Something has to give in Class 3A
More than halfway through the high school football season, it’s still tough to know which teams in the area are the best of the best.
Seven teams — Bedford, Central, Clearfield, Bellwood-Antis, Juniata Valley, Portage and Cambria Heights — in the Mirror’s regional coverage area remain unbeaten, and three of them are on a collision course that we’ll start to get a sneak peek at tonight.
Central hosts Bedford in a game between the current top seeds in District 6 and District 5 Class 3A, respectively. The game will play a big role in determining the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference champion, but it could also be a PIAA playoff preview.
The teams met last season. Bedford came out on top, 28-13, but Central was without starting quarterback Jeff Hoenstine, who suffered a leg injury in a District 6 championship win over Tyrone. The Bisons went on to make the PIAA semifinals, and both teams are certainly capable of getting back there this season.
But there’s a chance tonight could be the only time Central and Bedford meet this season if Clearfield has anything to do with it.
The PIAA bracket will be set up the same as last season, so the District 9 and District 5 champions will meet in a subregional championship game Nov. 12 or Nov. 13, and the winner of that game will play the District 6 champion in the first official round of the PIAA playoffs.
The three teams most likely to be involved will be Bedford, Clearfield and Central, the same teams as last year. This season, all three seem to be just as good — if not better — and have a combined record of 18-0.
Something will have to give.
Two of the other undefeated teams in the region reside in District 6 Class 2A — Bellwood-Antis and Cambria Heights. The Blue Devils currently have a 30-point advantage over the Highlanders for the top seed, but that might not be the most desirable position.
A year ago, Bellwood had to match up with Richland in the semifinals, and that could happen again as the Rams are currently the No. 5 seed despite likely being a much stronger team than No. 3 seed Bald Eagle Area and No. 4 seed River Valley.
Bellwood-Antis and Cambria Heights both certainly have a realistic goal of winning the District 6 title, and doing so means beating Richland or whatever team beats Richland eventually, but being forced to play an extremely competitive game in the semifinals is a much tougher path to the title than simply beating the winner in the final.
The current top two seeds in the 12-team District 6 Class 1A field are Portage and Juniata Valley, though the Mustangs not having a game this week will hurt them. Portage and the Green Hornets both have significant challenges left. The Mustangs close out their regular season against WestPAC powerhouses Berlin Brothersvalley and Windber, and Juniata Valley still must play Northern Bedford tonight and Bellwood-Antis on Oct. 22.
Lurking below those teams at No. 4 is Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, the defending district champion.
The winner of the District 6 Class 1A tournament is already in the PIAA semifinals, possibly against defending PIAA champion Steelton-Highspire. District 6 has proven it can compete well against anyone in the state at the Class 1A level, so it will be interesting to see which local team gets that chance this season.
Michael Boytim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-946-7521. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael