KNOX — The official starting point to this year’s high school football season is Friday night and it’s still dubbed “Week 0.” While it’s not known if any teams actually scrimmage twice now, there aren’t any scrimmages involving District 9 teams.

So the start of the newly formatted District 9 Football League begins as the Redbank Valley Bulldogs head to Keystone and Union/A-C Valley travels to Clarion-Limestone for two of the three Small School South games. Both games start at 7 p.m.

The other Small School South game has Elk County Catholic visiting Curwensville. The Small School North matchups are Cameron County at Coudersport, Port Allegany at Otto-Eldred and Saturday’s Smethport at Sheffield game.

And in the Large School Division, it’s Bradford at Brookville, Brockway at Karns City, Punxsutawney at Clarion, Moniteau at Kane and Ridgway at St. Marys.

Here’s a closer look at the openers for Redbank Valley and Keystone, along with a quick look at the district:

Redbank Valley at

Keystone

The Bulldogs head to Knox to open the season for the third straight year. They’ve put up 55 points the past two matchups, including 55-38 last year and 55-18 in 2016.

The Panthers, 3-6 a year ago, have a new coach in Ryan Smith, who replaces Dan Reed. Junior Isaak Jones, one of the leading returning receivers from last year, appears to be the Panthers’ quarterback. Junior Jayden Blazosky, like Jones, caught 12 passes last year.

Union/A-C Valley at

C-L

The Brad Dittman era begins on the road as well as the Falcon Knights take on Clarion-Limestone, which starts the season with an 18-man roster.

The Lions, 6-5 last year, must replace some big offensive names, but head coach Dave Eggleton has a veteran line in front of new quarterback Colby Himes. Senior Ayden Wiles (715 yards, 11 TDs) is the leading returning rusher back along with Austin Newcomb (327 yards, 5 TDs).

Their line could be a big thing to deal with all season in the Small School South with seniors Matt Coleman, Justin Goodman and Jim Gunning returning along with juniors Ben Smith and Mitch Knepp who was the team’s tight end last season.

The Falcon Knights square off against the Lions in the season-opener for the second time in three years since the Union/ACV co-op began. Last year, they beat them 40-14 and it was 20-18 in 2016.

TEAM OUTLOOKS

Large School Division,

other teams:

Brockway: There’s some Brookville flavor on the Rovers coaching staff with former Raiders assistant Tom Weaver the new head coach. His son and former Raider Garret is the offensive coordinator. Quarterback Peter Downer is back after throwing for 1,811 yards. Jon Wood ran for 756 yards and eight TDs.

Brookville: The Raiders return sophomore quarterback Jack Krug, who threw for over 2,800 yards and 40 touchdowns, and his top receiver in all-stater Bryan Dworek (85 catches, 1,406 yards, 21 TDs). Krug, Dworek and sophomore Ian Thrush made up three-fourths of the team’s two sprint relay state medal entries this spring, so look for the Raiders to score a lot of points again.

Karns City: There’s also a new coach for the Gremlins as Joe Sherwin replaces longtime head coach Ed Conto. There won’t be a lot of transition considering Sherwin was Conto’s offensive coordinator the past 18 seasons. Quarterback Anthony Kamenski returns, but the Gremlins will be primarily featuring new skill players.

Clarion: Larry Wiser is back for his 30th season and his Bobcats lost a lot from their 12-1 season that ended in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Logan Minich is back after running for 908 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Punxsutawney: Head coach Brad Wright enters his fourth season as the Chucks are coming off a 4-7 season. Quarterback Dylan Ishman is back after throwing for 1,554 yards and 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions.

Ridgway: The now Class 2A Elkers bump up a class after winning the Class 1A title last year and reaching the PIAA quarterfinals before bowing to Farrell. It’s Mark Heindl’s 11th season and he’ll need to replace most of his starters from a 9-4 season.

St. Marys: The Dutch head into the season on an 11-game losing streak after going 0-9 last year. Head coach Tony Defilippi’s 10th season with the Dutch.

Moniteau: The Warriors have a new coach in Bob Rottman, who has a combined 14 starters back on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Chance Nagy threw for 1,193 yards.

Kane: Another team, another new coach in the division as Jim Hillman takes over the Wolves, who have a combined 11 starters back on both sides of the ball from last year’s 11-1 squad that lost to Clarion in the thrilling Class 2A title game. Receiver Jake Alcorn is the only significant skill player back after catching 33 passes for 498 yards.

Small School South, other teams:

Curwensville: The Golden Tide, who reached the Class 1A title game last year before losing to Ridgway, 9-7, to finish 9-3. Veteran head coach Andy Evanko lost his quarterback Bryce Timko and record-breaking running back Nick Stewart to graduation, but have seniors Blake Passarelli and Avery Francisco, their second and third leading rushers, and senior receiver Noah Von Gunden, the second leading catcher, returning.

Elk Co. Catholic: It’s the sixth year for head coach Tony Gerg, whose team went 2-7 last year. The Crusaders have a combined seven starters back.

Small School North:

Cameron County: Jody Bailey is the new coach of the Red Raiders, who have five starters returning on both sides of the ball from last year’s 1-8 season.

Coudersport: The Falcons, under second-year head coach Tom Storey, lost their standout Jared Green to graduation, but a lot returns after that with leading rusher in senior Stephen Kelly (879 yards, 9 TDs) and sophomore Hayden Keck (358 yards, 3 TDs) coming out of the backfield.

Otto-Eldred: It’s the first year for Terrors coach Troy Cook, who takes over a team returning a combined 14 starters from last year’s 6-5 team. Junior Cameron Magee caught 52 passes for 783 yards and 7 TDs. He’s also the leading returning rusher at 152 yards. Senior linebacker Chris Connelly led the team in tackles.

Port Allegany: Pat Warnick’s second year with the Gators has almost all of his starters back from last year’s 2-7 squad, including quarterback Jared Mahon.

Smethport: The Hubbers got the preseason coaches poll nod as favorites in the division. They return seven starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s 3-6 team for second-year head coach Adam Jack, including all of their leading skill players in the senior trio of quarterback Grant Ognen (724 yards, 7 TDs) and running backs Blake Kinner (722 yards, 5 TDs) and Nathan Hollowell (630 yards, 7 TDs).

Sheffield: It’s Chris Korbar’s first season with the Wolverines, who were 0-10 last year.

PLAYOFF SETUP

CLASS 2A

Teams in field (8): Kane, Brookville, Moniteau, Brockway, Karns City, Ridgway, Clarion, Keystone.

Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket: All eight. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.

Playoff schedule: Quarterfinals, Nov. 2-3; Semifinals, Nov. 9-10; Final, Nov. 16-17; PIAA Quarterfinals vs. District 5 or 10, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinal, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

CLASS 1A

Teams in field (11): Coudersport, Redbank Valley, Curwensville, Otto-Eldred, Smethport, Sheffield, Port Allegany, Union/ACV, Clarion-Limestone, Elk Co. Catholic, Cameron County.

Maximum amount of teams in playoff bracket: Eight. PIAA Ranking system will determine seeding.

Playoff schedule: Quarterfinals, Nov. 2-3; Semifinals, Nov. 9-10; Final, Nov. 16-17; PIAA Quarterfinals vs. District 5 or 10, Nov. 23-24; PIAA semifinal, Nov. 30-Dec. 1; PIAA Championship, Dec. 6-8.

MY PICKS:

Brookville over Bradford

C-L over Union/ACV

Redbank Valley over Keystone

Karns City over Brockway

Clarion over Punxsy

Kane over Moniteau

Ridgway over St. Marys

Curwensville over ECC

Coudersport over Cameron Co.

Otto-Eldred over Port A.

Smethport over Sheffield

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