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Playoff positioning in full force

One year removed from its surprising run to the District 5 Class A championship, Tussey Mountain is in position for a repeat performance.

The Titans have a chance to serve notice this week if they can knock Mount Union from undefeated ranks on Friday at Hess Field.

That game, though, will have far-reaching effects that will be felt in places like Tyrone and Berlin, too, because playoff seedings hang in the balance.

With two weeks left in the regular season for District 6 and District 5 teams, quite a bit has come into clear focus, but much more will be made clear by the results of games this weekend in Williamsburg, Three Springs and Sidman as well as Saxton.

A total of 17 teams from the Mirror coverage area still are mathematically alive for berths in the District 6 Class AA, District 6 Class A, District 5-8 Class AA and District 5 Class A playoffs. Some of them, like Bishop Guilfoyle, Tyrone, Central, Portage, Bedford, Chestnut Ridge, Tussey, Northern Bedford and Everett already know they will be playing in week 11, some like Bellwood-Antis are virtually assured of it, and others like Central Cambria, Glendale and Northern Cambria have extremely slim hopes burning like embers in a dying fire.

For Tussey, a win over Mount Union would go a long way to wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the 5-A playoffs. Meanwhile, it also would open the door for Tyrone to overtake the Trojans for the top spot in District 6 Class AA. However, a Mount Union win puts Tussey Mountain in a virtual must-win situation in its regular-season finale with Everett for the Titans to have any shot at the first seed in their bracket, which probably would wind up going to 2013 runner-up Berlin Brothersvalley.

Here’s a closer look at the District 6 and District 5 playoff scenarios heading into this week:

SUBHED: District 6 Class AA

Mount Union, Tyrone, Juniata and Central have clinched and will remain in that order providing they win out. Of those teams, Mount Union faces the toughest test this week against Tussey, while Tyrone has a big game in week 10 at Chestnut Ridge – Ridge could be playing for the No. 1 seed in District 5 Class AA.

Things get interesting around the fifth position. Currently, that is in the hands of Penn Cambria, but the Panthers, while still being in great shape to advance to the postseason, have a major mountain to climb this week when they host undefeated Somerset.

A Somerset win gives several teams a chance to move up in the rankings, but the one that has the best chance to make something out of that is Southern Huntingdon, which enters this week in eighth. The Rockets host Moshannon Valley on Friday night in a game that stands to make big ripples if not outright waves in both 6-AA and 6-A. If Southern Huntingdon can defeat the Black Knights, it probably will end up in fifth place. If the Rockets lose, they most likely wind up eighth.

Another game that will have huge ramifications is Richland at Forest Hills. The Rams gave themselves a chance to get back in the playoffs by beating Central Cambria on a field goal as time expired, and, with winless Bishop Carroll as their week 10 opponent, they can pretty much assure themselves a postseason berth by toppling the Rangers, who it appears might be without standout running back Shareef Blough.

Forest Hills faces Bedford in week 10, and the Bisons probably will be 9-1 and playing for the No. 1 seed in 5-AA. If Forest Hills wins this week, it probably will finish with 570 points, but, if it loses, it probably ends up at 430. Richland is looking at 560 points with a win and 420 if it loses.

Penn Cambria closes with 2-6 Bishop McCort, and a win there should be enough to net the Panthers the sixth seed, providing there aren’t some major upsets somewhere else. Huntingdon is a heavy underdog this week to visiting Central, but the Bearcats play Juniata Valley next week, and a win over the Green Hornets should put them in, likely as the No. 7 seed.

Ligonier Valley and Central Cambria are in the mix, too. The Red Devils, coming off back-to-back last-second losses, need major help, like a Richland win over Forest Hills followed by a Bishop Carroll upset of the Rams. Ligonier has two very difficult games with which to end – Homer-Center and at Central – and the Rams haven’t done enough to instill confidence that they can win either of those games.

SUBHED: District 6 Class A

Expect some major movement with the order, here, if not necessarily the teams, as the current top eight are in pretty solid shape.

Despite being undefeated and playing in predominantly a conference of larger schools, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic currently is third in the standings behind Blairsville and Portage. That’s probably going to change, though, because the Marauders close things out with two games against Class AAA teams that have outstanding records, Johnstown and Somerset.

Winning both of those will catapult Guilfoyle to the top seed regardless of what the Bobcats and Mustangs do.

Speaking of Blairsville and Portage, they currently are separated by 10 power points, with the Mustangs trailing. There’s a good change they wind up tied when it is all said and done, though, and Portage would get the upper hand because its opponents would have a higher winning percentage.

Moshannon Valley has a pivotal game at Southern Huntingdon on Friday, but it might not really make a dent in the standings. If the Knights win, they probably wind up with 940 points. That’s not likely to be enough to catch Penns Manor for sixth place unless the Comets lose to Purchase Line.

Conversely, if Purchase Line wins but Mo Valley loses this week, the Red Dragons could leapfrog the Knights.

Williamsburg is among the other teams hoping Southern Huntingdon prevails. The Blue Pirates need some help from the Rockets and the Comets. They also have a big game this week against visiting Northern Bedford that could go either way. If Williamsburg wins, the Pirates have another huge test looming in the regular season finale at defending champion Homer-Center; the Wildcats would be favored in that game.

One of the teams rooting for Williamsburg next week might be Bellwood-Antis. The Blue Devils jumped into fourth place this week by virtue of Homer-Center’s loss to West Middlesex, and that’s important because it would mean a first-round home game. However, Bellwood’s last two regular season games with Glendale and Philipsburg-Osceola are low on power points, and it would allow Homer-Center to pass the Blue Devils in the even both teams win out.

SUBHED: District 5

By virtue of a win over double-A Southern Huntingdon, Tussey Mountain has an extra power point in its favor as it tries to fend off Berlin Brothersvalley and Meyersdale for the top seed in Class A. If the Titans split their last two with Mount Union and Everett, it should be enough – Berlin has to play at Portage next week, and Meyersdale already is six points behind.

Northern Bedford is fifth heading into this weekend but has the chance to move up to fourth and get an opening-round home game. Both of the Black Panthers’ final two games are hard to predicts, at Williamsburg and then home for Northern Cambria. A sweep would put them at 31 points, giving them a good shot at passing Shade, which plays Windber this week and, if it won, would have to play at Meyersdale in week 10 – Shade probably will finish at 30 points either way.

Everett is likely to win this week over Claysburg-Kimmel but would be the underdog next week against Tussey, although the Warriors have the ability to win that game. Should Everett split, there are good odds they finish tied for sixth with Windber, but the Warriors would have the tiebreaker on their opponents’ record.

North Star seems likely to round out the field. Conemaugh Township, though, could sneak in by beating Ferndale this week – nearly a certainty – and then taking out the Cougars head-to-head next week to avenge an earlier eight-point loss to North Star.

In Class AA, Bedford and Ridge are separated by one power point entering this week, and Ridge will overtake the Bisons simply by beating Class AAA Bellefonte while Bedford faces Class A Cambria Heights. However, Bedford has the better chance to win both of its games, as Chestnut Ridge has to host Tyrone in what figures to be a class of 9-1 teams next week.

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