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Four Centre County Teams Still Alive in High School Football Playoffs

by and on November 08, 2019 4:00 AM

Bald Eagle Area survived, Penns Valley romped and now State College and Bellefonte will get into the action as the District 6 football playoffs kick into high gear this weekend.

There are four monster games on tap involving Centre County teams, all with District 6 and PIAA tournament implications, so let’s get right to it.

STATE COLLEGE (9-1) VS MCDOWELL (9-1)
6A, DISTRICT 6, 8, 9, 10 REGIONAL PLAYOFFS
NOV. 8, 7 P.M., ERIE

The State College Little Lions emerged from another daunting Mid Penn Commonwealth schedule with just a single loss — to arch-rival and league champion Central Dauphin.

Now in the regional playoffs beginning on Friday at Erie Veteran’s Stadium in Erie, the Little Lions will take on another champion in District 10 champion McDowell (9-1).

The two teams come into the game about as evenly matched as it can get. Both are 9-1, and both average just over 400 yards per game of total offense. McDowell has a slight advantage in scoring average per game — 39.7 to 34.1 — but State College has an advantage defensively with more sacks and takeaways.

McDowell quarterback Chris Juncho, a 6-foot-2, 200 pound junior, averages 166 yards passing per game, with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Brady Dorner, the State College quarterback, averages 151 yards and has 11 touchdowns.

On the ground, McDowell is led by junior Elijah Lopez, who averages more than 110 yards a game and has scored eight touchdowns.

For State College, Dresyn Green runs for 94 yards per game and has scored 15 rushing touchdowns and 17 total. The winner of the game will advance to the PIAA state tournament.

Last season, the Little Lions pulled away from McDowell in the third quarter for a 55-20 win and ultimately advanced to the state 6A quarterfinals.

Video produced by Centre County Report/Dylan Huberman

NO. 2 CLEARFIELD (8-3) VS NO. 1 BELLEFONTE (8-2)
DISTRICT 6 CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP
NOV. 8, 7 P.M., WINGATE

Not much introduction is needed about the importance — much less the intensity — of this game between the two 4A powers in the Mountain League.

At stake is a District 6 Championship and a trip to the PIAA tournament, both of which have, in recent years, been squarely in the hands of the Clearfield Bison.

Last season, Bellefonte lost twice to Clearfield, both times by identical 49-21 scores. The second loss, on Nov. 9, was in the 4A championship game, and Clearfield was the team that advanced.

Earlier this season, the Raiders finally broke through with a 28-19 win over Clearfield on Sept. 27 in Bellefonte, and as the No. 1 seed, they have every intention of making it two wins in a row over the Bison.

Statistically, the teams are close, with Bellefonte leaning heavily on its running game, and Clearfield relying on the running and passing of star quarterback Oliver Billotte.

Billotte, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, passes for 185 yards per game and has thrown 17 touchdowns. He runs for another 43 yards per game and has scored 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Bellefonte counters with hard-running CJ Funk, a 6-1, 215 pound senior, who runs for just under 140 yards per game and scored 17 touchdowns thus far this season.

Billotte and Funk have carried their teams into this game, and there is no reason to believe that will change. Consequently, whichever team does the best job of slowing either Billotte or Funk will have a major advantage in this game.

The contest will be played at Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate.

NO. 2 WESTMONT HILLTOP (8-3) VS NO. 1 BALD EAGLE AREA (8-3)
DISTRICT 6, 3A CHAMPIONSHIP
NOV. 9, 7 PM, 
MANSION PARK, ALTOONA, PA.

Bald Eagle Area will be vying for its second straight District 6, 3A Championship on Saturday night against Westmont-Hilltop, but it was no picnic for the Eagles to get there.

BEA had to hold on — literally — against Central in the D6 semifinal for a 21-19 over the Mountain League rival Dragons.

The Eagles scored twice in the second quarter on touchdowns produced by senior Kaden Bittinger and led Central 14-12 at the half.

Another touchdown on a 1-yard run by Gage McClenahan made it 21-12 midway through the third quarter, but Central struck back with 8:53 left when a pass from quarterback Branden Kitt to freshman Jeff Hoenstine put the score at 21-19.

Central smelled an upset and mounted two subsequent drives near midfield, but both times the BEA defense stood tall. The game ended after a failed fourthdown play by the Dragons with less than a minute to play. The razor-thin victory now puts the Eagles in the championship game against No. 2 seed and 8-3 Westmont Hilltop. The game will be played at Mansion Park in Altoona.

Westmont, in these days of wide-open offenses, seems like a throwback. The Hilltoppers hardly ever pass.

But they can run. Westmont averages 321 yards rushing per game — and just 21 passing — and has been able to control the line of scrimmage and the tempo by just keeping the ball on the ground.

Junior Hudson Holbay leads the Hilltop running game with 879 yards on 156 carries in the regular season, an average of 87 yards per game. He had five 100-yard outings and scored 13 touchdowns.

Holbay ran for 120 yards on 20 carries and scored both of Westmont’s touchdowns in the Hilltoppers’ 14-10 victory over Huntingdon in the semifinal. It was Holbay’s 48-yard run with just over five minutes to play that put Westmont ahead for good.

BEA’s offense struggled against Central, but the Eagles had enough to finally get the job done. Westmont, for all its running, still scores over 30 points per game, so the Eagles will have to be at their best on both sides of the ball. Needless to say, this game will turn on how well BEA can contain Holbay and the Westmont runners.

At stake, is a spot in the PIAA 3A tournament.

NO. 4 PENNS VALLEY (9-1) AT NO. 1 RICHLAND (10-0)
DISTRICT 6, 2A SEMIFINALS
NOV. 8, 7 P.M.

The Penns Valley Rams had little trouble in a 48-12 win over Marion Center in the District 6, 2A quarterfinal on Friday night, but that will not be the case this week.

In the same scenario as last season, the Rams have drawn undefeated and No. 1 seed Richland in the semifinals, and Richland is every bit as good as its clippings. Richland averages more than 42 points per game and it was not really challenged in any of its games this season. The closest anyone came was way back on August 23 when Bishop McCort lost by only 28-14.

Since then, no game was closer than 29 points.

The Richland Rams (yes, they’re both Rams) are all about balance, although they do favor the pass slightly with 234 of their 425 yards of offense coming through the air.

Sophomore quarterback Kellan Stahl completed 115-of-185 passes for 2,077 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was intercepted just three times and finished the season with a quarterback rating of 133.5.

Add to that another 345 yards and three touchdowns running for Stahl, and he becomes a major problem for any defense.

Penns Valley counters with Aaron Tobias, who is threatening to set a new record for touchdown passes in a season. He has 51 so far this year, one shy of the Pennsylvania state record of 52.

Tobias has thrown for 3,258 yards with the 51 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He has a rating of 139.5.

As was mentioned, this is the same situation Penns Valley found itself in last season, but there is one major thing the Rams want to change.

Last year’s score was Richland 59, Penns Valley 7.

Penns Valley's Aaron Tobias makes a throw after scrambling from the pocket in the Rams’ District 6, 2A quarterfinal victory over Marion Center on Nov. 2. Photo by Tim Weight/For the Gazette



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Pat Rothdeutsch covers Penn State football for The Centre County Gazette. Email him at [email protected]
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