RIDGWAY — The newly-formed D9 Football League debuted with its own media day last Wednesday at Aiello’s Cafe and right off the bat, the league announced its favorites.
According to the coaches, that is.
The poll asked each coach to list their top three teams, not including his own, and the top three vote-getters were ranked for release.
Brookville got the Large School nod, followed by Clarion and Bradford. In the Small School South, it was Curwensville, Redbank Valley and Elk County Catholic. The Small School North had its top three as Smethport, Otto-Eldred and Coudersport.
“Ouch, is my reaction,” Park said after that pronouncement made by League President and Brookville athletic director Dave Osborne. “I guess that puts the bull’s eye on our backs right away. It’s interesting and surprising to me … But I’m a guy who thinks you have to prove yourself. Until someone knocks off Clarion, I kind of tend to look at them and Kane. I know Bradford has a lot coming back and are primed too, but I think until someone can knock off Clarion … We didn’t come close. It’ll be interesting.”
Redbank Valley head coach Ed Wasilowski wasn’t able to attend the media day due to a family emergency. Union/A-C Valley first-year head coach Brad Dittman was on hand.
“We’ve been working out since the beginning of June,” Dittman said. “Obviously with the turnover, we have some new systems going in. We have a new defense going in, pretty much a new offense going in so we’ve spent a lot of time on that over the summer. The terminology, our calls, plays we’re going to run on offense, things of that nature. We spent quite
a bit of time conditioning and getting in shape.”
More from Media Day:
The Bulldogs open with a scrimmage at Moniteau on Aug. 18 at 11 a.m. Assistant coach Blane Gold was on hand with seniors Keaton Kahle and Blaney Brooks.
Even though the team lost just three seniors — Logan Minich, Brock Barrett and Clint Thurston — they were big contributors.
But Kahle is back at quarterback, coming off a season where he threw for 769 yards and ran for 442 yards. He’s looking to take advantage of what he believes is a strong group of receivers including Hunter Martz, Hunter Buzard, Chase Wiles and Ethan Hetrick.
“I think we’re coming back strong and trying to adjust and fill spots, even though we lost just three guys, each played a lot of parts of the offense and defense,” Kahle said. “So we’re trying to make up for what they really gave us. We’re coming into the season with the same mentality as last year.
“We really worked out with some older guys and they helped us out a lot with 7-on-7s and we worked in the weight room with the coaches. We got some new guys to come out, so we’re getting the chemistry down there.”
Brooks enters his second year after a learning season on the line, dealing with sometimes bigger foes in the trenches as a guard and tackle on offense and end on defense.
“I learned a lot from Coach Gold, asked a lot of questions and Logan Minich helped me out a lot,” Brooks said. “It was learning and doing, learning from mistakes. The first couple games were a little rough, but after that, I got the hang of it.
“My biggest thing to learn was that I underestimated a lot of guys because I thought I was bigger than them and I wasn’t. They were a lot bigger than me.”
Kahle is looking forward to what might be more of a passing season with a new schedule. The Bulldogs open Small School South foe Keystone on Aug. 24 with other division games against Clarion-Limestone, Curwensville, Elk County Catholic and Union/A-C Valley. Small School North foes this year will be Otto-Eldred (home-opener, Aug. 31), Sheffield, Smethport and Coudersport.
The schedule is a little different, but it’s not going to change how we’re going into every game. We’re going in knowing it’s the same, attack the weakness and not change what we do.
“I feel losing what Clint did last year, he was amazing, but I thing we’re going to have to throw the ball more because we’re overly stacked with receivers compared to running backs, but not that our backs can’t carry the load that Clint did,” Kahle said. “That’s one thing I’ll probably have to do, run more, because last year Clint took a lot of pressure off me with his carrying the ball. This year, I feel I’ll have to carry it more than last year.”
The Falcon Knights scrimmage at West Shamokin Aug. 18 at 10 a.m. before opening the season at C-L on Aug. 24.
Their other division games are against Redbank Valley, Keystone, Elk County Catholic and Curwensville. Small School North games are with Sheffield (home opener, Aug. 31), Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany and Cameron County with a 10th game at Large School division member Ridgway on Oct. 26.
“I’m a little nervous because there’s teams on our schedule that we don’t know anything about, that we’ve never played, that I’ve never coached against, but I’m excited in the fact that with this new schedule,” Dittman said. “We’re playing teams that are more our size. I mean we have a co-op, and we only have 25 to 30 kids. We’re going to see teams comparable to that number as opposed to the Karns Citys and the Moniteaus and these larger schools we’ve been playing these past years.”
Quintin Weaver and Caleb Penny joined Dittman in Ridgway.
Weaver says that things have gone well in the transition to the new coaching staff.
“We’re actually ahead of where we thought we’d be,” Weaver said. “We picked it up really fast and it’s working.”
“We’re going to run kind of a double-wing offense,” Dittman said. “We’re going to be zone concepts. We want to be a balanced offense. We want to be able to throw the football as well as run, so we want to be able to take advantage of what we feel the defense is giving us and attack it in that way.
“Our base defense will be a 3-4, so we just want to be a downhill attack defense that tackles well and we don’t want these guys to do a lot of thinking. We’re going to be simple in our concepts and simple in our stunts and our blitzes but we also want these guys to be able to be fast and physical and get to the football.”
Penny felt that the defense will be a big key to success.
“I think its defense,” he said. “Our junior high group ninth-graders are moving up and a lot of skill position players so we have a lot of defensive backs if someone gets tired. I think our defense will do well this year.”