By Chris Rossetti
Some random thoughts and notes on Week 8 of 2013 District 9 High School football season.
- Congratulation to Sheffield on winning its first division/conference title since 1964 and what a way to do it with a touchdown pass in the last two minutes after losing by 11 at halftime. I can’t think of anyone back in August who predicted the Wolverines as the divisional champions.
- Speaking of Sheffield, has anyone noticed what sophomore Jereek Jackson is doing lately? With 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Smethport, Jackson has now rushed for 438 yards and six touchdowns in the last THREE weeks while also hauling in a receiving touchdown. On the season, he has 750 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns and has inserted his name into the running for The Rehab Centre D9Sports.com District 9 Rookie of the Year.
- Congrats to Clarion quarterback John Katis for becoming the first quarterback in school history to throw for 3,000 career yards. A lot of credit to head coach Larry Wiser for allowing Todd Smith to take over the Bobcat offense. It was unthinkable just 10 years ago to think any Clarion quarterback under Wiser would throw for 3,000 career yards, but the old ball coach has showed just how good he is by adjusting to the times and allowing his coaches to coach. It also frees Wiser up to concentrate on his favorite side of the ball, defense.
- And that defense of Clarion just recorded its fifth straight shutout and its sixth of the season, 55-0, at Punxsutawney Friday night. That ties the school record for shutouts in a season with the 1986 and 2000 teams and also marks just the ninth time in the District 9 playoff era (1987-present) that a District 9 team has recorded at least six shutouts in a season. The last team to do it was Cameron County in 2007, and the Bobcats are one of eight teams tied for the second most shutouts behind Smethport, which had nine shutouts in 15 games in 1992 on its way to the state championship game in Class A. But could there be a shutout curse? Of the eight previous teams to have at least six shutouts in a season, only two – 1992 Smethport in Class A and 1996 Redbank Valley in Class AA – have actually won District 9 titles. The last three teams to have six shutouts in a season – 1997 Smethport, 2000 Clarion and 2007 Cameron County – all finished as District 9 Class A runner-up as did the 1994 Smethport and 1989 Johnsonburg teams while the 1993 Smethport team didn’t even make the D9 postseason after losing the AML Title game to Ridgway.
- The next question is when anyone else in the state will notice what Clarion is doing. The Bobcats have allowed two touchdowns against its first-team defense all year while averaging 56.6 points per game. Yet, only one state ranking even shows them in the top 10 (and that is the PA Football News with a tie for 10th). It’s not like District 9 doesn’t produce good football teams. Just last year, Port Allegany made it to the PIAA semifinals in Class A before losing to Clairton after giving the Bears a scare for a while. It’s also not like District 9 teams don’t compete in other sports. Look at last year when Johnsonburg won a state title in baseball and was runner-up in basketball after beating so-called unbeatable Lincoln Park, which may as well be a small college with its recruiting advantage as a charter school, or the Clarion girls’ volleyball team which also won a state title. Or the numerous District 9 wrestlers, track and field and cross country runners, golfers, etc. who compete and win on a state-wide level each year. I am tired of this idea that District 9 is just the sticks and its best teams and athletes can’t compete with anyone else. I didn’t grow up here, I moved here. I grew up in the WPIAL, and the athletes, especially in Class A, in District 9 are just as good as the athletes in the WPIAL. And it’s high time they start getting that respect. There is one way for Clarion to show that (or even Karns City, Kane or Clearfield) and that is to just go out and win again on the field. Maybe if District 9 keeps winning, keeps competing, the rest of the state’s so-called experts will wake up to what is going on. But then again, no one would have noticed what Port Allegany was doing last year if Matt Bodamer hadn’t been setting state-wide records. And even then, it took a long time for the Gators to get the respect they deserved.
- Karns City made a big statement for District 9 Friday night with its 20-point, 48-28, win over Oil City. The only other team to beat Oil City on the field this year – the Oilers had to forfeit a large win over Bradford because of an ineligible player – was General McLane, who is considered one of the top Class AAA teams in District 10.
- Jake Dougherty of Redbank Valley had himself quite a week not only throwing for a school record 336 yards but also picking off three passes on defense.
- Zach Tibbens of Curwensville continues to tear up yardage with his third straight 200-yard performance Saturday vs. Elk County Catholic (270). That jumps Tibbens into the District 9 rushing lead with unofficially 1,607 yards on the season after Brookville’s Zach Vroman held the spot all year. It was Tibbens’ fifth 200-yard rushing game of the season and gives him over 3,000 yards (unofficially 3,067) rushing in just two varsity seasons.
- Tibbens needs to be the workhorse for Curwensville, because the Tide either don’t or can’t pass the football. Saturday they didn’t even try a pass, and they have completed just 24 (in just 54 attempts) all season for 216 yards or less yardage than Tibbens has run for in three games this year and the same he has hit in another contest.
- Who would have thought that Bradford, a team that has scored just six points in four weeks and 38 on the season would still be a live for a spot in the District 9 championship game? But that is exactly where the Owls find themselves going into this week’s game at St. Marys, where a win would almost guarantee them a spot in the game. How is that? Well three factors have come into play. 1) The Owls are the beneficiary of a forfeit win over Oil City that makes their record better than it should be 2) Punxsutawney has struggled having lost three of four and two in a row 3)The way District 9 determines the championship game participants is stupid. Now more of that last part. Because Bradford plays in a Class AAA league (D10 Region 5) and Punxsy plays in a Class AA league (KSAC Large School) District 9 decided to “even” things up by giving schedule points for classification size of your opponents. So Bradford’s bonus point for playing – and losing – to teams in a higher classification – given them 250 extra points compared to Punxsutawney thus putting the Owls right in the thick of a playoff race they have no business being in.
- Speaking of a playoff mess? How about Sheffield, despite winning the AML North, could be left out of one of the three automatic berths given to the AML in the Class A playoffs. If the Wolverines lose at Curwensville next week – and it’s a tough game against the one loss Golden Tide – and then lose to Kane in the AML Title game the following week they will still most likely make the D9 playoffs but probably as a wild card team. Worse than that, it is possible that Smethport, a team Sheffield just beat, could actually get one of those automatic bids while the Wolverines don’t. Now if Sheffield wins the AML Title game, it’s all moot because the Wolverines would be the second seed – potentially above a team it just lost to – Curwensville. Not saying determining the playoffs is easy, but there needs to be a reward for winning your division. The fact District 9 considers the entire AML as one division when it is really two divisions needs to be looked at. Sheffield, Curwensville (who was the top Class A team in the AML South) and Clarion (the top Class A team in the KSAC Small School Division) need to be given automatic bids and one of the top three seeds (based on record not pre-seeding) and then the rest of the eight-team field should be determined as wild cards. This isn’t rocket science but you would think it is with the way District 9 handles it.