By Rich Rhoades
We can’t put it off any longer. Playoff talk.
With 14 games on the Week 9 schedule — all of them this Friday night — more than one naturally has something to do with a team’s postseason hopes. As best as we can sum up, here is the playoff rundown by classification:
Let’s get the most complicated and involved bracket out of the way first, without trying to blur the picture any further. Here’s what we know about a field that could include up to eight teams:
— Clarion (8-0) and Curwensville (7-1) are in for sure. Clarion takes the No. 1 KSAC berth with Curwensville taking one of the three AML automatic berths. Redbank Valley (5-3) would take the second KSAC berth with a win at home against Clarion-Limestone Friday.
— Elk County Catholic and A-C Valley are the only Class A teams eliminated from the postseason.
— Since AML-South champion Kane is Class AA, it opens up some interesting scenarios. AML-North champion Sheffield (5-3) hasn’t even guaranteed itself an automatic berth and, mathematically, even a playoff spot at this point. Sheffield claims an automatic berth with a win over Curwensville this week and so does Smethport (5-3) if it beats Ridgway (3-5). If one loses, that leaves the door open for Brockway (4-4) to claim an automatic berth.
— Three at-large berths are at stake as well and the teams mentioned above are all in play for those spots along with Port Allegany (3-5) and Union (3-5). Even 2-6 squads Cameron County, Clarion-Limestone and Otto-Eldred are not mathematically eliminated.
Please note, however, that a playoff berth earned does not mean the team will go to the playoffs in District 9. Teams may decline a playoff invitation and with a No. 8 team facing a team like Clarion, it wouldn’t be surprising for a school to decline an invite.
— The scenarios get cleaned up after this week, but probably not entirely, as Week 10 will factor into sorting out the playoffs that begin in Week 11.
Kane (8-0), Karns City (7-1) and Brookville (6-2) have clinched three of the four playoff berths and Moniteau (2-6) could catch St. Marys (4-4) and grab the final spot.
If Kane and Karns City both win their final two games, the Gremlins could claim the top seed even though they’d have one more loss than the Wolves because of the power point standings and who might win or loss to affect each team’s point total. Karns City plays a bigger classification schedule than Kane, which did not play a Class AA team all season.
The Raiders are locked into the No. 3 spot, but the Dutch could have a problem holding off the Warriors for the final spot if they go winless in their final two games against Bradford and Bellefonte. Moniteau might only have to split its final two games to catch St. Marys.
There are two parts to this section. First, it’s the District 9 Championship game next week in which unbeaten Clearfield (0-9) takes on either Bradford (2-7) or Punxsutawney (3-5).
Despite just one win on the field — the Owls earned a forfeit win over Oil City due to an ineligible player issue — Bradford gets a title game berth with a win at St. Marys or a Punxsutawney loss at Moniteau. The Chucks get into the final with a win at Moniteau and a loss by Bradford at St. Marys.
Then moving on to the District 5-6-8-9 Regional Playoff, four of seven teams get into the tournament that begins Week 11. The Bison are in and secure a No. 1 seed with a win this week over Philipsburg-Osceola. Punxsutawney and Bradford are 5-6 in the points standings at the moment and are looking in with University Prep, Somerset and Johnstown with the other playoff spots at the moment.
University Prep and Somerset have clinched berths with Johnstown, Punxsutawney and Bradford looking to grab the final spot. Whoever doesn’t play Clearfield in the D9 title game will host Northern Bedford in Week 10 as a regular season game and that could be a huge factor in helping/hurting a playoff push. Johnstown’s final two games aren’t automatic wins for the Trojans.
The DuBois Beavers (5-3) are sitting in the No. 1 spot in the playoff standings at the moment, but that could change. And even if it doesn’t, it’s not certain on who the Beavers will play.
While there are just four teams in the field for a four-team tournament, it’s not certain whether Central Mountain (1-7) will take a playoff spot. That could mean a first-round bye in Week 11 for the top seed. State College (4-4) and Mifflin County (4-4) are 2-3 in the standings going into their game this Friday at State College.
Here’s a look at this week’s 14 matchups:
Brookville (6-2 overall, 2-1 KSAC-Large) at Karns City (7-1, 3-0)
The Raiders and Gremlins square off for the KSAC-Large title. Brookville hasn’t won a regular-season game at Karns City since 1972 and is 1-7-2 there since then. The Raiders’ only win at Karns City was a 1998 overtime playoff win over the Gremlins. They also lost a district playoff game to Moniteau at KC in 2008.
Since getting Mercy-Ruled by Clarion in Week 2, the Gremlins have outscored opponents, 323-87. For the year, they rank 12th in the state in scoring at 46.5 points per game. They’re coming off an impressive 20-point win at Oil City where they racked up 511 yards of offense.
Quarterback Tyler Kepple has passed for 1,027 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tristan Rhoades (587 yards, in just 6 games) is the leading rusher out of a backfield with four backs with 300 yards or more. The Gremlins average 326 yards rushing per game.
Zach Vroman leads the Raiders with 1,463 yards rushing, ranking second behind Curwensville’s Zack Tibbens for the district lead. His 17 rushing TDs are tied for the team’s most in a season.
Punxsutawney (3-5, 0-3) at Moniteau (2-6, 1-2)
The Warriors try to win their third straight game as Cody Skiver leads the way. Skiver leads Moniteau with 725 yards passing and 569 yards rushing and on defense he leads the team with five interceptions and 7.4 tackles per game.
Christian Falgout edges closer to 1,000 yards rushing for the Chucks with 872 yards and eight touchdowns.
A-C Valley (0-8) at Clarion (8-0)
The Bobcats have spun five straight shutouts going into their home game with the winless Falcons, who have lost 10 straight games dating back to last year. Clarion continues to hold its top spots in the state in points scored per game (56.6), points allowed (2.5) and point differential (54.1).
Bobcats quarterback John Katis has passed for 1,258 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. Damien Slike is close to 1,000 yards rushing with 938 and a whopping 20 touchdowns on just 77 carries.
Clarion-Limestone (2-6, 2-2) at Redbank Valley (5-3, 3-1)
The Bulldogs host the Lions and while a loss by Redbank Valley would create a three-way tie for second place with C-L and Union, the next tiebreaker criteria through the points system secures things for the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs junior quarterback Jake Dougherty is coming off a Player of the Week performance against St. Marys last week. For the year, he’s thrown for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns. He went over 3,000 career passing yards against the Dutch and could move into the No. 2 spot with just 11 yards.
Redbank Valley could get a boost with the return of running back Mark Strothers from a hand injury. Despite missing the last two games, he still leads the team with 764 yards.
This is the season finale for the Lions, whose game with Kane next week has been canceled due to the Wolves playing in the AML Championship game. Chase Alcorn, with 857 yards rushing, needs 143 to reach 1,000 for the season.
Union (3-5, 2-2) at Keystone (1-7, 1-3)
The Knights passing game could etch some names in the team’s record book at Knox Friday night as quarterback Lane Cicciarelli, with 1,269 yards passing, needs 323 yards to tie Troy Heeter’s 1984 single-season record of 1,592 yards.
Cicciarelli’s top receiving targets of Shane Murphy (18-553, 9 TDs) and Chet Carmichael (20-500, 5 TDs) are both within striking distance of the team’s season receiving yardage mark of 573 yards gained by Josh Carmichael in 1999.
Panthers quarterback Austin Chambers has passed for 883 yards.
Kane (8-0) at Coudersport (4-4)
The unbeaten Wolves visit the Falcons in one of five crossover games in the AML.
Quarterback Kevin Cleer has passed for 1,325 yards with 26 touchdowns against just three interceptions. John English is close to 1,000 yards rushing, needing just 75 to get to four digits. He’s rushed for 11 touchdowns. Jeff Kocjancic is Cleer’s top receiving target with 41 catches for 604 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Falcons quarterback Ethan Hite has passed for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns. Coy Hoffman leads the team in rushing (791) and receiving (26 catches, 421 yards, 4 TDs).
Smethport (5-3) at Ridgway (3-5)
Hubbers quarterback Dustin Zetwick has passed for 582 yards and rushed for 377. Ryan Stratton (534) and Rob Nielson (452) also provide running balance in the backfield.
Ridgway quarterback Ben MacDonald has passed for 928 yards and rushed for 601 yards.
Sheffield (5-3) at Curwensville (7-1)
With his third straight 200-yard rushing game in a 273-yard performance with just 12 carries last week against Elk County Catholic, the Tide’s Zack Tibbens took over the district rushing lead with 1,612 yards to go along with his 19 TDs. He also went over the 3,000-yard milestone in just his second varsity season and stands at 3,072 yards.
With its North Division title secured, the Wolverines try to bolster their playoff situation with a win. Running back Jereek Jackson has rushed for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has three straight 100-yard games, including last week’s 173-yard, 3-TD performance in the division-clinching win over Smethport.
Port Allegany (3-5) at Brockway (4-4)
The Rovers go from a WPIAL trip to Washington County in last week’s loss to Fort Cherry up to Port Allegany this Friday. Quarterback Alec Shaffer-Doan threw the ball 53 times last week for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He’s up to 1,969 yards passing with 23 TDs and six interceptions. Anthony Benson (60-885, 9 TDs) is primed to get to 1,000 receiving yards. Anthony Isabella (53-623, 13 TDs) has been solid as well.
Gators quarterback Jordan Seefeldt has passed for 868 yards with Tyler Shaffer running for 718 yards.
Elk County Catholic (0-8) at Otto-Eldred (2-6)
The Terrors host the winless Crusaders. Running back Sam Colebert has 1,031 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns.
District 10 Region 5
DuBois (5-3 overall, 3-1 D10 R5) at Meadville (3-5, 1-3)
The Beavers have scored 111 points the last two games against Warren and Brookville, both of them.wins of course. Gabe French has passed for 1,743 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s up to 3,392 career-passing yards. His top receiving target is Bryson Paulinellie (46-883, 11 TDs), who is closing in on a 1,000-yard season. Running back Devin Clark (1,048 yards, 17 TDs) went over 1,000 yards last week.
Meadville has won two straight with a 28-6 win over Bradford last week and a 36-34 win over Franklin in Week 7. DuBois beat both of those teams by a combined margin of 127-14 earlier this season.
Clearfield (8-0 overall, 6-0 Mountain League) at Philipsburg-Osceola (1-7, 1-5)
It’s rare that a team has two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season, but it hasn’t been that long since the Bison have done it. In 2008, Isiah Morgan and Jarrin Campman were 1-2 in the district with 1,596 and 1,321 yards respectively.
This year, it can happen again. Christian Lezzer is already over four digits with 1,102 yards and 18 touchdowns and Tyler Stratton stands at 913 yards and 16 touchdowns. Lezzer, by the way, stands at 3,414 yards rushing with 51 career TD runs.
Bradford (2-6) at St. Marys (4-4)
The Dutch have lost three straight games since starting the season 4-1. They’ve played the last two games without leading rusher Alex Feldbauer (973 yards), who was injured in the Week 6 loss to Clarion.
Bradford, meanwhile, scored its first touchdown since Week 4 in a 28-6 loss to Meadville.
Cameron County (2-6) at Maple Grove, N.Y. (5-1)
The Red Raiders picked up a game against Maple Grove/Chautaqua Lake N.Y., a small school located near Jamestown at Bemus Point. Maple Grove has a bye in the New York Class D playoffs, allowing for the matchup.