Juniata

 

Broc

Halifax's Broc Grosser. (File photo/Christina Hoy-4th Down)

By Michael Bullock:

1. Pine Grove face former skipper

Some 11 months ago when buses carrying Pine Grove football players into the Hegins-Valley View Metroplex, Jeff Sampson was in charge of a struggling Cardinals program that would win just one game. Come Friday night, when Pine Grove again wheels into Schuylkill County’s West End, first-year skipper Frank Gaffney will lead his confident Cards into a scrap with a Tri-Valley squad now headed by … Jeff Sampson. And while Pine Grove (3-0, 2-0) is hoping to remain at the top of the Tri-Valley League standings by pocketing another victory — here’s guessing those fans on hand will not see a repeat of last season’s 54-0 win by Tri-Valley, yet will still enjoy their hamburgers and sauce — a powerful ground game fronted by a sizable offensive line and fueled by the tandem of Dillon Kintzel (42 carries, 359 yards, 7 TDs) and Colin Luckenbill (34-349, 4 TDs) may be what keeps the Cards among the unbeaten. Kintzel has cracked 100 yards in all three victories, while Luckenbill has totaled 300-plus yards in Pine Grove’s league wins over Millersburg (48-8) and Newport (33-14). If the offense cannot get untracked, Gaffney’s defense has posted four touchdowns (3 picks, 1 fumble) and one safety thus far. Although Tri-Valley opened with victories over Mahanoy Area and Juniata, the Bulldogs last weekend ran into a hot Williams Valley squad and were handled 47-21. What does not bode well for Tri-Valley is Williams Valley rushed for nearly 300 yards and put two backs over 100 yards — even though Levi Engle threw four touchdown passes. Hanging on to the ball may be one key, and that means productive games from feature back Ike Lucas (59-275, 4 TDs) and quarterback Daulton Leedy (28-of-46, 411 yards, TD, INT). The Bulldogs also will need to put a lid on Pine Grove’s running game, so that means active outings from 'backers Lucas, Chase Herb and Nick Ziegmont. Reigning TVL Defensive Lineman of the Year Kolt Schaeffer also must play big against the Cards’ big eaters.

Related: Listen Now: High School Football Now with Eric Epler and Andy Shay

Related: Mid-Penn Conference: Six-pack of stories to know

Week 3 Game Balls

Elite 11 Power Rankings after Week 3

2. Coaching buddies put friendship aside

Todd Rothermel and Kent Smeltz may be Line Mountain High School graduates, and Smeltz may have spent four seasons serving as Rothermel’s defensive coordinator at Newport, but for several hours on Friday night in Perry County they’ll be trying like heck to find ways for their respective teams to leave victorious. And then, when it’s over, they’ll shake hands and be friends again. Right now, it would seem Smeltz’s Upper Dauphin Trojans (2-1, 1-1) would be in better shape. Especially since UD is averaging more than 380 rushing yards per game, while Newport (0-3, 0-2) is yielding more than 264 yards per contest on the ground. Hmmm... Smeltz’s bunch certainly had it rolling offensively in last weekend’s 74-56 shootout victory over Millersburg, collecting nearly 500 rushing yards and more than 700 yards of total offense. Jake Ramberger (31-372, 5 TDs) needed just four attempts to roll up 159 yards and two scores against Millersburg, but Mason Wiest (16-162, 2 TDs) and Donnie Gelnett (32-215, TD) added 137 and three touchdowns. QB Macklin Ayers also rushed for a TD, but he threw for 223 yards and two scores. While UD had some issues slowing down Millersburg’s aerial attack, Newport junior and first-year starter Elijah York (29-of-72, 357, 2 TDs, 5 INTs) has been learning on the job in losses to Steel-High, Williams Valley and Pine Grove. The Buffs likely will try to grind it out behind junior feature back Ethan Rode (64-333, 4 TDs), who has rushed for more than 100 yards in every game thus far. Newport also will go into Friday’s fray at Katchmer Field having won last year’s Rothermel-Smeltz showdown 50-14.

3. Grosser gets even more chances

Off to a terrific start, Halifax free safety Broc Grosser has pocketed four interceptions and returned two of those picks for scores. Grosser’s first pick last weekend, which he ran back 51 yards late in the first half to pull the Wildcats (3-0, 2-0) into a tie, immediately swung momentum 180 degrees. Grosser added another pick on Line Mountain’s next play from scrimmage that eventually set up a field goal that put Earl Mosley’s club ahead to stay. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder wasn’t done, as he turned a quick slant into a 50-yard touchdown reception — he also registered seven tackles and assisted on an eighth — that helped Halifax record a 37-7 triumph. While Mosley’s bunch already has matched its 2017 victory total, they’ll go for their fourth victory in as many tries at winless Millersburg. The main reason why Grosser may impact Friday night’s contest is the Indians’ willingness to put the ball in the air. While Caden Feaster threw for 356 yards and three scores in a Week 1 loss at Nativity, Aiden Harman banked 374 passing yards and six touchdowns in a Week 3 setback at Upper Dauphin. The Indians are averaging more than 30 points per game, but have yet to win a game because opposing teams are averaging more than 400 yards rushing against a smallish ‘Burg defensive group.

4. Williams Valley rolling behind Engle

One of three remaining Tri-Valley League unbeatens — and also the defending champions — Williams Valley (3-0, 2-0) will try to remain perfect when it pulls into Cove for a scrap with Susquenita (1-2, 1-1). Senior quarterback Levi Engle has been sensational thus far, completing 15 of 24 passes for 370 yards and nine touchdowns. Engle, who also has rushed for 211 yards and a score, became the Vikings’ all-time leader in career touchdown passes in last weekend’s 47-21 victory over Tri-Valley when he raised his total to 48 by throwing for four scores. Stephen Sedesse held the record (45) until Engle made that mark his own. Balance has become key, too, as Tim Savage’s bunch watched backs Nick Savage and Brady Miller run for more than 100 yards apiece against Tri-Valley. Russ Amick and Austin Kenny matched Savage and Miller by running for more than 100 yards each in Susquenita’s come-from-behind 28-14 victory over Juniata. Kenny, who rushed for 138 yards, scored twice in the second half as Scott Acri’s bunch snapped a 14-all deadlock and charged into the victory column. Amick added 121 yards and banked the other two scores for the Blackhawks.

5. Klingensmith still chasing No. 300

Juniata was poised to celebrate head coach Gary Klingensmith’s 300th victory last weekend when Susquenita visited Dietrick Field — the Indians (0-3, 0-2) led 14-7 midway through the third quarter following Ethan Grove’s 71-yard touchdown run — but everything was put on hold when the Blackhawks scored three second-half touchdowns and left with a 28-14 victory. Not having senior linebacker/fullback Bryson Clark available again definitely hurts the Indians on both sides of the ball, especially since Juniata went with Jim McLaughlin (8-of-15, 106, TD, INT) at quarterback and moved Jeremiah Parson to running back (12-38). Grove had a productive game (10-107), but Juniata’s inexperience up front is probably another reason why Klingensmith & Co. have struggled thus far.

6. Line Mountain hoping to find a rhythm

For 22 minutes last weekend, Brandon Carson’s Eagles (1-2, 1-1) were playing effective defense and sitting on a one-score lead at Halifax. Suddenly, after throwing a pair of picks late in the second quarter, the Mountain found itself down 10-7 heading to the locker room. Another interception and two long touchdown catches later, the Eagles were down three scores and really wobbly. They wound up falling 37-7, ending a string off 11 straight victories over Halifax. While a short passing game was effective early and enabled the Eagles to control the football, once the turnovers started to occur is when confidence quickly disappeared. Maybe getting back home to Ressler Field in Week 4 can help the Eagles rebound, especially since their defense was lauded by Carson after yielding 66 offensive yards in the first half.

 

London Johnson

Does Halifax quarterback London Johnson have his team primed for a 3-0 start? (File photo/4th Down-Christina Hoy)

By Michael Bullock:

 

Top