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Four county gridiron teams set to make postseason runs

by on October 31, 2019 1:25 PM

Four of the local Centre County high school football teams have qualified for the 2019 playoffs and will be starting their “second seasons” beginning this week. All four, interestingly, are in different divisions and all four will face their own set of problems on the way to a District 6 Championship. Here’s what it all looks like:

NO. 4 CENTRAL MARTINSBURG (4-6) AT NO. 1 BALD EAGLE AREA (7-3) DISTRICT 6, 3A SEMIFINAL NOV. 1, 7 P.M.

Bald Eagle Area rested many of its starters and consequently had a rough night against arch-rival Bellefonte in its 38-0 loss on Oct. 25 in the Curtin Bowl. The Bald Eagles will likely not dwell on the result that night because another long-time rival — the Central Dragons — will be in town for the semifinal of the District 6, 3A Championship on Nov. 1. The 7-3 Bald Eagles, by all accounts, had an outstanding season, finishing second in the Mountain League and winning seven games despite the loss of all-star quarterback Jaden Jones for three games in the middle of the season.

The three losses, moreover, came against very good teams — Penns Valley, Jersey Shore and Bellefonte — while the Eagles ran up big numbers against everyone else. In the first game against Central, a 29-7 win on Sept. 20, senior Kaden Bittinger was still running the team in place of Jones, and the Eagles ran up a 29-0 lead and coasted to their fourth win of the season. Bittinger scored two touchdowns against Central on runs of 11 and 5 yards, but it was the BEA defense that took the honors that night. Central did not score until the final minute of the game as was held to just seven yards rushing and 161 altogether. The second meeting between the two will, of course, be the more important, but Jones is back at full strength. And with the spread offense that averages 330 total yards per outing and a defense that recorded 25 sacks and eaight interceptions, BEA should be ready to put the memory of the Bellefonte game far into the past.

NO. 5 MARION CENTER (7-3) AT NO. 4 PENNS VALLEY (9-1) DISTRICT 6, 2A QUARTERFINAL NOV. 2, 7 P.M.

If the No. 4 seed seems awfully low for the powerful Penns Valley Rams, then be aware that the three teams seeded above them — Richland, Ligonier Valley and Bellwood-Antis — all come into the playoffs with perfect 10-0 records. Penns Valley was 9-1 in the regular season — its only loss coming on the final play of a 56-49 loss to 4A Clearfield in Clearfield. The Rams, however, are probably not very worried about any of that because they have a more immediate problem in 7-3 Marion Center, their quarterfinal opponent on Nov. 2 at home. The Stingers were 7-3 this season and finished in second place behind Ligonier Valley in the Heritage Conference with a 7-2 conference record. One of those losses came at the hands of Ligonier Valley, 46-0, on Oct. 4, and the other was to 5-5 Homer Center, 35-13, on Sept. 13. The other loss came in Week 10 to non-league Meyersdale, 24-14, but otherwise, the Stingers were unblemished. There were big wins over Saltsburg, 41-34; West Shamokin, 49-13; Purchase Line, 27-19; Northern Cambria, 24-7; and Blairsville, 45-6. Marion Center is primarily a running team led by 1,000-yard rusher Garrett Wells, who is a workhorse in the Stinger backfield. Quarterback Gaven Palko, a 6-foot-1 junior, passes for an average of 120 yards per game, but most of MC’s yardage comes on the ground — a fact that might lead directly into one of the strengths of Penns Valley. The Rams offense, led by quarterback Aaron Tobias and a 345-yards-per-game average, has been a big story all year, but the Rams’ big, aggressive defense has recorded 18 sacks, recovered 13 fumbles and picked off 11 passes from opposing pass throwers. It’s all about balance for PV, with that offense being held to less than 40 points just once the entire season and going over 50 four times. This game will provide a good relative-strength of schedule comparison. With No. 2 seed Ligonier Valley, the undefeated champion of the Heritage, what PV does against Marion Center will be closely watched. The winner of the game will take on No. 1 seed and undefeated Richland the weekend of Nov. 8, probably in Richland.

D6, 6A NO. 1 STATE COLLEGE (9-1) IN DISTRICT 8,9,10 SUB REGIONAL DISTRICT 10 LOCATION, NOV. 8

What a weekend it was for the State College Little Lions. Playing at Beaver Stadium on Senior Night, the Little Lions overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit to Cumberland Valley and rallied for a 33-21 win and a 9-1 final regular season record.SC scored 26 second-half points behind the play of Dresyn Green, Isaiah Edwards and Brady Dorner.SC went ahead for good after a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dorner to Lokey Howell at 26-14 and then locked it up when Green scored from 16 yards out to make it 33-14.CV came back to make it 33-21, but it was too late and the Little Lions held on for the win. Now, as the only 6A team in the playoffs, State College will move into the Sub-Regional game, which will be played on Nov. 8 at a site in District 10. The winner will move to the PIAA State Championships.

DISTRICT 6, 4A NO. 1 BELLEFONTE BYE

Will play the winner of No. 2 Clearfield vs No. 3 Juniata with the date and location yet to be determined. The Raiders capped an 8-2 season with an impressive 38-0 victory over Bald Eagle Area in the annual Curtin Bowl at home on Oct. 25. Bellefonte ran up a 27-0 halftime lead behind the running of CJ Funk and then coasted out for their eighth win of the year. Funk ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns in the win and led his team to the No. 1 seed for the upcoming D6 Tournament. But No. 2 Clearfield is lurking, and a win over Juniata will set up a second clash between the two Mountain League heavyweights. The date and time of that game, if the Bison can beat Juniata, is yet to be determined. Although wherever and whenever it takes place, it shapes up as a memorable one.

 



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