Three Centre County high school football teams captured District 6 Championships last weekend even though a state record was set in Penn Valley’s 2A semifinal contest with talented Richland.
The 49-21 loss ended the Rams’ season (10-2) but not before quarterback Aaron Tobias set the Pennsylvania state record for touchdown passes in a season. Tobias eclipsed the record in the first quarter and then went on to throw two more in the game to establish a new mark at 54.
The other three county teams playing all won District 6 championships, and all three will move into the PIAA state tournament.
In 6A, State College traveled to snowy Erie and upended McDowell, 42-21, in the District 6-8-9-10 sub-regional final, while Bellefonte scored two second half touchdowns to hold off Clearfield, 35-21, in the District 6, 4A championship game. In 3A, on Nov. 9, Bald Eagle Area kept things going with a 41-13 victory over Westmont-Hilltop, which gave the Eagles their second consecutive D6 title.
All three teams will be in action this week, and here’s a brief look at what they face:
6-1 STATE COLLEGE (10-1) VS. 2-1 DELAWARE VALLEY (11-1) PIAA, 6A FIRST ROUND NOV. 15, 7 P.M. HAZLETON HIGH SCHOOL
State College ran out to a 35-7 lead over McDowell on Nov. 8 and then coasted out with a 42-21 victory over the Trojans. SC ran up 369 rushing yards in the game — Dresyn Green and Nehemiah Howell combined for 274 of those yards and five touchdowns — and forced three drive-killing turnovers on the way to its 10th win of the year.
McDowell did get 380 yards of offense in the game, but many of them came too late as the Little Lions advanced into the state tournament.
State College will face Delaware Valley, the champion of District 2, in a 6A first round game on Friday at Hazleton High School.
The game is a rematch of last year’s meeting between the two teams. In that game, State College built an early 21-0 lead and steadily pulled away for a 56-19 victory.
That aside, this year’s version of the Warriors seems to be vastly improved. DelVal lost just once this season, to Pennridge, 13-0, in Week 1, and has since gone undefeated. Along the way, no team came within 10 points of the Warriors, and the closest game was in the District 2 championship game — a 32-21 win over Wilkes-Barre.
Other than that, DV swept the table.
Delaware Valley gains more than 400 yards of offense every game and averages 43 points.
The team’s running game is led by tailback Josh Balcarcel, who ran for 1,503 yards this season and scored 28 touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Zach Scillia completed 102 passes for 1,450 yards and 17 touchdowns and he also ran for 301 yards and scored another three touchdowns on the ground.
Defensively, the 21 points Wilkes-Barre scored was the most the Warriors gave up all year, and they threw five shutouts. Two other teams scored just seven points each against them.
At one point in the season, Delaware Valley shut out four teams in a row.
For State College, the mission will be to keep doing what it is doing. Throughout the season, the Little Lions have used an explosive offense and an opportunistic defense on the way to their 10 wins, and they will need both of those again in this game.
DelVal will remember last season and will be ready to compete.
6-1 BELLEFONTE (9-2) VS. 10-1 CATHEDRAL PREP (10-2) PIAA, 4A FIRST ROUND NOV. 15, 7 P.M. CLARION UNIVERSITY
Bellefonte roared ahead 21-0 against Clearfield on Nov. 8, only to see the Bison fight back and tie the game 21-all on an Oliver Billotte pass late in the third quarter. But Bellefonte struck back when CJ Funk, who ran for 180 yards, scored on a 16-yard run to put the Raiders back on top, and then quarterback Ethan Rossman put it away with an 11-yard run with two minutes left to play.
That gave the Raiders the District 6, 4A championship and put them into the PIAA first round against Cathedral Prep on Nov. 15.
Cathedral Prep is 10-2 this season and has an impressive resume that includes wins over McDowell (29-26), Canisius (21-12), Fort LeBoeuf (56-0), Erie (61-40) and Pittsburgh University Prep and Sciences by a score of 42-6 in the PIAA sub-regional game played Nov. 8.
The Ramblers run a balanced offense (207 YPG passing and 170 rushing) and are led by running back Luke Sittinger (110 yards per game) and quarterback Collin Johnson, who threw for 1,387 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Bellefonte will counter with its size and bruising running game, led by CJ Funk. Funk this year has run for 1,624 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he is the go-to guy when the Raiders need to make something happen.
Against Clearfield, again, Funk came through with the big score that paved the way for the Raiders’ win.
Both teams have played extremely tough schedules, and it looks like this game will go to the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
Bellefonte's CJ Funk bursts through the hole with a Clearfield tackler in tow during the Red Raiders’ 35-21 victory in the District 6, 4A championship on Nov. 8. Photo by Tim Weight/For the Gazette
6-1 BALD EAGLE AREA (9-3) VS. 5-1 BEDFORD (10-2) PIAA, 3A FIRST ROUND NOV. 15, 7 P.M. HOLLIDAYSBURG HIGH SCHOOL
Bald Eagle Area escaped by two points against Central in the D6, 3A semifinal, but the Eagles had an easier time against Westmont-Hilltop in the final on Nov. 9.
BEA led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, 28-7 at halftime and then held off Westmont from there for a second consecutive District 6 championship.
Now it’s on to the PIAA tournament where the Eagles will face District 2 champion Bedford on Nov. 15 at Hollidaysburg High School.
Bedford had just two losses this year — to Chestnut Ridge by one point and to Richland by a score of 42-13. Otherwise, the Bisons used their defense and running game to steamroll everyone else.
Bedford runs for more than 260 yards per game and passes only when it has to. The Bisons only get 81 yards through the air, but quarterback Mercury Swaim is a dual-threat player who produces either throwing or running. Swaim threw for 757 yards and six touchdowns this season, but he also ran for 703 yards and an additional 12 touchdowns.
With running back Elijah Cook putting in another 837 yards on the ground and 14 touchdowns, Bedford has been difficult to stop for every team it faced this season. That said, since many of BEA’s big wins this season came after superior defensive performances, it is clear that something will have to give in this game.
The Eagle spread offense, with a healthy Jaden Jones at the controls, will get its yards, but BEA will have to slow down Cook and Swaim.
If it can, look for a game that will not be settled until the final minutes.
Bald Eagle Area signal caller Jaden Jones releases a pass in the Eagles’ 41-13 victory over Westmont Hilltop on Nov. 9 in the District 6, 3A final game. Photo by Tim Weight/For the Gazette