It’s an early start to this week’s football schedule and the Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights play this year’s Autumn Leaf Festival Thursday night game at Keystone with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Friday, the 4-2 Redbank Valley Bulldogs head to Clearfield County to face 4-2 Curwensville. Both teams are trending in opposite directions, the Bulldogs with two straight losses and the Golden Tide with two straight wins.
Both games are big in the playoff standings. The 2-4 Falcon Knights are looking for wins as they try to bolster their win total. Although they hold the eighth and final spot in the Class 1A playoff standings, at least the next two games give them an opportunity to get to .500 with winless Cameron County waiting next week.
Keystone, 3-3, is guaranteed a top-eight playoff spot in the eight-team Class 2A field, but the Panthers could be playing for wins to bolster a decision to go to the playoffs as well.
With the Bulldogs and the Tide, they’re two of four teams at 4-2, so the standings will be a volatile situation week to week and a win this week helps their seeding chances.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s matchups:
Union/ACV (2-4) at
The Falcon Knights and Panthers share four common foes so far and are both 2-2 against that group. The Falcon Knights beat Port Allegany last week (34-6) and Sheffield (47-0) while Keystone beat Sheffield (52-0) last week and Port Allegany (42-24). Both teams lost to C-L and Curwensville. The Falcon Knights 40-0 to C-L and a tight 14-13 loss to the Tide while Keystone was routed by the Lions (50-6) and lost to the Tide (30-14).
Union/ACV had its second-lowest offensive yardage game in last week against Port Allegany, but it could be misleading. Either way, it was a solid win that head coach Brad Dittman hopes to build on this week.
The Falcon Knights average 215 yards per game offensively. Quarterback Luke Bowser (27-for-77, 416 yards, 4 TDs, 7 Ints.) runs the offense with Nolan Cumberland (60-311, 5 TDs) leading the team in rushing. Sophomore Tanner Merwin (9-153, 1 TD) is the leading receiver while freshman Caden Rainey leads the team in all-purpose yards (yards from scrimmage plus returns) with 512.
Colby Best (7.0), Brady Cullen (6.8), Joe Dehart (5.2) and Colton Hoffman (5.0) lead the team in tackles per game.
Keystone junior quarterback Isaak Jones is the foundation of the Panthers’ offensive game plan. He’s completed 51 of 100 passes for 840 yards and 10 touchdowns to go against five interceptions. He’s the second-leading rusher (43-240, 3 TDs) behind Nick Weaver (51-245, 4 TDs). Jayden Blazosky (17-252, 3 TDs) is Jones’ top receiving target.
The Falcon Knights and Panthers played a close one last year with Keystone notching a 34-26 win. Two years ago in the first year of the Union/ACV co-op, the Falcon Knights routed the Panthers, 54-14.
Redbank Valley (4-2)
at Curwensville (4-2)
Now division rivals this year, the Bulldogs and Tide meet for the first time since their District 9 Class 1A semifinal showdown last year won 47-13 by the Tide in DuBois.
This isn’t the same Golden Tide squad that featured the district’s all-time leading rusher Nick Stewart the past four season. However, longtime head coach Andy Evanko’s game plan remains about the same.
“They make a living between the tackles offensively and don’t run wide much in what I’ve seen so far,” said Bulldogs head coach Ed Wasilowski. “We’re 4-2, they’re 4-2 and we both lost to Smethport by the same score.”
Indeed that’s true. The Bulldogs lost 20-7 at the unbeaten Hubbers last week with the Tide losing by the same score at home two games prior to that.
The Tide average 157 of their 205 yards per game on the ground with three backs over 230 yards — seniors Blake Passarelli (83-257, 2 TDs), Cole Bressler (52-333, 3 TDs) and Avery Francisco (40-231, 4 TDs). Quarterback Noah VonGunden (26-for-70, 289 yards, 4 TDs, 4 Ints.) attempts just over 10 passes per game.
The Bulldogs average 306 yards per game — 169 rushing, 137 passing — but are coming off their worst rushing game (24-66) last week at Smethport and have been held under 100 for two straight games.
Quarterback Keaton Kahle (64-for-105, 825 yards, 8 TDs, 5 Ints.) runs the passing game and ranks second in rushing (40-322, 2 TDs). Hunter Wiles (59-412, 2 TDs) is the top rusher with Kahle’s top receiving targets being Hunter Martz (22-256, 4 TDs), Hunter Buzard (17-192, 1 TD) and Ethan Hetrick (11-201, 3 TDs).
It’s the 20th meeting between the Tide and Bulldogs with Curwensville holding a 15-4 advantage, including 3-1 in the playoffs. It’s the first regular-season matchup since 2015 when the Tide won, 44-30. That was the first regular-season meeting since 1963.