball. As you advance deep in the playoffs you see the less balanced teams getting eliminated and the more balanced squads advancing. CC and TJ have had fantastic QB play the past few seasons and this year is no different.

ELSEWHERE: Boy, it appears that Woody High is back. The Wolverines have had a few sub par, at least by their high standards, seasons in Turtle Creek but this year's team appears to be stacked. We've already mentioned Howell the QB, but how about the play of Marcel Farish at running back. He was also spelled by Darrin Walls and the WR play of Wes Lyons. Gateway, a team that beat a big time Ohio program in Benedictine a week ago, came into the Wolvarena and got beat by 20 points. In fact, Woody High was 2 points away from putting up a 50-spot on the Gators. Yes, it appears as if the Wolvarena mystique may be back. This school just puts out big time players. Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy are at Michigan, Devon Lyons is at Ohio State, Chris Morgan is busy setting rushing records at IUP.

Many scholastic sports fans in the state know the name Lance Jeter from the defending PIAA champion Beaver Falls basketball team but did you know he is starring on the football field as well? In two games for the Tigers he has 278 yards receiving and is a two-sport threat similar to our own Xavier Thomas who is also starting point guard of the defending PIAA runner-up Trojan basketball team.

Sometimes a rule is outdated but it is still the rule and therefore you need to take advantage of it. Two from the kicking game are big weapons in my eyes. The first is the fact that a kickoff in the endzone is automatically a touchback and cannot be brought out. I think that the skill players have improved and the game has changed and they should be allowed to bring the kick out. However, the rule is the rule and you can't argue. What you can do is take advantage of it. State College's kicker did a fine job of keeping some of Bishop McDevitt's talented return men from even getting a chance. A few seasons ago Bishop McCort's Marc Domonkos only had one kickoff against JHS not go for a touchback and Greg Nash made him pay as he took it to the house.

The other rule regarding the kicking game is that a missed field is spotted at the 20 rather than the spot of the missed kick. This makes the long field try less of a risk than it is in the college or pro game. As long as the kick isn't blocked it really could act the same as a punt. If you have a kicker with a strong leg, why not give it a shot?

VCR/TiVo Alert: If you want to record the Pitt/Ohio U. game on ESPN2 tomorrow night since you'll be at the game you have two chances. The live broadcast is at 8:00 but they will be replaying the game at 3AM as well. I'm predicting LaRod will get his first college touchdown.

 

Helmets and Sweats #3

9/15/05

So here we are, week three and the Trojans are 1-1. It’s like I say to people when they ask me how I’m doing: “it could be better, it could be worse.” This is a pivotal week in the season though. Besides wanting to get back on the winning side of things, there are three points to be made about action this week. Let us break each one down briefly.

First, it is the first weekend of sectional play. LHAC teams are going to be playing the teams they face every year. Many of the games are either natural or geographic rivalries. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that these games don’t mean more, a win is a win in this conference, but I think it’s a signal that the season is really underway. Sure teams have two scrimmages prior to their first game but those are just tune ups. You don’t see a lot of what teams will run in games, that’s either by design or rule.

A coach and to a certain extent a player is going to say the politically correct thing that each game is as important as the next. I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that a team should look past an opponent. However, I know how I felt going up against Bishop McCort as a player and I can’t say I would feel the same way about Central or Penn Cambria. Sure Forest Hills and to a lesser extent Bedford are non-section exceptions to that rule but I would think most people look to the Bishop McCort and Bishop Carroll as the big games on the docket.

On the geographic side of things it’s more of the same. JHS will bus it up the hill to Price Field to play Westmont. Next week they will be visited by Richland. These are kids that run in to each other in the malls. They might play summer league baseball or go to football or basketball summer camps with them, they know them. They fraternize with them, whether it be friendly or unfriendly. I don’t think that dynamic is there with kids that live in Martinsburg or Cresson or Lilly or Patton.

This is part of the reason there was a lack of public outcry when the JHS/Altoona rivalry was dumped. Don’t get me wrong because I would long for the chance to play the Mountain Lions week one every year again. However, with the conference setups as they are it is just not feasible. JHS/McCort is the right rival, it’s a city thing. It’s like Pitt doesn’t play Penn State so West Virginia has turned out to be just as fierce a rivalry. If one thing the LHAC schedule does right, it’s that it pits JHS and McCort in the same section, therefore they play against each other every year.

Secondly, this week will end the first third of the regular season in the LHAC. Although I’m a proponent of going back to a 10-game regular season I think that’s a thing of the past, especially when you’ve got the WPIAL starting a week early and only running an 8-game regular season. The rest of the state will follow suit with that before going back to playing more regular season games. To go 2-1 in each third of the season leaves you with a 6-3 record. For the Trojans that would be good enough to qualify for the district playoffs. Lose one game that you should win in each third and you’re sitting at home with a 3-6 record come November. It is key that the Trojans get this victory if nothing else to keep the pace.

A look ahead at the schedule shows two winnable games (Somerset and Richland, although the Rams are much improved) before the battles with the Bishops show up. JHS cannot afford to lose any games they should win on paper prior to those games in October. This starts with Saturday and handling their business at Westmont.

Lastly, I’ll give you one word: playoffs. Sure, you can play it over and over in your head like Jim Mora and that famous sound bite (Playoffs? Playoffs?) however the landscape of the 6-AAA may be changing. A look at the standings shows Bellefonte off to a hot start, Huntington to be improved and whoa… break up the Lewistown Panthers. This young, upstart squad out of Mifflin County has started off the season 2-0, not bad for a program that was 1-18 the last two seasons. On the bubble could be last year’s fourth place qualifier Central Mountain, Indian Valley and dare I say… Johnstown. With no AAA teams on the schedule the maximum amount of points for a victory is 80 for a win over a AA school. The other teams in the hunt all play a few more games against AAA opponents.

I know it’s early, but everyone’s goal should be getting back to the playoffs and defending the district crown. Saturday is the first step in that goal.

By the way, not to pat myself on the back but did anyone notice my prediction about the Pitt game last weekend made in this very column came true? LaRod scored his first college touchdown in the overtime loss to Ohio U. Set your VCRs and TiVos again because Pitt is at Nebraska on ABC. No predictions this week, just enjoy the game and hope our hometown hero continues to represent the blue and black well!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Helmets and Sweats #4

Here we go, week four is the second week of section play in the LHAC. Johnstown against Richland is just one of the key match ups of the week. The Trojans desparately need the win, if for anything, to boost their confidence. The Rams on the other hand, are an improved squad that could be primed to make some noise this year and beat some teams that they normally would have lost to in the past. Right now, Johnstown is their best shot at that goal. Expect a very hard fought game this Friday at Trojan Stadium. This is a Rams team that had Forest Hills on the ropes for most of that week one game before the Rangers pulled away. They looked explosive in their win over Cambria Heights and they really played Bishop Carroll tough this past week. Brandon Bailey definitely has the program in the right direction.

Elsewhere in the league, the marquee match up in the conference is the annual "Battle of the Bishops" as Johnstown's Bishop McCort travels to Penn Cambria Stadium to take on Ebensburg's Bishop Carroll. Both squads are 3-0 and both squads look very strong. The Crushers were very impressive in their road victory over Bedford a few weeks back. Bedford is notoriously a tough place to win at. They have also taken care of Central Cambria and Somerset with ease. The Huskies on the other hand have returned to the form that saw them advance to the PIAA Class A final a few years ago. Running their entire offense from shotgun, Paul Forcellini still has been able to put up big numbers. This game could come down to what team's defensive unit makes a big stop in a key situation.

Penn Cambria travels to the afore mentioned tough venue of Bedford to take on the Bisons. Are the Panthers the worse 3-0 team and the Bisons the best 1-2? We'll see it settled on the field Friday night. Ernie Fetzer has PC off to their best start in years as they have been able to utilize rushing specialist QB Luke Tomaselli as well as mixing up the inside/outside game alternating fullback and tailback runs so well, they barely have had to pass. In their victory over JHS, they only attempted 3 passes the entire game. Bedford, on the other hand has a little bit of momentum as they are coming off a big win over section rival Forest Hills after dropping their first two non-sectional games.

Westmont travels to Somerset to take on the Golden Eagles and will most likely improve to 3-1 and 2-0 in the conference. They can also gain valuable bonus points as Somerset is a Class AAA team so if they win they get more points in the playoff standings. Look for big games from their offensive catalysts, Kanuch, McCloskey and Vrabel.

Both Forest Hills and Central Cambria should gain LHAC section wins this week. The Rangers will take on the Scarlet Dragons of Central while the Red Devils will face off against the Highlanders of Cambria Heights. Look for the Central kids to give the Rangers all they got, that program consistently plays big teams well. As for CC/CH, Chris Mangus just doesn't have the numbers coming out to play football to be competitive in the LHAC. Besides, Central Cambria is coming off the stinging loss to Penn Cambria which saw them reliquish the Goal Post Trophy. What better way to take out your frustration than by blowing out your next opponent?

As for the 6-AAA scene, as grim as things have been thus far for the Trojans, they are still sitting in third place in the standings. Big game in Bellefonte as the Red Raiders will host 9-AAA Clearfield in a battle of 3-0 teams in which someone will have to lose. Both teams are ranked in the Honorable Mention in Class AAA by the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Huntingdon takes on Lewistown, and after that game both squads should be 2-2 as the Bearcats should win although we can't sell the Panthers short. They are improved and could make a run, I just think the Bearcats have more firepower. Indian Valley travels to Punxsutawney to take on the 9-AAA Chucks. It's a 1-2 team versus a winless team in a game that will take place in Jefferson County. Rounding out the 6-AAA lineup, Central Mountain (0-3) plays at 1-2 Red Land, a District 3 team that plays in the Mid Penn Conference.

Johnstown has fallen off the Patriot-News and PFN rankings and with good reason. You shouldn't even be mentioned in the "teams to watch" type category after back-to-back losses to Penn Cambria and Westmont. Not that rankings should be the most important thing in the world right now, I would put getting a win as the most important thing currently. That being said, the 6-AAA scene is pretty weak this year. In the most recent PFN poll no D6-AAA team is noted in the top ten or teams to watch. Only Bellefonte represents the district in the Patriot-News poll. These two polls are pretty much the standard for statewide ranking in Pennsylvnaia.

So while it's nice to be ranked, it doesn't matter where you start the season, only where you finish it. For Johnstown, the goal is to finish in the top four of the seven 6-AAA teams, preferably 1 or 2 so they can host the first round game.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

Helmets and Sweats #5

Week Five is nearly upon us and “Helmets and Sweats” takes its weekly look around what’s going on in the LHAC and the District 6-AAA scene.

Although there are no must-see match ups this week that have the prestige as the Bishop McCort/Bishop Carroll game did a week ago but the Saturday afternoon match up between Bishop Carroll and Westmont is somewhat intriguing. Most will look at this as a Brad Kanuch vs. Paul Forcellini spotlight type game but neither of these teams is a one-trick pony for sure. BC’s QB Brock Lauer (30-49, 385 yards and 3 TDs) and wideout Adam Crookshank have also done a stellar job on offense this year and for Westmont QB Paul Vrabel, RB Nick McCloskey and wideout Max Khuri have all shown that it is a total team effort on the Hilltop. There will be a lot of team speed on the field, look for Westy to play the Huskies tight, but BC will eventually separate and prevail.

Elsewhere in the LHAC Richland makes the rare back-to-back appearance at the same venue for a road game as they will take on Bishop McCort Saturday night at Trojan Stadium. Sophomore QB Marco Pecora will probably be under pressure all night in what could be a carbon copy of last week’s loss to Johnstown on the FieldTurf. The Crushers will be looking to come back strong after the heartbreaking loss they experienced in overtime a week ago to the Bishop Carroll Huskies. Look for Ken Salem to have his team amped for their return home and to take it out on the much undersized Rams.

Cambria Heights will travel to Sidman to take on Don Bailey’s Forest Hills Rangers. FH should leave the game with a 4-1 overall record and 2-1 in Section 1. Chris Mangus’ Highlanders will continue to struggle throughout the season as they have a brutal schedule.

In game of two .500 clubs that could be moving in the opposite direction, 2-2 Central Cambria travels to 2-2 Bedford where McCort proved earlier this year it isn’t impossible to beat the Bisons at home but pretty darn hard. CC may be on the way down while Bedford is probably reaching their stride as they showed two weeks ago against section rival Forest Hills and this past week against Penn Cambria.

Rounding out the LHAC scene this week is Central at Penn Cambria. Ernie Fetzer’s Panthers are home after suffering their first loss of the season last week. The Scarlet Dragons, coached by A.J. Hoenstine will be trying to get their second win of the season.

First place 6-AAA team Bellefonte is traveling to Indian Valley in a game that should improve Tom Gravish’s Red Raiders to 5-0 and remain on top of the table. Huntingdon will also look to pad its status in the points with a likely win over 9-AAA Punxsutawney who are winless thus far. It may have struck midnight for the Lewistown Panthers as they take on 9-AAA Clearfield who will be looking to come back from a stinging overtime loss to Bellefonte a week ago. Rounding out the 6-AAA scene is Central Mountain. The independent Wildcats could make a move by beating 4-AAAA Williamsport and getting the bonus points.

And finally, in our first look at the District 4-AAA scene it appears, as suspected, that the Selinsgrove Seals are again the team to beat and look to be the 6-AAA champion’s opponent going into PIAA playoff action later this fall. The Seals dismantled Milton 39-0 this past week to improve to 4-0. Bill Scott’s team is comfortably on top of 4-AAA points standings with 420 points. Mifflinburg is in second with 270 points and a 3-1 record and they too appear to comfortable so that could be the match up come District 4 playoff time but only time will tell.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

Helmets and Sweats #6

It's Thursday which means time to look around the rest of the LHAC as well as the 6-AAA scene.

Westmont will look to rebound from their close loss to Bishop Carroll by making the short trip down the valley to Trojan Stadium to take on Bishop McCort. Ken Salem's Crushers had an easy time with Richland a week ago but this one will be a dogfight. McCort has shown that they're beatable and there is a lot of team speed on Westy's side. This should be a good one and is by far the marquee match up in the LHAC for the week and one of the better games in the district.

Ernie Fetzer's Penn Cambria Panthers may have cooled off but only slightly. Following a loss to Bedford they squeeked a win out against a scrappy Central squad to keep pace with a 4-1 record. It should be smooth sailing for them as they travel to Patton to take on the Highlanders of Cambria Heights. The Panthers are in a tie for second place in the 5-6 AA standings as they and Chestnut Ridge are chasing Tyrone.

A very good sectional game will take place in Sidman Friday as the Central Cambria Red Devils will take on Forest Hills. CC is 3-2 while FH is 4-1. Don Bailey's club probably has a bit too many weapons with Travis Rearick, Wil Lazaration and Adam Trout for CC to handle but this should be a close one.

The Bedford Bisons will make the trek to Martinsburg to take on the Central Scarlet Dragons. A.J. Hoenstine's club has played tough all year and is really itching for another win. This could be the night and I'm calling the upset special. Wes Swaim's squad has looked good and bad this year. If this is a bad night it could be trouble.

Closing out LHAC play is match up of the bottom of the standings as Somerset will travel to Richland to take on Brandon Bailey's Rams. The Golden Eagles are winless after coming off a tough loss to Johnstown. They stayed in the game in the first half and the halftime score was tied at 14 but they came out flat in the second half and JHS was able to take advantage. From what I've seen of both teams this might be a bit more evenly matched than if you would have asked me a week ago but I still like the Rams on the strength of sophomore Marco Pecora's arm to improve to 2-4. Somerset's secondary showed signs of weaknesses against the pass versus the Trojans and it could be another long night for them against RHS.

As far as the 6-AAA outlook for the weekend is concerned, this could be a week that the Trojans could really pick up some ground on the rest of the pack. Two 6-AAA teams have legitimate chances to lose this week as Bellefonte visits 6-AA power Tyrone in what is the probably the most anticipated game of the weekend in the district. A loss would still probably keep the Red Raiders in first place but it would tighten the gap. Another team that could lose is Huntingdon. They are traveling to Clearfield to take on the 4-1 Bisons of 9-AAA. The big thing here is that with it being a District 9 squad, another lower D6 squad will not get the points. The Lewistown Panthers appear to have cooled off but they should most likely defeat the 9-AAA Chucks of Punxsutawney. Punxsy has looked pretty bad thus far, as they have been shutout twice and only reached double digits points once this year while having an 0-5 record. Rounding out the 6-AAA table is Indian Valley at Central Mountain. The Warriors haven't really beaten a quality opponent this year and neither have the Wildcats so this is anyone's game. It could have big implications as to what squad gets the fourth and final seed come postseason play.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

Week Five is nearly upon us and “Helmets and Sweats” takes its weekly look around what’s going on in the LHAC and the District 6-AAA scene.

Although there are no must-see match ups this week that have the prestige as the Bishop McCort/Bishop Carroll game did a week ago but the Saturday afternoon match up between Bishop Carroll and Westmont is somewhat intriguing. Most will look at this as a Brad Kanuch vs. Paul Forcellini spotlight type game but neither of these teams is a one-trick pony for sure. BC’s QB Brock Lauer (30-49, 385 yards and 3 TDs) and wideout Adam Crookshank have also done a stellar job on offense this year and for Westmont QB Paul Vrabel, RB Nick McCloskey and wideout Max Khuri have all shown that it is a total team effort on the Hilltop. There will be a lot of team speed on the field, look for Westy to play the Huskies tight, but BC will eventually separate and prevail.

Elsewhere in the LHAC Richland makes the rare back-to-back appearance at the same venue for a road game as they will take on Bishop McCort Saturday night at Trojan Stadium. Sophomore QB Marco Pecora will probably be under pressure all night in what could be a carbon copy of last week’s loss to Johnstown on the FieldTurf. The Crushers will be looking to come back strong after the heartbreaking loss they experienced in overtime a week ago to the Bishop Carroll Huskies. Look for Ken Salem to have his team amped for their return home and to take it out on the much undersized Rams.

Cambria Heights will travel to Sidman to take on Don Bailey’s Forest Hills Rangers. FH should leave the game with a 4-1 overall record and 2-1 in Section 1. Chris Mangus’ Highlanders will continue to struggle throughout the season as they have a brutal schedule.

In game of two .500 clubs that could be moving in the opposite direction, 2-2 Central Cambria travels to 2-2 Bedford where McCort proved earlier this year it isn’t impossible to beat the Bisons at home but pretty darn hard. CC may be on the way down while Bedford is probably reaching their stride as they showed two weeks ago against section rival Forest Hills and this past week against Penn Cambria.

Rounding out the LHAC scene this week is Central at Penn Cambria. Ernie Fetzer’s Panthers are home after suffering their first loss of the season last week. The Scarlet Dragons, coached by A.J. Hoenstine will be trying to get their second win of the season.

First place 6-AAA team Bellefonte is traveling to Indian Valley in a game that should improve Tom Gravish’s Red Raiders to 5-0 and remain on top of the table. Huntingdon will also look to pad its status in the points with a likely win over 9-AAA Punxsutawney who are winless thus far. It may have struck midnight for the Lewistown Panthers as they take on 9-AAA Clearfield who will be looking to come back from a stinging overtime loss to Bellefonte a week ago. Rounding out the 6-AAA scene is Central Mountain. The independent Wildcats could make a move by beating 4-AAAA Williamsport and getting the bonus points.

And finally, in our first look at the District 4-AAA scene it appears, as suspected, that the Selinsgrove Seals are again the team to beat and look to be the 6-AAA champion’s opponent going into PIAA playoff action later this fall. The Seals dismantled Milton 39-0 this past week to improve to 4-0. Bill Scott’s team is comfortably on top of 4-AAA points standings with 420 points. Mifflinburg is in second with 270 points and a 3-1 record and they too appear to comfortable so that could be the match up come District 4 playoff time but only time will tell.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Helmets and Sweats #7

Before we get nuts and look at the LHAC and 6-AAA games like we normally do at this time I want to spend a few more moments on the big JHS/McCort game Friday. Recent history has shown the Crushers to have dominated the Trojans in recent years. Aside from the inaugural Trojan Stadium game, JHS has not beat the Crushers since the school joined the LHAC.

However, a look behind the numbers is a little more telling. If you through out the McCort blowout of 2001 (46-12) you will see that the last three meetings between these fierce rivals have been decided by a grand total of 19 points. (2002: 14-7 McCort; 2003: 14-9 JHS; 2004: McCort 17-14). Although the programs might appear to be going in different directions this year I truly believe anything can happen when these two squads meet (pardon the cliché). It’s kind of like Army/Navy. One of them can be 10-0, the other 0-10 and normally there is no clear cut favorite.

One other thing with McCort, they are ranked #7 in the state AA poll by the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Not that they aren’t worth of mention, there are some honorable mention teams that I would take over them in a heartbeat (Aliquippa, Burrell, Seton LaSalle, South Fayette and Lansdale Catholic to name a few). Nothing would drop them off the charts more than a loss to the Trojans!

The Trojan/Crusher tilt is without a doubt the premier match up in the LHAC this week, but there are five other games, so let’s take a walk:

6-0 Bishop Carroll travels to 0-6 Somerset. They could play this game 20 times and you’d get the same result. The Huskies will improve to 7-0 and will most likely play with the running clock for the duration of the second half.

Cambria Heights at Bedford. The Bisons are 4-2 and will look to improve that by beating up a hapless Highlanders’ squad. Chris Manges has publicly complained about having to play “iron man” football and wants to leave the LHAC. Sorry coach, but you’re team would be doing no better in the WestPAC or Heritage.

Central Cambria @ Central. Sure the Dragons are 1-5 but Martinsburg is the farthest LHAC road trip and these team plays tougher than its record suggests. This is my upset special of the week, Central in surprise win over CC.

Forest Hills @ Penn Cambria. Two 5-1 teams take each other in Cresson Friday night. Keep in mind that although Ernie Fetzer has done a fabulous job in turning around the Panthers but they have only one win against a team that is .500 (Johnstown). I think Don Bailey has the superior football team here and his Rangers will humble PC and bring them back to earth.

Richland @ Westmont. Very good game at Price Field Saturday. Marco Pecora continues to have a very solid sophomore season at quarterback for Brandon Bailey’s Rams. Look for the Rams to give Westy a good game but if Skip Skowron’s Hilltoppers have all their weapons back this week they should be fine and be able to hold off a better Richland team than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

As for the 6-AAA team it will be the strong getting stronger. Look for #1 Bellefonte to rebound from the drubbing at the hands of Tyrone by beating up on Lewistown. Huntingdon will most likely stay in second place by playing Indian Valley.

Central Mountain will host District 3-AAA power Manheim Central. Ranked #2 in the state by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Barons should have no problem with the Wildcats.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Helmets and Sweats #8

Week Eight in the LHAC is unique because it is the part of the schedule that reverts back to non-section play. Rather than play four non-section games at the beginning of the year, the LHAC does a "wrap around" if you will and has the teams start and end their regular season with non-sectional games.

In what is probably the best match up in the region regardless of conference, Forest Hills will come down to Trojan Stadium to take on Bishop McCort Saturday night in a battle of 6-1 teams. Don Bailey's Rangers have to have in their minds the rare double that McCort pulled on them a year ago. The Crushers beat FH in the regular season finale, then the very next week, beat them in the opening round of the district playoffs. The combined score of those consecutive games was 78-37.

Brandon Bailey's Richland Rams will travel to Martinsburg to take on A.J. Hoenstine's Central Dragons. Both teams are 2-5 but play a lot tougher than their records. This should be a very competitive game. Give a slight advantage to Central for the home field advantage and playing a team with a pretty far trip to travel for the game but this really could go either way. And for the Trojans either way is fine with them because they will pick up the 10 bonus points regardless of who wins because they beat both these teams previously.

Penn Cambria (5-2) will take on Bishop Carroll (7-0) Friday night. The Panthers 5-2 record could be a bit misleading as they haven't beat any team with a winning record. Their two losses are to quality competition in Bedford (5-2) and Forest Hills (6-1) and they lost those games by a combined score of 69-18. Bishop Carroll has not blown out the competition as much as they have in the past, but they are undefeated and that is all that really matters. Look for the Huskies to win big.

The 5-2 Bisons of Bedford will travel to Somerset to take on the winless Golden Eagles. Effort is not the problem with Somerset, they have just been outmanned this year. Although they are doing a good job of trying to re-establish a rich tradition, they are experiencing growing pains this year. Bedford will roll.

The final match up of the LHAC week takes us to Price Field for a Saturday matinee with the Cambria Heights Highlanders. Whether Coach Skowron has Kanuch and McCloskey healthy for this game or not, they should win easily on the Hilltop.

Like we always do about this time... let's peek at the rest of the 6-AAA scene. First, Bellefonte, the points leader at take on lowly 2-5 Penns Valley. PV, a 6-AA team, has wins against fellow doormats West Branch (2-5) and Mount Union (1-6). Should be an easy one for the Red Raiders. Huntingdon (5-2) should also have an easy night as they take on another 6-AA squad in Bald Eagle Area. The Eagles are on a six game losing streak following their opening week win over Penns Valley. In the first of only two games that Bellefonte doesn't have a chance to pick up any bonus points in, AA power Tyrone will travel to Indian Valley and most likely win big. The final two games in the 6-AAA scene are true "push" type games (with apologies to Nick Bakay!). First Lewistown travels to Philipsburg-Osceola. Give a small advantage to Lewistown with the 3-4 record opposed to P-O's 2-5 but this could be anyone's game. The final game to cover is District 3-AAAA Cedar Cliff will travel to Central Mountain. This is a big opportunity for points for CM, with playing a AAAA team and they should have a shot. CC is 2-5 in the very tough Commonwealth Division of the Mid Penn Conference. Their only conference win is against 1-6 Chambersburg. Central Mountain also enters the contest with a 2-5 record. Their wins are against Red Land and Indian Valley, both 2-5 squads. Give the slightest of edges to the Wildcats with home field advantage.

Now, for an encore, a little bonus material on a Thursday. With the District playoffs only two weeks away, it is time to start looking at District 4 and see what the scene is like in AAA because as you know, the 6-AAA champ takes on the 4-AAA champ in the first week of PIAA playoffs. At least half of my early 2005 prediction should come true. You might recall that I predicted some time ago that Selinsgrove and JHS would meet each other again in the PIAA playoffs in a rematch of last year's game. The Seals are again the team to beat in the 4-AAA scene. And for those that say the 6-AAA scene is weak, which it is, take a peek at the 4-AAA table. Aside from Selinsgrove there is only one other team in AAA with a winning record. That is Mifflinburg at 4-3. Selinsgrove has a very large lead in the points with 740 opposed to Mifflinburg's 420 and it is highly likely these two will play for the D4 crown.

These two teams are both members of Section 1 of the Central Susquehanna Conference. The Seals are in second and Mifflinburg is in fourth. Both teams are chasing undefeated 4-AA power Montoursville. They will both get their shot to beat Montoursville in the next two weeks as Mifflinburg takes them on this week while Selinsgrove will play them next week in a game that is to be televised by PCN. The Seals will play at 4-3 Shamokin this week.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Helmets and Sweats #9

Before we get in to our normal Thursday look around the rest of the LHAC, the District 6-AAA scene and the 4-AAA scene, I feel it necessary to layout some information regarding the playoffs. Regardless of what happens Friday against Bedford, Johnstown is in. That being said, a number of things can play out Friday night that could be the difference between a #3 or #4 seed.

The short answer is that if JHS wins and Lewistown loses, JHS will be the #3, Lewistown the #4. If the Trojans should lose and Lewistown should win, Lewistown would be the #3, JHS the #4. Those are the easy scenarios, here comes the more complicated stuff.

Lewistown (4-4) plays in town rival Indian Valley (2-6), also a AAA team, this Friday night. If the Panthers were to win, they would get 100 points for beating a AAA team plus 20 bonus points, 10 for each of IV’s wins. You also have to factor in the four squads that Lewistown has already beaten this year. All four are in action so Lewistown has a chance to gain 10 bonus points for each win a team they already beat gets Friday night. Here are the teams they have beaten to date followed by who they face off against this weekend:

Juniata (4-4) plays Halifax (6-2)

Bald Eagle Area (1-7) plays Bellefonte (7-1)

Punxsutawney (0-8) plays Clearfield (4-4)

Philipsburg Osceola (2-6) plays St. Mary’s (4-4)

So, if one of the above teams in bold wins, Lewistown gains an additional 10 points, if 2 of the 4 win they get 20 points and so on. Therefore, if all four teams wins, Lewistown would gain 40 points. The maximum amount of points that Lewistown can gain this week is 160 (100 for win over Indian Valley + 20 bonus points for the two teams IV beat + 40 bonus points should all four teams Lewistown beat previously this year win their games this weekend).

Now, let’s go to Johnstown (4-4). The Trojans play Bedford (6-2). Should JHS win they would get 80 points for beating a AA team plus 60 bonus points, 10 for each of Bedford’s wins. As above, we also have to factor in the team’s JHS has already beaten this year:

Central (2-6) plays Westmont (5-3)

Richland (3-5) plays Penn Cambria (5-3)

Somerset (0-8) plays Forest Hills (7-1)

Central Cambria (2-6) plays Bishop Carroll (8-0)

As with Lewistown, the maximum bonus points JHS could gain from teams they previously beat is 40. The maximum amount of total points JHS can get this weekend is 180 (80 for win over Bedford + 60 bonus points for the six teams Bedford beat + 40 bonus points should all four teams JHS beat previously this year win their games this weekend).

Going in to the weekend, Lewistown has 410 total points, while Johnstown has 390. The spreadsheet below breaks out all possibly scenarios that could go down this weekend. The numbers in the bold would be the points each school would have after each scenario played out. By looking at the sheet, you can see what all has to play out for Johnstown to have a higher point total after week nine than Lewistown:

The win/max points means that the team would beat their opponent and all four teams they previously beat this year would also score a victory. “1 Help” means only 1 of the 4 teams previously beat would win, “2 Help” means 2 of the 4 would win, and so on and so forth.

The outcome that I could possibly see going down is that if Lewistown wins but none of the teams they beat win against their week nine opponents so they’d finish with 530 and JHS could get the win over Bedford and I could realistically see Richland beating Penn Cambria. That would give JHS 540 and put them in third place by a slim 10 point margin. This is all for the right to either go to Bellefonte or Huntingdon to play a first round playoff game.

Now if you liked all that mumbo jumbo above, look for a new feature next year by Jason Subich. Our working titles are “Inside the Numbers” or “Numerology”. We’ll try to breakdown playoff point scenarios throughout the year.

Now, back to the LHAC. Week Nine is another non-section week and there are some dog match ups. Undefeated Bishop Carroll (8-0) goes against 2-6 Central Cambria in what should be an easy victory for the Huskies and make them the lone regular season undefeated squad. Last year it was Bedford that ran the LHAC table… then got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. BC will be the #1 seed in 6-A and will host either United, Conemaugh Valley or Bishop Guilfoyle according to our projections.

Forest Hills (7-1) should pick up a win against winless Somerset (0-8) and solidify their second seed in the Class AA District 5-6 bracket. Potential #7 seeds they could host are Marion Center, Westmont, Penn Cambria or Purchase Line.

Penn Cambria (5-3) takes on Richland (3-5). The Rams are eliminated from Class A playoff action but the Panthers are in the eighth and final seed in AA. They really need this win bad as Purchase Line is on their tails in ninth place, only 40 points back and they will most likely win over 2-6 Northern Cambria.

Westmont (5-3) will host Central (2-6) at Price Field. The Dragons have been eliminated for some time now. Westy is in seventh place right now and will look for more breathing room with a victory.

Bishop McCort (7-1) will travel to Lilly to most likely have their way with winless Cambria Heights (0-8). The Crushers are in third place in the AA table and a win should solidify them hosting a first round playoff game at Trojan Stadium.

As for 6-AAA, there really isn’t much to touch on as Bellefonte and Huntingdon are staying put at #1 and #2. Both could pick up wins at 7-1 Bellefonte plays 1-7 Bald Eagle Area while 6-2 Huntingdon plays 4-4 Shamokin, a District 4-AA team. Many internet message boards have people already calling a Huntingdon/Bellefonte but I would say hold the phone. Right now, I like the Trojans’ chances in a first round game against either of those squads.

And for a look even further down the road, last week we took our first peak at 4-AAA. Selinsgrove picked up another win and improved to 7-1. They have quite a showdown this Friday as they take on 8-0 4-AA power Montoursville in a game that could really show how good the Seals are (or aren’t). This game will be the Seals’ second appearance on PCN as it will be shown Saturday night.

Since District 4-AAA qualifies only two out of their 8 participants to the playoffs, they play a ten game regular season. However, the week nine match up between Mifflinburg (4-4) and Milton (3-5) could seal the deal for the second place finisher. Mifflinburg is in second with 430 points while Milton is in third with 310. A Mifflinburg victory will all but wrap up the other playoff berth but if Milton were to win, it would make it very interesting.

Much ado about nothing as Selinsgrove will have no problem getting out of that district to play the 6-AAA champion.

Let’s hope that’s the back-to-back champion Johnstown Trojans. But first things first…

Hop in your car and come out and support the boys against Bedford Friday night!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Helmets and Sweats #10

Aside from Johnstown there are six other LHAC teams that qualified for the District 6 playoffs.

The bulk of the teams are in Class AA, which makes sense since 7 of the 12 member schools participate at that level. Of those seven, five qualified for the District 5-6 playoff bracket in Class AA (District 5's 3 Class AA teams compete with District 6 in the playoffs). The marquee match up here will be fifth seeded Bishop McCort hitting the road and taking on fourth seeded Bedford. The Bisons clinched the fourth seed and final spot that garnered home field advantage with their drubbing of Johnstown a week ago. That was a big win for them, with Johnstown being a AAA school. It will be a rematch of the big week two regular season, non-section showdown between the two squads in which the Crushers won convincingly, 28-7. After that game, Bedford rattled off a seven game winning streak. McCort also has a 7-2 mark, with losses to nemesis Bishop Carroll (they've lost their last eight meetings with the Huskies) and a non-section loss to Forest Hills. This game is a push.

Don Bailey's Forest Hills Rangers earned the second seed and will host Skip Skowron's seventh seeded Westmont Hilltoppers. The Rangers had no problem in week two with the Hilltoppers as they triumphed 30-3. Although the Westmont roster has a lot of athletic ability, the Forest Hills balanced offensive attack combined with their stingy defense (they've held opponents to a TD or less five times this year) should advance.

The final LHAC representative in AA is Penn Cambria. Ernie Fetzer's Panthers got the eighth and final seed and have the pleasure of having to travel to Tyrone to play John Franco's #1 seeded (and #4 in the state at AA) Golden Eagles. This PC club has overachieved all year long, but I don't think they have much of a chance against this loaded Tyrone team. I truly believe the Golden Eagles will be in Hershey playing for PIAA gold in December. If Fetzer and the Panthers can pull this off, that would be the biggest upset in the district in quite sometime. Enough to garner coach of the year status on Fetzer's shoulders.

In Class A, only Bishop Carroll qualified for the 6-A tournament. The Huskies were easily the #1 seed as they boast the lone undefeated record in the LHAC, beating two Class AAA teams and five Class AA teams which helped them amass a huge points total. They will host the eighth seeded Conemaugh Valley Blue Jays out of the WestPAC. Coach Tom Marshall's CV team is back in the playoffs for the first time since 1996. They sport a very athletic club with Vince Turner (193 carries, 1,001 yards) at tailback and Robert Gunby at QB. It could an interesting match up of similar styles on offense as the Jays use shotgun to exploit Gunby's ability on the run (79 carries, 627 yards) and also to set up Turner on read draws, similar to Lauer and Forcellini at BC. If the Jays play their best game of mistake-free football they have a chance. The score here should be much closer than your traditional 1-8 game.

Also, taking a quick peek at the District 4-AAA scene, since that is ultimately who the 6-AAA champ plays. The Seals of Selinsgrove are still the team to beat. Even though they have a regular season game left, as they play 10 regular season games, they have already clinched the first seed and home field for the 4-AAA title game. Following this Friday's senior night against Mt. Carmel, the Seals will host Mifflinburg the following weekend in the title game. Selinsgrove took care of Mifflinburg easily 29-7 back in week six. Odds on, they will be playing whoever comes out of District 6.

Although there are eight 4-AAA teams, because they play a ten game regular season, only the first two finishers qualify for district playoffs.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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