For the second year in a row, District 9 will host a Class 2A football semifinal doubleheader at DuBois’ E.J. Mansell Stadium, with both games Saturday featuring rematches between schools that play in the D-9 Football League Large School Division.
The day begins with a 1 p.m. contest pitting top-seeded and defending Class 2A champ Ridgway (9-1) against fourth-seeded Karns City (8-3). The nightcap (6 p.m.) has second-seeded Clarion (9-1) battling sixth seeded Kane (6-4).
Both Ridgway and Clarion went 2-1 in the regular season against the other teams remaining in the Final Four. Each beat their semifinal opponent. Ridgway won a tough 19-13 game at Karns City in Week 7, while Clarion bested Kane, 47-28, at Kane in Week 5.
Ridgway also blanked Clarion, 42-0, in Week 6 but suffered its lone loss at the hands of Kane, 25-21, in Week 2. As for the Bobcats, they notched a 42-14 win at home against Karns City in Week 2.
Some of those matchups came early in the season, while other teams are playing better now than earlier in the year, so Saturday’s second meetings could look a lot different.
Here is a closer look at both D-9 Class 2A semifinal games:
No. 4 Karns City (8-3)
vs. No. 1 Ridgway (9-1)
Ridgway enters Saturday’s semifinal game riding an eight-game winning streak — a run of victories that started after the 25-21 loss at Kane in which the Wolves staged a fourth-quarter comeback. The Elkers have bounced back in a big way from that loss, and in the process proved a lot of nay-sayers wrong by winning its second straight Large School Division title.
The Elkers were an afterthought in the preseason for many people, as Clarion and Brookville were the favorites when it came to who would win the title. However, Ridgway dispatched of both teams in Week 6 and 8, respectively, while beating Karns City in between for a trio of tough wins in a row late in the season to secure the division crown.
That win against Karns City — 19-13 on the Gremlins home turf at Diehl Stadium — came a month ago.
Ridgway led 13-6 at the half in that first meeting, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Jake Wickett late in the first quarter and a 24-yard TD catch by Matt Dush with 1:39 remaining in the half.
Elker quarterback Paul Gresco later made it a two-score game in the fourth quarter when he ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run. Karns City’s Kaden Scherer hauled in a 65-yard TD from Anthony Kamenski just 10 seconds later to make it 19-13. But, that proved to be the final points of the game.
Ridgway amassed 310 yards in the win, with Gresco playing a part in just over 200 of those as he threw for 151 yards and the one score and had 50-yard TD run.
Gresco has thrown for 1,545 yards (15 TDs, 4 Ints.) on the season as part of a balanced offense that has also run for just over 2,300 yards. That ground game is powered by the quartet of Gabe Watts (71-529, 9 TDs), Jake Wickett (77-507, 9 TDs), Dush (49-458, 7 TDs) and Tyler Watts (56-419, 2 TDs).
Dush (31-497, 4 TDs) and Austin Green (23-419, 6 TDs) are the Elkers’ leading receivers.
In the first meeting, Kamenski threw for 108 yards for the Gremlins, who also for 192 yards as a team led by Kamenski’s 78 yards. That total is well below the Gremlins’ season average of 301 rushing yards per game. That should come as no surprise though, as Ridgway leads the Tri-County Area in rushing defense (86.1 yards per game) and scoring defense (9.0 ppg).
Ridgway had a bye last week as the top seed, while Karns City dispatched of thrird-seeded Keystone, 28-22, in the quarterfinals a week — the third straight win for the Gremlins since the regular season loss to Ridgway.
Kamenski ran for 100 yards in the win, while Hunter Rowe added 88 yards and and two scores. Kamenski has now run for 1,147 yards and 10 TDs on the season, while Rowe has 898 yards and 14 TDs. Luke Garing (545 yards, 9 TDs) also factors into the Gremlins ground game.
Kamenski has only thrown for 634 yards with eight TDs and five interceptions. His favorite target is Scherer (11-390, 5 TDs).
No. 6 Kane (6-4)
vs. (2) Clarion (9-1)
Kane halted a four-game losing skid last week, and in the process pulled off a big 28-22 upset of third-seeded Brookville — a team that had just beaten the Wolves, 33-13, three weeks prior on the same field at Brookville.
The Wolves, who made a couple key changes on offense during their losing streak, will now look to avenge another loss when it takes on Clarion Saturday night.
Sophomore Harley Morris is now guiding the Kane offense at quarterback, taking over those duties from Zuke Smith. Kane also moved Teddy Race from running back to the offensive line to sure up things in the trenches.
Those moves paid dividends against Brookville, as Morris threw for 163 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 84 yards and a score.
Teammate Jake Alcorn ran for 84 yards and caught four passes for 94 yards, including a 70-yard TD. Alcorn in Kane’s big playmaker, leading the team in rushing (94-536, 5 TDs) and receiving (21-528, 6 TDs) on the year.
Smith also caught a touchdown from Morris and came up with a huge interception that sealed the Wolves’ upset victory.
Clarion, which had a bye a week ago, racked up 467 total yards, compared to 275 for the Wolves, in the first meeting between the teams.
The Bobcats churned out 287 yards on the ground, led by Austin Newcomb’s 156 yards and two touchdowns. Cutter Boggess (14-80) and Colton Zacherl (12-72, 2 TDs) also made their presence felt on the ground that night.
Newcomb (101-1,155, 20 TDs), Boggess (66-515, 3 TDs) and Zacherl (53-453, 6 TDs) have powered the Bobcat ground game all season, but Zacherl will miss the game due to injury.
Quarterback Calvin German threw for 180 yards and three TDs in the first matchup, with Ethan Burford hauling in four catches for 163 yards and two of those scores.
German has thrown for 1,783 yards on the season with 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Burford has accounted for most of that damage through the air, hauling in 30 catches on the season for 963 yards and 14 TDs.
As for the Wolves, Smith threw for 156 yards and a score back in Week 5 and ran for 18 yards and another touchdown. Alcorn had a TD run in that game, while Reese Novosel also returned a fumble 55 yards for a score.