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Area football teams ready for playoff run

November 8, 2012
By Philip Cmor (pcmor@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

After a game against Huntingdon near the end of the regular season in which the Central football team followed up back-to-back 70-point performances with a measly 48, Scarlet Dragon junior running back and jack-of-all-trades Bradi Moore was asked if he thought his team would be this formidable coming into the season after missing the playoffs the year before.

Like the burst once he gets into the open field on one of his runs, Moore answered with no hesitation.

"I knew we were going to be good," Moore said. "I didn't think we'd be putting up 70 points."

Article Photos

Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
B-A defenders (from left) Keith Shawley, Tyler Campbell and Dan Beech were tough on Richland last week.

The question anymore isn't how many points the Dragons can put up. It's whether or not they can win the District 6 championship.

Central has a great shot to do that as the third seed in Class AA. The playoffs open in all classifications in District 6 and District 5 on Friday and Saturday, with Tyrone, Bellwood-Antis, Northern Bedford, Portage, Bishop Guilfoyle and Juniata Valley among the other area schools that seem to have the best shots to be hoisting trophies in the next couple of weeks.

Always a strong contender, Bellwood will try to put the memory of finishing as the runner-up to Penns Manor last year from the top of a streamlined and very strong-looking District 6 Class A field that also includes Portage, Valley, Guilfoyle, Northern Cambria and Glendale from within the area and perennial powers Bishop McCort and Penns Manor from without. Tyrone, which made it all the way to the PIAA Class AA finals last year, is seeded fourth in District 6, one slot lower than Central and paired with Cambria Heights in the first round for the opportunity to face undefeated Richland, a 2011 tourney finalist, in this year's semifinals.

Fact Box

Playoffs at a glance

DISTRICT 6-9 CLASS AAAA

Seedings: 1. DuBois (8-1); 2. State College (7-3); 3. Central Mountain (5-5)

Defending champion: State College (subregion included District 10 in 2011)

Most intriguing potential matchups: State College vs. DuBois in the championship

Sleepers: None

Interesting facts: State College has won the last two years as the No. 4 seed and is seeking a fifth championship in a row. ... The championship game will be only the second time this season DuBois has played a Class AAAA opponent. ... DuBois last won a district championship in 1995.

District championship game: Nov. 16-17

Mirror's team to beat: DuBois

Mirror's West champion: North Allegheny

Mirror's East champion: St. Joseph's Prep

Mirror's state champion: North Allegheny

DISTRICT 5-6-8-9 CLASS AAA

Seedings: 1. Clearfield (10-0); 2. University Prep (5-3); 3. Somerset (5-5); 4. Punxsutawney (5-5)

Defending champion: Clearfield (subregional did not include District 8 in 2011)

Most intriguing potential matchups: Somerset at University Prep in the semifinals; University Prep vs. Clearfield in the championship

Sleepers: Somerset

Interesting facts: Clearfield last year became the first team to repeat in a Class AAA bracket including District 6 since Huntingdon in 1997-98. ... University Prep was a Class AAAA school last year, while Somerset was Class AA. Punxsutawney didn't have enough rating points to qualify to play Clearfield in the District 9 championship game but did make the subregional because the tournies use different formulas to arrive at seeding.

District championship game: Nov. 16-17

Mirror's team to beat: Clearfield

Mirror's West champion: Bishop McDevitt

Mirror's East champion: Archbishop Wood

Mirror's state champion: Bishop McDevitt

DISTRICT 6 CLASS AA

Seedings: 1. Richland (10-0); 2. Ligonier Valley (9-1); 3. Central (8-2); 4. Tyrone (7-3); 5. Cambria Heights (7-3); 6. Forest Hills (7-3); 7. Bald Eagle Area (6-4); 8. Penn Cambria (6-4)

Defending champion: Tyrone

Most intriguing potential matchups: Forest Hills at Central and Cambria Heights at Tyrone in the quarterfinals; Tyrone at Richland and Forest Hills or Central at Ligonier Valley in the semifinals; Tyrone vs. Central, Forest Hills vs. Richland, Central vs. Richland or Forest Hills vs. Tyrone in the championship

Sleepers: Cambria Heights, Forest Hills

Interesting facts: The tourney has produced a repeat champion three times in the last nine years. Each time, that was followed by a team that won once. ... No team from outside the LHAC or the Big Eight/Mountain Conference/Mountain League has won the district since United in 1998. Tyrone has won eight district titles in the last 18 years and an eighth in Class AAA, while Forest Hills has eight since 1991 and one in Class AAA. ... District 5 was part of this tournament last year.

District championship game: Nov. 23 at Altoona's Mansion Park

Mirror's team to beat: Central

Mirror's West champion: Aliquippa

Mirror's East champion: Wyomissing

Mirror's state champion: Aliquippa

DISTRICT 5-8 CLASS AA

Seedings: 1. Chestnut Ridge (5-5); 2. Everett (5-5)

Defending champion: None - part of District 6 tournament in 2011

Most intriguing potential matchups: Everett vs. Chestnut Ridge in the championship

Sleepers: None

Interesting facts: It will be the first championship won on the field for whichever team prevails; District 5 has recognized a champion of its own in years when its teams were part of subregional tournaments with District 6. ... The winner was scheduled to play the top Class AA team from the Pittsburgh City League next week in the finals of a subregional tournament, but Westinghouse, the line AA team in District 8, declined to play in the playoffs after winning one game this season.

District championship game: Nov. 9 at Northern Bedford's Panther Community Stadium

Mirror's team to beat: Everett

Mirror's West champion: Aliquippa

Mirror's East champion: Wyomissing

Mirror's state champion: Aliquippa

DISTRICT 6 CLASS A

Seedings: 1. Bellwood-Antis (9-1); 2. Portage (9-1); 3. Penns Manor (9-1); 4, Juniata Valley (9-1); 5. Bishop Guilfoyle (8-2); 6. Bishop McCort (7-3); 7. Northern Cambria (7-3); 8, Glendale (6-4)

Defending champion: Penns Manor

Most intriguing potential matchups: Northern Cambria at Portage, Bishop McCort at Penns Manor and Bishop Guilfoyle at Juniata Valley in the quarterfinals; Bishop Guilfoyle at Bellwood-Antis and Bishop McCort or Penns Manor vs. Northern Cambria or Portage in the semifinals; Northern Cambria, Bishop McCort, Penns Manor or Portage vs. Bishop Guilfoyle or Bellwood-Antis in the championship

Sleepers: Bishop Guilfoyle, Bishop McCort and Northern Cambria

Interesting facts: The tournament goes to an eight-team format this year after several seasons with up to 16 teams eligible to participate. ... Penns Manor broke a string in 2011 of 11 seasons in which the champion was from a league primarily of Class AA or larger teams. ... The last No. 1 seed to win the tournament was Bishop McCort in 2009. Inter-County Conference teams are 4-12 over the last three years in the tourney when playing non-ICC teams. Belwood-Antis has all four wins.

District championship game: Nov. 24 at Altoona's Mansion Park

Mirror's team to beat: Bellwood-Antis

Mirror's East champion: Southern Columbia

Mirror's West champion: Clairton

Mirror's state champion: Clairton

DISTRICT 5 CLASS A

Seedings: 1. Northern Bedford (9-1); 2. Berlin Brothersvalley (9-1); 3. Windber (8-2); 4. North Star (8-2); 5. Shade (6-4); 6. Tussey Mountain (5-5)

Defending champion: North Star

Most intriguing potential matchups: Tussey Mountain at Windber and Shade at North Star in the quarterfinals; North Star at Northern Bedford and Windber at Berlin Brothersvalley in the semifinals; Windber or Berlin Brothersvalley vs. North Star or Northern Bedford in the championship

Sleepers: North Star

Interesting facts: North Star last year became just the second repeat champion in tournament history. No team has won 5-A three years in a row. ... Northern Bedford is trying to become the first non-Somerset County school to win the tournament since the Black Panthers pulled it off in 1995. ... District 5 didn't hold its own tournament from 1996-2003, when it was part of a subregion with District 6.

District championship game: Nov. 23

Mirror's team to beat: Northern Bedford

Mirror's West champion: Clairton

Mirror's East champion: Southern Columbia

Mirror's state champion: Clairton

Northern Bedford got some help from Windber last week and took advantage of Berlin Brothersvalley's loss to gain the top seed in District 5 Class A. The Black Panthers will try to break a trend in 5-A by breaking a string of Somerset County champions that goes back to NBC's last win in 1995.

Without further ado, here's a breakdown of the how the brackets might shape up in each classification:

District 6 Class AA

After winning a district title in 2008 and producing a couple of other contenders since, Central missed the playoffs in 2011. However, the Dragons look to be back, based upon upon their 8-2 record, an average of better than 40 points per game and a school-record 74 points against Philipsburg-Osceola a month ago.

Central gets most of its attention for its playmakers, like Moore and quarterback Austin Cunningham. However, this team also includes bruisers like fullback-linebacker Austin Conrath and possesses a hard-hitting, perhaps underrated defense. There are a lot of seniors on the roster, but also a lot of juniors, especially playing the skill positions.

Central's losses came by a point at Clearfield and by eight at Fort Hill, Md., when Moore didn't play. The Dragons have beaten four playoff teams by at least 14 points, including Tyrone, 28-0.

Central's path to the finals won't be an easy one, though. It begins with a quarterfinal home game against playoff regular Forest Hills. The Rangers are young but play very good defense. They lost two games when quarterback Joe Donoughe was injured and dropped the third by four points to McCort. Central has the advantage in big-strike capability, but the Rangers and Don Bailey are masters at controlling the tempo.

Should the Dragons pass that test, they are likely to have to travel to Ligonier Valley in the semifinals - the Rams already bested quarterfinal opponent Bald Eagle Area convincingly last week on the road. Ligonier is another team that can be explosive, but the Rams' wins were primarily accomplished at the hands of Class A foes, while Central played Class AA and AAA teams. That should play to Central's advantage.

The two teams that look like the best bets to come out of the other side of the bracket are Richland or Tyrone, last year's finalists.

Tyrone finally seems to have gotten comfortable under new head coach Steve Guthoff, winning seven of its last eight mixed with a one-point loss to Clearfield. The Golden Eagles boast the area's most prolific running back in James Oliver and have playmakers at a number of positions. Cambria Heights is capable of pushing Tyrone in the opener with its big, physical line and backs and methodical style, but the Highlanders haven't played a playoff game in 14 years and two of the three backs that comprise its talented backfield enter the playoffs banged up.

Richland opens the playoffs with Penn Cambria. The Panthers looked like a potential championship contender through four weeks before an implosion of tough losses culminated with the resignation of Coach Ernie Fetzer with two games left in the regular season. Penn Cambria hung with Richland for a half late in the season before succumbing, 30-12; while the Panthers could pull the upset, it would require close to a perfect game and for Richland to be off its game somewhat.

Richland has a prolific offense that is effective running or throwing the football and a very, very experienced offensive line. Defensively, the Rams have performed well, too, allowing 20 points or more only twice. On the basis of its consistency, give Richland the edge to make the final against Central for a game where the teams match up fairly evenly.

SUBHED: District 6 Class A

Bellwood came into the season looking like one of the teams to beat and, although the Blue Devils have had a hiccup here or there, they've done very little to dispel that notion. In fact, a 14-7 loss at home to Richland in which they outgained the Rams nearly two-to-one probably solidified their status as team to beat.

Bellwood's draw to reach the finals could be filled with familiar teams if the seedings hold true. The Devils defeated quarterfinal-round opponent Glendale by 28 two weeks ago and had a comfortable lead on prospective semifinal foe Juniata Valley heading into the fourth quarter before winning by 13.

Like Richland, the Devils have nice experience in the trenches. They also possess some outstanding athletes as the skill positions. That kind of balance is rare in Class A.

B-A might not get to see Valley again, though. The Green Hornets figure to have a big challenge in their playoff opener with visiting Guilfoyle. The Marauders' only losses are to Richland and McCort, and they have unusual size for a single-A school. They also spent the year facing down bigger schools, which makes their 8-2 record more impressive.

If Guilfoyle can get by Valley and, presumably, Bellwood, the Marauders will get to play the championship game at their home field, Mansion Park.

Young upstart Portage has some big hurdles if it is to make it to Mansion, too. The Mustangs drew Northern Cambria, which beat Penns Manor to begin the regular season and Cambria Heights to end it, while almost scoring an upset at Berlin in between - the Colts have a lot of the same cast back from a team that won a playoff game last year, with talent on defense, good size and some very productive skill players.

Portage, meanwhile, has played terrific defense and its Wing-T running game, featuring sophomore Caleb Kephart, really has come into its own in the last few games.

The other quarterfinal in that side of the bracket is fascinating, as well. On the one side, you have Heritage Conference champion and defending PIAA semifinalist Penns Manor, with its dynamic quarterback, Danny Ferens; Ferens has rushed for more than 5,000 yards in his illustrious career.

On the other side is McCort, which has a pair of huge defensive tackles and a great secondary to spark a very good defense but which also hasn't been especially consistent offensively. McCort, like Guilfoyle, plays larger schools than the rest of the 6-A field, though, and that generally has been an advantage in this classification over the past dozen years.

Will better competition be an advantage, or does having the best player, Ferens, give the edge to the Comets once again? There are a lot of questions that it will be interesting to watch play out.

SUBHED: District 5 Class A

District 5's Class A tournament has just about as many questions and possibilities as does District 6's. For instance, Shade almost beat quarterfinal-round opponent North Star in the regular season, and Windber did knock off its potential semifinal opponent, Berlin, just last week. Northern Bedford, meanwhile, might have to beat the two time defending champ, North Star, just to get a shot at the title.

Northern Bedford has been a steady presence all season. Blake Over and a good corps of receivers like Kyler Diehl and Tayler Pressel have given the Panthers perhaps the best passing offense in the area. However, it's the defense that really makes NB a force with which to be reckoned; it's not gifted with the greatest size, but it's a very scrappy unit that has come to play every game this season.

North Star, though, could be a tough matchup simply because of the quality of the athletes in its system. Much of the time, the Cougars can simply overwhelm foes with their speed and size.

The only other area team in the field, Tussey Mountain, is on the other side of the bracket. The Titans have been one of the area's harder teams to figure out. Statistically, they have been very good running the ball and stopping the run. Yet, they are only 5-5; they seem to play good enough to just lose or have found ways not to win this year. Windber, which often judges its seasons on playoff showing, will be a very difficult first-round draw.

Much like Penns Manor in 6-A, Berlin has a player in Drew Glotfelty who can absolutely take games over and has done it on more than one occasion this season. Coach Doug Paul finds a variety of ways to get Glotfelty the ball - wildcat, pitches, draws, short passes - to keep defenses from being able to key on his star. The Mountaineers are pretty solid in most other areas, too, meaning they can pull out a play or two from somewhere to win a game if Glotfelty is contained.

SUBHED: District 6-9 Class AAA

Only three teams make up this playoff - Mifflin County elected not to participate.

State College has been the power in the district for years. DuBois is trying to find a way to change that.

The Little Lions played a grueling regular season schedule. Usually, that toughens them up for the postseason, but, this year, it actually showed signs of wearing them down - they only beat Mifflin County by a touchdown in week 9 and were upset by Cumberland Valley in week 10.

DuBois also lost its regular season finale to Slippery Rock, but the Beavers appear to have found a comfort zone in their possession passing offense, and have a 1,600-yard rusher in Garrett Brown, to boot. Look for State College to beat Central Mountain and Von Walker in the semifinals but for DuBois to finally get its district title in a competitive, entertaining game.

SUBHED: District 5-6-8-9 Class AAA

Clearfield is a huge favorite here. The Bison are 10-0 and have shown they can win with offense or defense in blowouts or close games. In junior Christian Lezzer, Clearfield also possesses a player that can take over games from the start or when his team needs him to.

The Bison should have little trouble dispatching Punxsutawney, which is coming off a loss at Northern Bedford.

The other semifinal has Somerset traveling to Pittsburgh to face University Prep. City League teams often are labeled undisciplined, but University Prep has had several former college and pro players on its coaching staff and almost beat State College in the Class AAAA interdistricts last year. Give it the nod to face off with Clearfield in the subregional final.

 
 
 

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