By Michael Bullock:
Each week during the 2020 season we’ll offer some news, notes, tidbits and opinions from each of the five divisions in the Mid-Penn Conference.
Line Mountain carries four-game winning streak into semis
Brandon Carson’s Line Mountain outfit (4-1) may be heading into the District 4 Class 2A semifinals, but the Eagles needed an impressive 11-minute stretch just to reverse some early negatives and power their way into postseason play with a 44-21 defeat of Newport. Down 21-10, Line Mountain gained plenty of momentum with 11 seconds left in the first half when Jacob Feese found Aidan Herb on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Once the second half began, the Eagles were winging, scoring 27 more points to bounce off with a result that an hour or so earlier looked doubtful. Feese added a pair of touchdown runs to the one he opened the game with, finishing with 190 yards on 23 carries for a Line Mountain group that rolled up 510 yards on the ground.
Garret Laudenslager also had a productive night, adding 255 yards on 23 attempts, while Beau Keim chipped in with 65 yards and one score on 10 tries. Cameron Smeltz paced the Eagles defensively with 12 tackles, one for loss and an interception. Dominick Bridi added a handful of stops, 1.5 for loss, one quarterback sack and a fumble recovery. While Line Mountain ran its winning streak to four — all four victories featured offensive bursts of 40 points or more — what’s sitting in front of the Eagles is the powerful Southern Columbia program (7-0) riding a 55-game winning streak that’s won the last three PIAA Class 2A championships. Jim Roth’s Tigers also knocked off Central Columbia, ensuring Line Mountain’s route to the 4-2A semis. Although Line Mountain may need to be more balanced offensively to keep up with a potent Southern side, the Eagles are going to need to be perfect defensively against a big-play attack.
Junior Gavin Garcia is the primary weapon in the Tigers’ arsenal, and no one has slowed him down thus far. Amazingly, Garcia has piled up 1,012 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on just 49 carries. He’s also capable of going yard with a kickoff or a punt. For those wondering what Garcia’s per-carry yardage is, it’s a mere 20.6 yards per attempt. He hardly operates alone, however, as Braeden Wisloski (27-316, 8 TDs) and Wes Barnes (34-359, 3) are averaging 11.7 and 10.6 yards per crack. While Southern hasn’t had to throw much, the Tigers do have capable burners such as Jake Davis and Jake Rose operating on the flanks. Don’t forget that Roth has won 451 games during his sparkling career.
Juniata playing for District 6 gold
Also running hot is a Juniata squad (4-1) that’s won its last four outings heading into a duel with Bellefonte (3-3), a game that will award the victor the District 6/9 Class 4A regional title and thrust the winner into the state playoffs. Racking up just over 500 yards of total offense last weekend — including 400 on the ground – Kurt Condo’s Indians eased past James Buchanan 40-6. Caleb Seeger banked 124 yards and one long touchdown run on just seven attempts, Yaneil Ortiz chipped in 97 yards and two scores on 11 carries, and Jace White powered for 79 yards on six tries. With regular starter Jacob Condo out, Cameron Sweigart came in to run the Juniata attack, completing 5-of-8 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.
The Indians also were opportunistic, forcing four turnovers as Billy Dressler picked off two passes and Ortiz wheeled 47 yards with a fumble recovery for another score. Bellefonte ran its winning streak to three games, downing Philipsburg-Osceola 35-7 as Jalen Emel rushed for two short touchdowns and caught a 3-yard pass from QB Ethan Rossman for a third. Rossman also rushed for a short touchdown, while Jamal Saunders nearly cracked 100 yards (13-97) on the ground.
Newport and Upper Dauphin set to collide
Trying to side-step its third loss in an eight-day span, Newport (2-2) will venture to Elizabethville for a Mid-Penn Liberty scrap with Upper Dauphin (2-3) that will pit Buffaloes skipper Todd Rothermel against his former defensive coordinator, Kent Smeltz. Both, ironically, are Line Mountain grads. Newport was holding a 21-10 lead at Line Mountain before the host Eagles rattled off 34 unanswered points en route to a 44-21 victory. Three nights later at home, Rothermel’s Buffaloes dropped a 29-7 decision to Susquehanna Township. While Mason Huggins’ 90-yard kickoff return and touchdown runs from Andrew Bates and Thomas Pyle staked the Buffs to their 21-10 lead, Line Mountain unleashed a powerful ground game that chalked up 510 yards. Huggins added four catches for 61 yards and Bates totaled 182 yards (90 rushing/92 passing), yet it wouldn’t be enough against the host Eagles.
Things were not all that promising against Susquehanna Township, as the Buffaloes yielded 429 offensive yards while totaling just 155. In fact, Pyle’s 28-yard strike to Adam Reich accounted for the lone Newport score. Offense wasn’t the problem for Upper Dauphin, which amassed 438 offensive yards and a half-dozen touchdowns yet lost 43-42 to visiting Fleetwood. Christian Snyder totaled 180 yards and two touchdowns on 19 rushing attempts, while Aiden Wiest and quarterback Tyler Cleveland each ran for scores. Cleveland also completed 9-of-12 passes for 104 yards, while Smeltz’s Trojans also benefited from a 70-yard TD pass from Hayden Harner to Kyle Casner. Casner caught three balls for 80 yards for an Upper Dauphin side that played without running back Chance Crawford.
Susquenita, Halifax involved in crossovers
Hustling to find an opponent since Juniata was bound for postseason play, Susquenita (2-3) will visit winless Trinity (0-5) in a Mid-Penn crossover. Scott Acri’s Blackhawks are angling for a third straight victory after downing James Buchanan and Halifax the past two weekends. Last week at home, Susquenita blanked Halifax 29-0 as freshman quarterback Derek Gibney (3-10-0, 35 yards/10 carries for 45 yards) rushed for touchdowns of 3, 7 and 10 yards and threw a scoring pass to classmate Bryce McKee. Gibney also had two potential touchdown passes dropped. Austin Kenny powered the rushing portion of the Blackhawks’ attack, collecting 209 yards on 25 attempts.
Trinity picked up touchdown receptions from Max Schlager and Trey McAuliffe, but that was far from enough as the Shamrocks fell 49-14 to Capital Division rival Middletown. Schlager added 12 tackles. … Halifax (0-4) hopes to halt a 15-game skid at home against Big Spring (2-3). Micah Deitrich passed for 128 yards (14-for-34, 2 interceptions) in the Wildcats’ loss to Susquenita. Seven of Deitrich’s completions were to the brothers Enders, Bryce (5-50) and Carter (2-27). Ryan Stahl added four receptions for 30 yards, while Judah Miller totaled three catches for 21 yards. Big Spring will arrive in Halifax hoping to erase the 65-30 loss the Bulldogs suffered at Steel-High while conceding 514 offensive yards — including the 396 piled up by the Rollers’ freshman QB Alex Erby (22-for-30, 5 TDs). Dillon Wakefield was a bright spot for Big Spring, rushing 13 times for 109 yards and one score. He also caught one pass for 26 yards. QB Jack Shulenberger passed for 115 yards and one touchdown, but also scored on a short run.