WINDBER — Fresh off a hard-fought 28-21 win over three-time defending district champ Kane Friday in the D-9 Class AA title game, the Clarion Bobcats made the long trek to Windber this Friday to battle Chestnut Ridge in a PIAA subregional game.
A win over the District 5 champs Friday puts Clarion in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 — the year the Bobcats made a run all the way to the Class A Western Finals before falling 39-12 to eventual state champion North Catholic.
Four years removed from the magical state semifinal run, the Bobcats now find themselves in the District 5-9 AA subregional game with their sights set on making another deep run in the state playoffs.
History is on the Bobcats side, as District 9 has won the subregional matchup between districts each of the past five years. Chestnut Ridge has suffered four of those losses — falling to Karns City in 2012-2-14 and to Kane, 34-12, a year ago. Karns City also topped Bedford in 2015.
The two districts didn’t play each other in 2010 and 2011, as D-9 was paired up with District 8 those years. District 5 scored its lone win over D-9 back in 2009 when Bedford edged Karns City, 28-26, in triple overtime.
The two districts first played in a subregional matchup in 2008, a game that saw Karns City beat North Star.
While D-9 teams have won six of the seven matchups, Chestnut Ridge looks to be a formidable opponent on paper and should prove to be a challenge to stop for the Clarion defense, which ranks near the top in most team categories in the Tri-County Area.
The Lions (10-1) come into the game averaging 43.6 points per game, having outscored their opponents 480-168. Ridge has scored 41 or more points in nine of its 11 games and topped the 50-point mark twice — including a 52-17 win over Berlin-Brothersvalley in last week’s D-5 title game.
Ridge, which has no conference affiliation, has played a large number of Mountain League teams while also playing three out of state schools. The Lions have captured impressive wins over Mountain League foes Bellefonte (41-21), Central (42-2) and Bald Eagle Area (43-6).
Bellefonte is still alive in the postseason in Class 4A and plays Selinsgrove in a District 4-6 subregional game, while Central lost in the District 6 Class 3A semifinals a week ago.
The Lions also beat Allegany from Cumberland, Md., 38-24. The Campers (9-2) are still alive in the Maryland state playoffs. Ridge’s lone loss was a 35-23 setback to Musselman, a school in Inwood, W.Va., in the second week of the season.
Ridge has shown the ability to both run and throw the ball this season, amassing just over 2,400 yards on the ground and close to 1,700 through the air.
Senior quarterback Logan Hauck engineers the Lion offense and is a true dual-threat having put together an impressive 1,000-1,000 season. He leads the ground attack with 125 carries for 1,155 yards and 23 touchdowns. Hauck also has completed 117 of 175 passes for 1,633 yards with 16 TDs and six interceptions.
Fellow senior Noah Dillow is second in rushing with 91 carries for 729 yards and 13 scores, while six different Lions have at least 150 receiving yards.
Senior Justin McCoy leads that group with 35 catches for 451 yards and six TDs, while senior Levi Snyder (24-310, 2 TDs), junior Jared McGill (24-276, 3 TDs) and senior Seth Harbaugh (11-211, 2 TDs) also factor into the passing attack.
Defensively, Ridge is lead in tackles by Dillow (97) and senior Levi Hobson (81), while as a team the Lions have hauled in 20 interceptions and recorded eight sacks.
The Bobcats (11-0) come in with a high-scoring offense of their own, averaging 43.7 points per game while outscoring the opposition 481-118. Clarion has scored over 40 points eight times, topping 50 points in three of those contests.
Unlike Ridge, Clarion is a run-first offense, having racked up 3,728 yards on the season with a balanced attack. Five different Bobcats have run for 300-plus yards.
Junior Logan Minich (122-872, 12 TDs) and senior Colton Rapp (103-870, 11 TDs) lead that attack. Rapp missed three-plus games due to injury during the season.
Senior quarterback Spencer Miller has added 543 yards and 10 TDs on the ground, while fellow seniors Brenden Zerfoss (27-404, 6 TDs) and Keeven Weaver (23-310, 6 TDs) and junior Camden Boggess (46-229, 4 TDs) also get their share of carries.
When Clarion throws the ball, Miller has hit on 58 of 102 passes for 767 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Weaver (16-141), Minich (6-122, 1 TD) and Tom Hearst (5-107, 1 TD) lead the receiving corps.
Defensively, the Bobcats are led by senior linebacker Zac Bauer (112 tackles, 74 solos, 8 sacks) and Miller (93 tackles, 73 solos). Miller leads the team with four interceptions and 10 passes defensed, while junior Nick Porciello has recorded 12 of the Bobcats 41 sacks.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Windber Stadium.