Tigers ready for Oil City
A year ago, Hollidaysburg traveled within miles of Oil City and knocked off a team that entered the game 10-1 and had one of the top running backs in the state in a PIAA Class 5A subregional.
Now it’s the Oilers’ turn to make a long trip to Saint Francis for Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff, but they’ll do so with an 11-0 record, a new bruising back who served as the fullback on last year’s team and most of the line from last season’s squad.
Oil City’s Noah Petro has carried the ball 243 times for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“He’s a big physical back, and he breaks a lot of tackles,” Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said. “He’s around 215-220 pounds with good speed. He outruns everyone we have seen them play.”
The Oilers are also getting more of a dual threat from quarterback Holden Stahl this season. The junior, who has relatives in the Martinsburg area, has thrown for more than 600 yards and rushed for nearly 500.
The two teams both played DuBois, but Oil City played the Beavers before their starting quarterback suffered a season-ending injury. In that game, the Oilers allowed more than 300 yards passing and survived, 55-54, when DuBois failed on a two-point conversion at the end of the game.
Hollidaysburg crushed DuBois, 41-18, but didn’t have to play against the same quarterback.
The Golden Tigers are the healthiest they’ve been this season after missing DJ Heim, Hunter Barr and Mason Replogle, among others, for the majority of the year.
Hollidaysburg will likely switch between starting quarterback Bryce Martellacci and backup Jake McGinnis, because playing McGinnis, who is an excellent runner, at quarterback allows Martellacci to provide another threat at wide receiver.
“We have to keep them off balance,” DeLattre said. “If we mix the run and pass, tackle well and limit their big plays we can control the tempo, and that will be important.”
At least two of the more intriguing area games this weekend will be rematches from last year’s playoffs.
Bedford will attempt to win its second straight District 5-8-9 Class 3A title when it plays Westinghouse Friday night at Somerset.
“We have been playing well, but there are certain things we need to correct getting ready for Westinghouse,” Bedford coach Kevin Steele said. “We’re getting back to work this week and preparing.”
One player Bedford didn’t face a year ago in its lopsided 47-16 victory is Westinghouse quarterback Troy Lanier, who transferred back to the school after spending a season playing for Baldwin in the WPIAL.
The Bisons are a much different team as well, now using Mercury Swaim as quarterback and former starting QB Steven Ressler in the backfield and as the team’s top receiver. They are also starting to get big contributions from Spencer Ebersole as a safety. He had a pair of interceptions against Somerset in Bedford’s semifinal win over Somerset.
“Spencer Ebersole has worked hard and really developed,” Steele said. “He’s been playing more recently. He’s a good athlete who has worked hard and deserves the success he’s been having as he continues to improve.”
While Bedford is hoping for a repeat of last season’s result, Bellwood-Antis would like to see a much different outcome when it plays Ligonier Valley for the second straight year in the District 6 Class 2A semifinals Saturday night.
The Blue Devils came up short a year ago, 34-7, though both teams have lost key players to graduation.
“They are still a really good football team,” Bellwood-Antis coach Nick Lovrich said. “Their line is big, even bigger than the Cambria Heights line we just saw. They have a good quarterback who has thrown for more than 1,500 yards, and they’re always a threat to run the ball with Kyrie Miller. We have to make sure we’re at the top of our game and try to slow them down a little bit.”
Miller, who has 1,651 yards rushing in nine games, did not play in last week’s win over West Shamokin after suffering an injury against Portage in the Appalachian Bowl, and the Blue Devils actually limited him to 2.8 yards per carry on 25 carries in last year’s game.
“I think the players will be a little more familiar with Ligonier Valley’s scheme this year,” Lovrich said. “We’ve played them the last few years in junior varsity, too. We’re familiar with their players and the things they do on offense.”
Both teams enter the game at 11-0, but Bellwood-Antis needed a late score to hold off an upset by Cambria Heights in the quarterfinals last week.
“That was definitely a big gut check for us,” Lovrich said. “We faced some adversity there and overcame that. When we needed to get the ball down the field, guys stepped up. Defensively, our guys got stops in crunch time, and we’re hoping that carries over into this week.”