Ridge thinking about No. 4

Chestnut Ridge will be bidding for its fourth consecutive District 5 Class 2A football championship tonight, when the Lions meet Berlin Brothersvalley in the 7 p.m. title game at Windber Stadium.

But Ridge coach Max Shoemaker knows that defending the title against the 10-1 Berlin team won’t be easy.

“We’re expecting a dogfight,” Shoemaker said. “Their record is 10-1, and their record speaks for itself. They seem to be clicking on all cylinders, and playing their best ball at the most opportune time.”

Berlin avenged its only loss during the regular season by throttling Meyersdale, 49-7 in a District 5 Class 2A semifinal playoff game last Friday night.

“The best evidence (of Berlin’s progress) is the two games they played with Meyersdale,” Shoemaker said. “They got beat in the first game, but (in the playoff game), they just played lights out. (Berlin) totally dominated (Meyersdale).”

Ridge (8-2) began this season with eight straight victories before losing at home to Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (20-14) and at undefeated Richland (51-7) in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.

Ridge used its bye week last week to put those games in the rearview mirror, and is focusing squarely on tonight, according to Shoemaker.

“I think that during our week off, we went back to try to correct some of the things that BG and Richland pointed out to us,” Shoemaker said. “We had to learn the hard way. Hopefully, we’re better off persevering through those two losses, moving forward, and we’re looking forward to getting back on the winning side of things and reasserting ourselves.

“Playing for a district championship always has special significance,” Shoemaker said.

Even when a team has already won three in a row.

“It’s always exciting,” Ridge senior two-way starting tackle Noah Smith said. “It never gets old.”

Ridge’s offense is led by outstanding junior quarterback Logan Pfister, who has completed 114 of 177 passes for 1,539 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 637 yards on 114 carries and 12 scores.

“He’s a great athlete who runs their offense very well, and can both run and throw,” Berlin Brothersvalley coach Doug Paul said of Pfister. “We have the utmost respect for their program. They’re a great football team. We’re going to have to play ball (to win).”

Senior running back Trey Maxwell has rushed for 464 yards on 93 carries and 14 touchdowns for Ridge, while sophomore slotback Matt Whysong leads Ridge in receptions with 33 for 513 yards and six touchdowns. Senior slotback Seth Holderbaum has 27 catches for 280 yards and one score, sophomore Trevor Weyandt has 19 receptions for 262 yards and a touchdown, and senior Kaden Bowser has 16 catches for 264 yards and a touchdown.

“Everybody has put in hard work throughout the season and they’ve all believed in one another and played as a team,” Smith said.

Berlin Brothersvalley’s offense is led by junior Will Spochart, a multi-dimensional threat who plays both quarterback and splits out at either slotback or wide receiver, and senior running back Cole Blubaugh.

Spochart has rushed for 993 yards on 115 carries and 11 touchdowns, completed 31 of 79 passes for 544 yards and six TDs, and has caught eight passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns.

Blubaugh has rushed for 897 yards on 110 carries and 13 TDs, while hauling in a team-leading 23 receptions for 427 yards and five scores.

“Those two are central to what they try to do offensively,” Shoemaker said.

Another big contributor offensively for Berlin is junior Abe Countryman, who alternates between quarterback and tight end, and has completed 28 of 54 passes for 606 yards and nine touchdowns, while making five receptions for 86 yards and two scores.

On the other side of the ball, Berlin plays an aggressive and opportunistic defense that has forced 29 opponents’ turnovers — 14 on fumbles — and registered 19 quarterback sacks.

“Defensively, they’re aggressive and they make things happen,” Shoemaker said. “Their defense has a knack for creating turnovers, and we can’t fall victim to that.”

Shoemaker knows how special it is for a team to still be playing.

“I told the kids this week that it’s special to be hanging around at this time of the year,” Shoemaker said. “We want to make sure that we put everything into this that we need to, and that we put our best foot forward.”

D5 Class 2A championship

Who: Chestnut Ridge vs. Berlin Brothersvalley.

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Winder Stadium.

Records: Chestnut Ridge (8-2); Berlin Brothersvalley (10-1)

Coaches: Chestnut Ridge’s Max Shoemaker is 190-95-1 in 23 seasons, including a 96-47-1 record in 13 years at Bedford. Berlin Brothersvalley’s Doug Paul is 133-67 in 18 seasons.

Last meeting: Chestnut Ridge defeated Berlin Brothersvalley, 49-7 in a District 5 Class 2A semifinal playoff game at Somerset last November 2.

At stake: Tonight’s winner advances into the PIAA Class 2A playoffs next week.

Noteworthy: Chestnut Ridge is seeking its fourth consecutive District 5 Class 2A championship.