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Area teams vying for higher spots in week No. 10

October 31, 2013
By Philip Cmor (pcmor@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Ever since Central rejoined Tyrone in what is now the Mountain League, the rivalry between the two Blair County high school programs has burned hotter than ever.

The Scarlet Dragons and Golden Eagles have not only been perennial top contenders for the league championship, but they've also vied for District 6 Class AA hardware.

It should be no surprise, then, that with just one week left in the regular season, the Dragons and Eagles are jockeying once more for position as high seeds in the postseason. In fact, it's very likely that it will take a tiebreaker to split them up after this week's action.

That's just one of the intriguing storylines that has developed for a weekend in which Huntingdon and Juniata Valley will meet to fight for their playoff lives in different classifications and even games like those Ferndale at Glendale (one win between them) and Blacklick Valley and Saltsburg (three wins combined) still hold significance as District 6 and District 5 flesh out their playoff brackets.

But let's start in District 6-AA with Central and Tyrone. The Dragons currently are 10 points ahead of Tyrone in the standings, sitting in third place. However, even if Central closes with a win at Everett, Tyrone can make up that gap by beating Johnstown, a Class AAA opponent that is worth 10 more points than Everett. Tyrone has really helped itself out by scheduling the triple-A Trojans and quad-A Central Mountain in non-league games, because those wins carried 60 more points than wins over Class AA squads.

Tyrone, though, needs more than a tie, because the Eagles lost head-to-head to Central early this season, and that's the first tiebreaker. Plus, an Eagle win gives Central 10 more power points because teams get 10 points for every beaten opponent's victory.

The first thing that has to happen is for Central Mountain to beat Jersey Shore, which seems a strong possibility. Then, ironically, the Eagles must hope that archrival Bellwood-Antis, who they beat way back in week 1, can pull off an upset win at undefeated Richland - the Rams already have wrapped up the No. 1 slot in 6-AA, while Bellwood still has some playoff slotting riding on the contest.

Central also could get 10 extra points if Chestnut Ridge wins its duel at Bedford for the top seed in District 5 Class AA on Friday night.

If Central and Tyrone both win, Ridge wins or either Central Mountain or Bellwood lose, Central will finish ahead of Tyrone. Both, though, could still move up a spot in the seedings if Penns Valley, which still is clinging to slim playoff hopes of its down, can knock off second-ranked Mount Union this week.

Penns Valley is hoping just to get to be part of the conversation for eighth place, an equation that was made all the more interesting because of Northern Cambria's upset win at Ligonier Valley last week. Ligonier seemed to be certain to be headed back to the playoffs, but now their game at Bald Eagle Area as well as Huntingdon's home game with Juniata Valley have become far more meaningful - Huntingdon, BEA, Ligonier and Penns Valley are battling it out with Central Cambria, Forest Hills and Juniata for the final four spots in the bracket.

Huntingdon's road to the playoffs starts very simply: The Bearcats have to beat Juniata Valley. If they do, they have a shot to advance, because they are currently ninth, and sixth-place Ligonier is playing seventh-place Bald Eagle, so they'll jump up in the point standings at least near the loser of that game.

If the loser is BEA, Huntingdon is in along with Ligonier. If the loser is Ligonier, BEA clinches, probably overtaking Central Cambria for fifth seed and Huntingdon will surpass the Rams ... temporarily. From there, it would down to how the teams Huntingdon and Ligonier Valley beat already fare in the final week.

Huntingdon is looking for wins from Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Central Mountain and Philipsburg-Osceola, while Ligonier is seeking assistance from Purchase Line, United, Blairsville, Marion Center, Windber and Saltsburg. It looks very possible that the teams could finish tied with 680 points.

Huntingdon and Ligonier didn't play each other and both will have lost to their only common opponent, BEA. That brings in the third tiebreaker - opponents' winning percentage - and the Bearcats look to have a clear-cut edge there.

That tiebreaker probably would determine the eighth and final playoff slot, because Forest Hills is starting to get healthy and only needs to win at 1-8 Philipsburg-Osceola to secure a spot for itself, while Central Cambria just has to beat 2-7 Bishop McCort to clinch.

It should be noted that that final item isn't a given. Central Cambria has dropped three straight games, while McCort gave 7-2 Bishop Guilfoyle a run for its money last week. If Central Cambria loses, it also could wind up with 680 points and tied with Huntingdon and Ligonier. The Red Devils, though, likely would come out on top of both the Bearcats and Rams on the opponents' winning percentage tiebreaker.

None of the teams contending for the final four spots can more up higher than fifth.

6-A breakdown

Still a lot can happen in District 6 Class A, especially with current No. 3 Portage hosting top-ranked Homer-Center this week and Bellwood sitting on a potential points bonanza - beating Richland would give the Blue Devils 210 power points by itself.

If Bellwood and Portage win, the Blue Devils would begin defense of their 2012 title as the first seed so long as at least three of the teams they've already defeated win this weekend. If Portage wins and Bellwood loses, the Mustangs would go into the playoffs in the top spot.

Homer can only be the top seed if it wins at Portage, but Penns Manor, which starts the week in fourth, could improve to second if both Bellwood and Portage are defeated; the Comets should have a fairly easy time with Keystone.

Bishop Guilfoyle, which plays winless United, is stuck in fifth barring a Penns Manor upset loss, and Laurel Highlands Conference rival Bishop Carroll seems likely to join the Marauders because it just needs to win its home game with 0-9 Westmont Hilltop on Saturday.

Then things get interesting. Juniata Valley presently is sixth and can stay there by beating Huntingdon. However, should the Green Hornets lose, they might miss out on the playoffs altogether. The Hornets are just 30 points ahead of Carroll entering this week, and Northern Cambria, after beating Ligonier, looks like a good bet to defeat 1-8 Cambria Heights in Friday's Coal Bowl to punch its playoff ticket.

Now ninth, Williamsburg should win this week, too; the Pirates play winless West Branch. That game, though, only is worth 100 points, and Valley holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Williamsburg.

Valley's biggest threat comes from Blairsville. The 5-4 Bobcats are at 4-5 Moshannon Valley on Friday and trail the Hornets by 140 points. If Blairsville wins and Juniata Valley loses, they'll be even. Both teams are likely to get 30 extra power points this week, too, which will leave them tied at 790, and both will have wins over their only common opponent, Mo Valley.

Opponents' winning percent, though, favors Blairsville considerably, because the Bobcats have played Homer-Center, Penns Manor, Ligonier, Northern Cambria and Portage. So, Valley really needs to win this weekend.

Mo Valley still has an outside chance. It needs to beat Blairsville while Northern Cambria and Williamsburg both lose. Purchase Line, St. Joseph's and McCort were eliminated by last week's results.

Elsewhere in District 6

In District 6-9-10 Class AAAA, just 170 points separate the top three teams - Central Mountain already has decided not to enter the playoffs.

State College can vault to the top seed by upsetting 7-2 Cumberland Valley while DuBois is beaten by Slippery Rock, but it looks more likely the Beavers will hold on to the top spot with State finishing second and Mifflin County third; the Huskies can't quite make up enough ground on the other two teams even if they win.

In District 5-6-8-9, the top three seeds are fixed: Clearfield is first, University Prep is second and Somerset is third.

Johnstown, Punxsutawney and Bradford are in the mix for the final position. None of those teams are favored this week - Punxsy, which plays Class A Northern Bedford at home is the only one that isn't a heavy underdog. Johnstown's current 20-point advantage should be enough to give the Trojans the fourth spot.

Johnstown will enter the playoffs if it qualifies even with a 3-7 record.

District 5 outlook

The race in District 5 Class AA is clear. The winner of this week's Chestnut Ridge at Bedford game will be the first seed and will host Westinghouse in the semifinals. The loser is the second seed and entertains third-seeded Everett.

Class A is much muddier. Tussey Mountain dropped from first all the way to fourth last week just by losing by two points at Mount Union.

The Titans control their destiny partially now. They play at second-ranked Meyersdale this week and will move up at least one spot by beating the Red Raiders. If they don't, they'll be fourth.

Even if it wins at Punxsy, Northern Bedford needs help to improve its third-place standing. It needs for Tussey to win and/or for Windber to upend Berlin Brothersvalley, which doesn't seem likely except that Berlin and Windber seem to have thrown out the records in their recent meetings.

By scheduling Westinghouse to replace Rockwood and winning, Berlin gave itself an important extra rating point that will keep it ahead of Meyersdale even if both win this week. That's a big deal, because the top seed gets a bye into the semifinals.

North Star, Windber and Shade round out the field. Shade will be the seventh seed no matter what happens this week. North Star and Windber could finish tied for fifth, but the Cougars have a much easier game this week with 2-7 Conemaugh Township, while Windber has to try to beat Berlin.

 
 

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