Halifax's Tyler Berzowski cuts up field against Muncy. (Christina Hoy/4th Down)
By Michael Bullock:
Halifax's Broc Grosser and his Wildcat teammates will square off against Muncy Friday night at West Perry High School. (Christina Hoy/4th Down)
By Michael Bullock:
1. And then there were … two
Since both adversaries in last weekend’s District 11 Class A championship game reside in the Tri-Valley League, that meant either Tri-Valley or Williams Valley was going to be moving on with the other turning in its helmets and shoulder pads. Well, Tri-Valley claimed its first 11-A title since 2009 by defeating its backyard rivals 28-21, the Bulldogs (9-3) earned themselves a shot at District 2-A victor Lackawanna Trail (11-1) Saturday evening (7p.m.) at Scranton Memorial Stadium at Scranton High School. TVL champ Halifax (10-1), which had last weekend off after popping Fairfield 37-6 in the District 3-A final, will meet District 4-A winner Muncy (9-3) in a state opener Friday night at West Perry. What’s intriguing is should Tri-Valley and Halifax prevail, those sides will meet the following weekend in the state quarterfinals. Stay tuned.
2. Tri-Valley collars return engagement
Behind a remarkably productive performance from senior quarterback Daulton Leedy, Tri-Valley parlayed its 28-21 triumph over Williams Valley into its first state playoff appearance since the Bulldogs reached the state semifinals in 2009. Jeff Sampson’s club also stretched its winning streak to six games. Leedy threw for 199 yards (9-19-0) and two touchdowns — Nick Ziegmont and Chase Herb hauled in first-half TD receptions as Tri-Valley constructed a 20-7 lead at the break — yet also ran for 118 yards and a pair of scores. While Ike Lucas added 55 rushing yards, Herb (12), Ashton Snyder (14) and Kolt Schaeffer (13) shared 39 tackles defensively. Schaeffer added one quarterback sack, while Tyler McGrath pocketed his ninth pick of the season. Leedy has amassed just short of 2,000 yards from scrimmage (1,549 passing/335 rushing) while accounting for 19 scores. Trail hammered Bristol 45-7 in the District 1-2 subregional, bouncing to a 38-0 halftime lead behind two rushing touchdowns from Cody Moyle. Nico Berrios also scored twice before the break, once on a 19-yard reception from Jordan Edwards and once on a 19-yard fumble return. Steve Jervis’ Lions prefer to run the ball, as Ray Melnikoff (116-951/10 TDs), Moyle (76-651/14 TDs), Jeffrey Resto (82-543/5 TDs) and Nathan Rolka (89-460/8 TDs) have combined for more than 2,600 rushing yards and 37 scores. Rolka, the QB, has thrown for 755 yards (41-84-5) and eight touchdowns. Trail has won its last five outings since dropping a 28-21 regular-season decision to Old Forge. The Lions avenged that setback in the District 2-A final, winning 29-12.
3. Halifax spends one week catching its breath
Although Halifax had last weekend off after capturing its first District 3-A championship, Muncy (9-3) avenged an earlier loss to Canton by pocketing a 9-7 success highlighted by Kolby Moyer’s 1-yard run and a safety set up by Coleman Good’s first-half blocked punt. A staunch defensive effort — Sean Tetreault’s Indians yielded just 101 total yards — also played a huge role in Muncy’s success. Balanced offensively, Tetreault’s club went into last weekend’s showdown having thrown for 1,819 (15 touchdowns) and rushed for 1,748 more (20 TDs). Dylan Wilt has hauled in 43 passes for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he’s also swiped seven passes while averaging nearly seven tackles per. He’s also a threat on special teams. Despite its one-week respite, Earl Mosley’s Wildcats have gotten more than 600 yards rushing from Jay Zerby (699/14 TDs) and Evan Billow (626/7 TDs) yet may need QB London Johnson (94-168-1) to loosen things up with his right arm. Johnson has passed for nearly 1,600 yards, with 40 throws going to West Virginia preferred walk-on invite Broc Grosser for 766 yards and nine TDs. Grosser also is demonic defensively, as he’s recorded 111 tackles while picking off 12 passes. Inside backers Dalton Marshall (102) and Billow (93) have stopped plenty of ballcarriers, too.
By Michael Bullock:
1. No. 300 … finally
For five weeks, the anticipation swelled among those gathered in Mifflintown and elsewhere, and then plummeted when hopes of a positive result disappeared. Yet when Juniata (1-5, 1-4) bounced off Dietrick Field Friday night with a 28-20 victory over Pine Grove, Indians chief Gary Klingensmith finally was part of a distinguished group — the 300-win club. What’s made Klingensmith’s sparkling achievement even more astounding is all 300 of his victories have been piled up at Juniata, where he’s patrolled the sidelines for 50 seasons. He’s the 17th coach in Pennsylvania history to reach 300 victories. “I’ve never given it a lot of thought,”Klingensmith told the Lewistown Sentinel. “To get 300 wins is nice, but I figured a coach who has stayed around as long as I did should have 300 wins. Like I said, it was never one of my goals. But there are some great coaches out there who have won 300 in less time than I have. I’m honored to be up there with that group.” Klingensmith, a southwestern Pennsylvania native who played at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions in rushing as a junior in 1963, arrived in Mifflintown prior to the 1969 season after spending three years as head coach at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. He’s never left. And the former Nittany Lions standout, whose PSU teammates included Glenn Ressler, NFL Hall of Famer Dave Robinson and former Juniata assistant coach Ralph Baker and whose PSU coaches were the late Rip Engle and the late Joe Paterno, will chase No. 301 on Friday night when he takes his Indians to Upper Dauphin.
2. Defending champs trying to keep pace
Fully engaged in a four-game stretch that will determine whether they will repeat as Tri-Valley League champions, Williams Valley (5-1, 4-1) will try to keep its hopes of repeating very much alive when Tim Savage’s Vikings pay a visit to neighboring Pine Grove (4-2, 3-2). Williams Valley last weekend sidestepped a valiant effort from Line Mountain, eventually emerging with a 13-7 verdict. Quarterback Levi Engle (11-for-21, 176 yards, INT) passed for one touchdown and ran for the eventual game-winning score as the Vikings erased the deficit (7-0) that stood at the break. Jayden Cruz also had a big night for the Vikes, as he caught eight passes for 123 yards. While Cruz’s 25-yard TD catch early in the third quarter pulled Williams Valley even, Engle’s 9-yard burst early in the fourth put Savage’s club ahead to stay. While the Vikings also had a 61-yard touchdown run by Brady Miller wiped out by one of their 10 penalties, they did force two turnovers (Engle recorded his fifth pick of the season and 14th of his career) while yielding a mere 140 total yards. As for Pine Grove, Frank Gaffney’s Cardinals were victimized 28-20 at Juniata despite 108 rushing yards (13 carries) and two scores from back Colin Luckenbill. QB Josh Leininger tossed a 34-yard TD pass to Dawson Ibarra in the opening quarter that gave Gaffney’s bunch the early lead. The Cards also forced three turnovers. For Pine Grove to knock the Vikings down a peg, the Cardinals must put a lid on Engle. Whether the Cardinals can run effectively against a capable Williams Valley defense — inside linebacker Bryce Lucas piled up 11 stops and D-tackle Spencer Dimon had eight — is another key.
3. Halifax aiming to keep its slate clean
Trailing last weekend at the halftime break, Earl Mosley’s Halifax Wildcats (6-0, 5-0) pitched a second-half shutout and rallied to knock off Tri-Valley 28-12 at home. While the victory kept an undefeated Halifax side atop the TVL standings, Mosley & Co. now must face a Susquenita squad (2-4, 2-3) that’s battling for its District 3 Class 3A playoff life. Halifax played last weekend without breakaway back Jay Zerby, so whether or not he’s available remains a sizable question mark. The Wildcats, however, can get it done offensively behind quarterback London Johnson, running back Evan Billow and wideout Broc Grosser. Susquenita, which fell to ninth in the District 3 power rankings with its 30-22 loss to Upper Dauphin, probably must win out to be part of Class 3A’s six-team bracket. Scott Acri’s club was tied (22-22) with the Trojans heading into the final quarter, but the Blackhawks were unable to rally after UD punched one in. John Stump rushed for 164 yards and two scores to lead Susquenita, while Austin Kenny added 83 rushing yards and a 1-yard TD plunge that pulled Acri’s bunch even late in the third quarter. Even if Susquenita can control the ball against Halifax, the Wildcats have enough home-run hitters that a quick strike can erase plenty of problems while demoralizing opponents. Loss of leading tackler Conner McGuire for the season is another downer for the ‘Hawks.
4. Line Mountain hoping to rebound … again
Back on the TVL road for the second straight week following a frustrating 13-7 loss at Williams Valley, Line Mountain (3-3, 3-2) will be facing a Newport side (1-5, 1-4) that will have a short week to prepare. While Brandon Carson’s Eagles were unable to cash in offensively despite 100 yards from Colby Scott and several trips inside the red zone, they were terrific defensively against a high-powered Williams Valley attack — especially up front. Down linemen Dillon Bohner, Jacob Feese, Noah Shaffer and Dominick Bridi combined for 20 stops and two sacks, while Feese covered a fumble in the end zone for Line Mountain’s lone score. Outside 'backers Cameron Gaw and Chance Hackenburg shared 12 tackles, with Gaw sacking QB Levi Engle three times. Inside '5backer Ki Phillips added eight stops. Newport rolled up nearly 300 rushing yards in its 47-0 whitewash Monday night at Millersburg, with junior Ethan Rode piling up 179 yards on just 15 attempts. Rode has cracked 100 yards five times thus far for Todd Rothermel’s Buffaloes. Defensively, the ‘Port limited Millersburg to just 183 yards and picked off four Caden Feaster passes — including Mason Huggins’ 35-yard pick-six in the third quarter. Whether Newport can run on Line Mountain is a huge key since the Eagles will put heat on QB Elijah York. Junior QB Evan Herb is bound to break out one of these days for Carson’s club, which sits seventh in the District 4 Class 2A playoff rankings.
5. Upper Dauphin still rolling
Using its balanced running attack yet again, Upper Dauphin (5-1, 4-1) completed a perfect September last weekend by extending its winning streak to four games with a 30-22 success at Susquenita. QB Macklin Ayers, RB Jake Ramberger and FB Donnie Gelnett combined for 210 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Kent Smeltz’s Trojans remained tied for second place in the TVL. Gelnett’s short blast early in the fourth quarter and Ayers’ subsequent two-point pass to Ben Cope snapped a 22-22 tie and lifted UD to the victory. Zach Rupp swiped two passes and Mason Wiest piled up 11 tackles as the Trojans’ defense totaled four takeaways. Back at home, UD will play host to a Juniata squad (1-5, 1-4) that finally broke into the win column with an emotional 28-20 conquest of Pine Grove. Not only was the win the 300th of head coach Gary Klingensmith’s career, but it also doubled as the first win for freshman QB Jacob Condo. Condo, despite losing his grandfather earlier in the day, passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. The Indians also picked up 100 yards rushing from junior Ty Martin. Whether Juniata can sustain its momentum is one thing, but the Indians must try to slow down Upper Dauphin’s productive running attack — and no one has really succeeded yet.
6. Tri-Valley, Millersburg looking to halt slides
Having lost two straight and three of its last four, Tri-Valley (3-3, 2-3) will be looking to turn things around when winless Millersburg (0-6, 0-5) strides into the Hegins-Valley View Metroplex. Jeff Sampson’s Bulldogs were limited to 188 total yards in last weekend’s 28-12 loss at Halifax, but Friday night might be the time to reestablish feature back Ike Lucas — he had just 56 yards on 16 attempts at Halifax — since the ‘Burg has all sorts of trouble stopping the run. Tri-Valley’s secondary will be challenged by the Indians’ spread passing attack, but don’t be surprised if DE Kolt Schaeffer spends plenty of time harassing ‘Burg QBs. Caden Feaster threw for 134 yards in a 47-0 loss to Newport, but he was picked off four times. The good news was WR Logan Marshall returned to the Indians’ lineup after missing the Line Mountain game and caught three passes for 62 yards. The key will be slowing down Lucas, but coming in on a short week with a short roster ups the degree of difficulty as Aaron Wright’s Tribe try to end their 27-game losing streak.