State College, Penns Valley and Bald Eagle Area all came up with impressive conference wins last Friday night.
State College remained unbeaten with a victory over Mid Penn power Harrisburg, and Penns Valley hung on against local rival Bellefonte, 14-6, in a faceoff of two Mountain League leaders.
BEA kept pace with a 34-0 romp over Huntingdon.
In Week 8, State College will have to do it all over again against Central Dauphin, BEA will be severely tested in an explosive matchup at Clearfield, and Penns Valley, Bellefonte and P-O will all meet league foes.
Here’s a look at the games:
CENTRAL DAUPHIN (5-2, 4-0) AT STATE COLLEGE (7-0, 5-0)
OCT. 11, 7 P.M.
Central Dauphin may have two losses, but they come into State College without a conference defeat and on a four-game winning streak.
The Rams have beaten Cumberland Valley, Carlisle, Harrisburg (15-14) and Altoona in the past four weeks and are looking to take control of the Mid Penn Commonwealth conference with a win over the Little Lions on Oct. 11 in State College.
In the win over Harrisburg on Sept. 28, CD fell behind early in the fourth quarter, 14-7, but the Rams responded with a long drive and a score with less than three minutes to play.
Instead of playing safe, the Rams went for two, converted it, and took a 15-14 lead. Then with less than two minutes to play, they forced a turnover and came away with the one-point win.
Like State College’s 21-6 victory over the Cougars on Friday, it was a gritty struggle in which both defenses played extremely well.
Don’t expect anything much different this week.
State College turned its game against Harrisburg around with a Dresyn Green pick-6 in the third quarter and featured a defense that didn’t give up an offensive touchdown. Harrisburg’s only score came on a kickoff return early in the fourth quarter.
The Little Lion offense was held relatively in check by the Cougars — SC was outgained by almost 100 yards — but running touchdowns by quarterback Brady Dorner and Green were enough to hold off Harrisburg.
The story was much the same for Central Dauphin, and the Rams continued to play solid defense in a 62-0 shutout of Altoona on Oct. 4. Altoona, in that game, was only able to gain 25 net yards of offense.
So it’s defense in the spotlight. The team that makes the fewest mistakes and takes the most advantage of its chances with have the upper hand.
BALD EAGLE AREA (6-1, 4-1) AT CLEARFIELD (6-1, 4-1)
OCT. 11, 7 P.M.
Almost exactly the same things could be said about this game as were said before Clearfield against Penns Valley and Clearfield against Bellefonte: two of the best teams in the Mountain League going head-to-head for first place in the conference.
And just like in those other two games, there is no clear favorite here, especially since BEA quarterback and offensive leader Jaden Jones is back healthy from an injury.
Clearfield’s only blemish came against Bellefonte two weeks ago, 28-19, but the Bison scored in the final minute to beat Penns Valley, 56-49, in Week 2.
What it all means is that BEA, Clearfield, Bellefonte and Penns Valley are all tied atop the Mountain League at this point with 4-1 records. In addition, this game marks one of the final times that any of these four teams will be on the field together (Bellefonte still has to play BEA), so in terms of a league championship, this is a critical game.
Both BEA and Clearfield are led by stellar quarterbacks.
For Clearfield, Oliver Billotte has been doing it all, both on the ground (376 yards, 11 TDs) and through the air (206 ypg, 10 TDs). In Clearfield’s 28-14 win over Tyrone last week, Billotte threw two touchdown passes and ran for 66 yards as his team built a 28-0 lead and coasted out from there.
Jones, in BEA’s 34-0 win over Huntingdon, completed 13-of-18 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns and also ran five times for 32 yards.
Possibly unsung in all of BEA’s scoring has been the play of its defense. In the past six games, the Eagles have given up a total of 26 points and threw two shutouts.
Clearfield plays solid defense as well but overall has not been as impressive as BEA.
It looks like this game will turn on which defense has the better night against the other’s quarterback. Either way it will likely go down to the final minutes.
PENNS VALLEY (6-1, 4-1) AT BISHOP CARROLL (3-4, 1-4)
OCT. 11, 7 P.M.
Bishop Carroll has a 3-4 record coming into this game and has just one win — over P-O — in the past five weeks.
The Huskies have had trouble scoring points. In those five games, they have scored a total of 32 points, not counting the 32 at P-O, and they were shut out last week by Central, 34-0.
In all, the Huskies gain just over 300 yards per game and are led by dual-threat quarterback Hunter Dumm. Dumm has thrown for 949 yards so far and six touchdowns and added another 396 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
Jake Zazvrskey is the team’s leading runner with 515 yards and four touchdowns and is also the leading receiver with 17 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns.
Penns Valley is coming off a season-defining, 14-6 win over Bellefonte. The Rams’ quarterback, Aaron Tobias, threw for 190 yards and a touchdown while the defense clamped down on the Red Raiders’ CJ Funk and held him to just 57 yards on 19 carries.
PV took a 14-6 halftime lead, and neither team scored in the second half. Bellefonte’s touchdown came on a seven-yard run by Ethan Rossman.
Carroll, after an earlier loss to BEA by a score of 29-6 (without Jaden Jones) has not played the other three Mountain League leaders yet. That will change this Friday, and then the Huskies will take on Bellefonte and Clearfield to finish their season.
BELLEFONTE (5-2, 4-1) AT CENTRAL (4-3, 3-3)
OCT. 11, 7 P.M.
Bellefonte scored just one touchdown in last week’s 14-6 loss to Penns Valley in what was a physical, defense-minded game.
All the points were scored in the first half, and the Red Raiders were hurt by the Rams’ tough rushing defense. Leading runner CJ Funk was held to just 57 yards, and their one touchdown was scored on a short run by quarterback Ethan Rossman.
This week at 4-3 Central, the Red Raiders will be looking to get Funk and their offense going again.
Central is a perennial power in the Mountain League and so far has wins over Tyrone (12-7), P-O (49-7) and Carroll (34-0), but the Dragons have also lost to Clearfield (24-21), Penns Valley (42-21) and BEA (29-7).
The wins over P-O and Carroll have come in the last two weeks, so Central is showing progress. But if it’s enough progress to take on a power like Bellefonte that will be motivated to bounce back from a tough loss is yet to be seen.
The Dragons will have to gang up in the box and try to stop Funk and the Red Raider running game. If they can’t, it might be a long night.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (1-6, 0-5) AT HUNTINGDON (2-4)
OCT. 11, 7 P.M.
Huntingdon is 2-4 so far this season, but don’t forget those losses came at the hands of BEA, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Clearfield.
There aren’t many teams in the Mountain league that will not have losses to those four teams, if any, so Huntingdon may be somewhat underrated.
The Bearcats’ wins came over Mount Union, 8-0, in Week 1 and Bishop Carroll, 20-6, two weeks ago.
Huntingdon does gain just over 200 yards per game (145 in the air), but it plays an aggressive defense that has 11 interceptions and seven sacks.
Quarterback Nick Troha is the team leader in passing and running. He has thrown for 857 yards and eight touchdowns through six games and run for another 179 on 68 attempts.
One weakness that P-O may be able to address is that the Bearcats have just one rushing touchdown this season — they rely mostly on Troha’s arm.
P-O on the other hand is a team in transition. In last week’s non-league loss to North Penn-Mansfield, five starters were missing, including both quarterbacks — Ryan and Jeremy Whitehead. Senior athlete Dakota Hofe had to fill in, but he had a difficult time against a good NP-M defense.
This week, much will depend on how many players will be available for the Mounties and how many have begun to fit in as substitutes for the injured starters.
On paper, even up, this could be a competitive game, but P-O will have to get some people back in order to stay in it.