With three weeks remaining in the regular season, big football games obviously remain in the District 9 Large School Division.
Not only is a division title at stake, but so is playoff seeding and positioning in the Class 2A bracket of which Brookville and Clarion are among the contenders.
Last week’s surprisingly convincing 42-0 win by Ridgway over the previously unbeaten Bobcats made things a bit more interesting as now it’s Ridgway, Clarion and Brookville tied for first place in the division.
Big games remaining — Kane at Brookville this week, Brookville at Ridgway in Johnsonburg next week and also this week, Ridgway’s trip to Karns City. The Gremlins dealt a 22-9 loss to Kane last week. The Wolves are the only team to beat Ridgway, 25-21, back in the second week of the season.
It’s a bit early to nail down a whole lot of playoff positioning situations with three weeks to go, but here are a few things of note in the Large School race and the Class 2A playoff race.
— Ridgway controls its own destiny in the divisional race. It beats the Gremlins this week and the Raiders next week and it’s two straight titles for the Elkers. The best the Raiders could do is hope Ridgway beats Karns City then beat the Elkers next week to create a three-way share with Clarion. Since the Bobcats beat the Raiders, any head-to-head tie with them favors Clarion.
— Clarion is a solid favorite to win its final three games, regardless of the unknown status of star running back Austin Newcomb. It hosts Bradford (1-6) this week, then at Brockway (1-6) and home against James Buchanan (2-7), a Class 3A school out of District 3.
— As far as the playoff seeding race goes, the Bobcats could be caught by Ridgway if the Elkers win out, but a top-two finish is very likely. The merit of a top-two finish after 10 weeks means a likely first-round bye. There are probably six teams going to the playoffs — Clarion, Ridgway, Brookville, Kane, Karns City and Keystone in some order. That means the top two seeds get a bye into the semifinals.
How 1 through 6 finishes up will clear up some more after this weekend, but there is much to be determined through the remaining games on the schedule.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games, both Friday kickoffs at 7 p.m.:
Kane (5-2) at
Last year’s trip to Kane was the first regular-season matchup between the Raiders and Wolves since 1966. The last time the Raiders played the Wolves at home? How bout way back in 1955.
That was actually the first night football game played in Brookville, at the fairgrounds prior to the 1960s Flood Control project where the current Little League complex now sits. It was the first of 14 home night games at the fairgrounds from 1955-60. Then another night home game wasn’t played until the lights were installed at the high school campus prior to the 1992 season.
In that 1955 game played in miserable, wet conditions, the Raiders and Wolves played to a 0-0 tie. It was the last of six home games the Raiders had against the Wolves and they finished 0-5-1.
So yes, the Raiders have never beaten the Wolves in Brookville.
Kane lost 22-9 last week to a Karns City squad that dropped a 42-41 double-overtime shootout to the Raiders earlier. Kane led 9-0 going into the fourth quarter, but a blocked punt and two interceptions set up three Karns City touchdowns and the Wolves lost their second game. Their other loss was to Clarion (47-28) two weeks ago. The Bobcats beat the Raiders, 29-12 earlier.
The Wolves started the year 5-0 with wins over Moniteau (46-19), Ridgway (25-21), Bradford (47-6), Brockway (41-0) and Punxsutawney (35-0).
Offensively, the Wolves average 307 yards offensively — 178 rushing, 129 passing. Seniors Jake Alcorn (67-424, 5 TDs) and Teddy Race (53-385, 4 TDs), along with junior quarterback Zuke Smith (50-for-120, 906 yards, 11 TDs, 7 Ints.) do most of the work. Alcorn (10-252, 3 TDs) and Bobby Rumcik (12-206, 1 TD) are the top receiving targets, but it’s balanced with Kevin Scharba (8-174, 3 TDs) also a threat as well.
Race is a standout linebacker anchoring the defense, averaging 13.4 tackles per game with a team-high 7.5 sacks. Alcorn has intercepted a team-high three passes and leads the team in all-purpose yards (includes punt, kick and interception returns), with four returns for TDs — two punts, one kickoff and one interception.
The Wolves have a good kicker as well in senior Aaron Hottel, who’s booted three field goals, his longest a 39-yarder.
The Raiders average 364 yards offensively — 262 passing, 102 rushing. Last week was junior quarterback Jack Krug’s first start since the Clarion loss when he was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 209 yards and three TDs while running for another.
For the season, Krug has completed 100 of 157 passes for 1,141 yards and 13 TDs against two interceptions. He’s 73 yards shy of becoming the 12th player in D9 history to pass for at least 5,000 yards.
Krug also leads the Raiders in rushing with 377 yards with six TDs.
Krug’s leading receivers are senior Ian Thrush (50-721, 8 TDs), and juniors Robert Keth (30-371, 5 TDs), Kyle MacBeth (27-302, 2 TDs) and Ryan Daisley (16-146, 2 TDs). Thrush is moving up the team’s all-time receiving honor roll lists, he’s tied with Jared Heschke in the No. 2 spot in receptions (89), No. 4 in receiving yards (1,531) and getting closer to Nos. 2 and 3 Cabe Park (1,615) and Heschke (1,600), and No. 3 in TD catches with 20, three behind No. 2 Park. Of course, Bryan Dworek owns all three records (179-2,881, 33 TDs).
Defensively, Elliot Park (7.4), Nathan Taylor (7.0) and Keth (5.7) are the leading tacklers per game. MacBeth has six interceptions and Taylor leads the unit with six sacks.
The Wolves lead the all-time series, 12-5-1, the Raiders beating them last year 57-38 for their first win over the Wolves since 1956 — the two playoffs losses at Kane in 2012 and 2013 were the only meetings between last year and 1966. In last year’s game, Keth threw for 424 yards and seven TDs.
Bradford (1-6) at
At Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium, the Bobcats are coming off their first loss while the Owls are coming off their lone win of the season. Bradford outgunned Punxsutawney, 59-34, at home to end an eight-game losing streak dating back to the end of last year.
Senior running back Derek Sunafrank earned D9Sports.Com Player of the Week honors by rushing for 201 yards on 19 carries and five touchdowns while quarterback Caleb Nuzzo completed 13 of 16 passes for 121 yards and one TD. Austen Davis caught 11 passes for 91 yards and the score.
The Owls’ 452 yards of offense accounts for over one-third of their season total and the 59 points came after they mustered just 19 points in their first six losses, which included four shutouts. Sunafrank is up to 333 yards rushing and five TDs while Nuzzo has completed 55 of 95 passes for 452 yards with two TDs and five interceptions. Davis has 27 catches for 300 yards and two TDs.
The Bobcats were blanked by Ridgway and look to get things re-started again, but the status of running back/defensive back Austin Newcomb is unknown. Bobcats head coach Larry Wiser didn’t address his absence after last week’s game.
Newcomb (89-937, 15 TDs) is still primed for a 1,000-yard season if he’s back in the lineup. Quarterback Cal German (48-for-89, 1,223 yards, 16 TDs, 3 Ints.) and receiver Ethan Burford (23-758, 11 TDs) will also look to get untracked against the Bradford team that’s given up 44.7 points per game.