NEW BETHLEHEM — By the Clarion County Commissioners decree, Friday is Dave Moore Day in the county.
Why? He was a great coach.
Seriously, it’s a tribute to his recent induction into the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Moore, the longtime Bulldogs football coach who guided the team to its last D9 title in 1996, is addressing the team at 4:30 p.m. then he and other guests and alumni will be treated to a pre-game dinner before pre-game ceremonies begin around 6:20 p.m.
Kickoff against the Keystone Panthers is 7 p.m.
“It’s especially exciting for us with Dave Moore Day,” said first-year head coach Blane Gold. “We have some special things planned. It’s not just starting year strong, but with the amount of alumni and people coming back, we need to honor the tradition the correct way. It’s added excitement and we’re treating it very seriously.”
Gold was happy with how his team scrimmaged at home last Saturday against Moniteau.
“We wanted to make sure we were breaking camp healthy and we did that,” Gold said. “We’re happy with that. The big thing is we’ve been stressing us playing a physical brand of football. We made some mental mistakes and some errors, but if we were going to do that, make it at 100 mph, or full speed and we did that.”
The Bulldogs scrimmaged without starting quarterback Gunner Mangiantini, but he was held out for precautionary reasons with an injury and should be ready to go.
“We knew that would be a challenge without Gunner, but Chase (Bish) did a good job,” Gold said. “We were really happy with how we ran the ball.”
Keystone, 3-7 last year, has senior Isaak Jones back at quarterback after he threw for 1,354 yards and 12 TDs. Nick Weaver led the Panthers in rushing with 371 yards.
Gold thought head coach Ryan Smith’s team improved over last season.
“Keystone is definitely better,” Gold said. “Watching them on film vs. Cochranton, they are doing what they’ve done in a much better manner. They look a lot cleaner and they took it to Cochranton. They have some guys coming back so we need to game plan accordingly.”
The Bulldogs beat the Panthers, 41-18, last year. They’ve won six straight over them since their last loss in 2012.
In Friday’s other game:
Union/ACV at Coudersport
These teams did not meet last year and weren’t supposed to this year until Clarion-Limestone’s combining with Clarion created an opening in the schedule and adjustments were made.
It’ll be a chore for the Falcon Knights as they head north to take on the defending Class 1A champions, who got hot in the postseason and ripped off wins over Redbank Valley, Clarion-Limestone and Smethport, all teams they lost to during the regular season. They finished 8-5 after a first-round loss to Farrell in the state playoffs.
The Falcons have their quarterback returning in junior Hayden Keck. He threw for 709 yards and ran for 565 yards.
THE REST OF THE SMALL SCHOOL — In the other Small School South division game, it’s Curwensville at Elk County Catholic while Union/A-C Valley heads out of the division with a game at Coudersport.
The coaches poll had Curwensville, Elk County Catholic and Redbank Valley picked in that order. However, it’s curious that the Tide got the nod considering they lost so much to graduation.
The Golden Tide (7-5) lost longtime coach Andy Evanko, who died in the offseason after a long battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Jim Thompson takes over the Tide, who have just nine starters back and three on offense. Senior Jake McCracken caught 25 passes for 330 yards.
Elk County Catholic (7-3), the defending division champion, has a combined seven returning starters back with quarterback Mason McAllister and running back Stephen Bobby leading the way.
The Small School North coaches poll had the Falcons at No. 1 followed by Smethport and Otto-Eldred.
The Hubbers, who host Sheffield, lost their main playmakers from last year’s 11-2 team that split their games with Coudersport. Otto-Eldred (5-6) travels to Port Allegany also on Friday night. The Terrors could be dangerous with junior quarterback Cole Sebastian coming off a 1,957-yard passing season. He and fellow senior Colton Gietler were the top two rushers with 395 and 319 yards respectively.
The Gators (2-7), Cameron County (1-8, 18 points scored) and Sheffield (0-9, 38 points scored) all have work to do.
Cameron County is off this week, opening its season net week at Curwensville.
LARGE SCHOOL OUTLOOK — Friday night’s District 9 League’s Large School schedule has Clarion visiting Punxsutawney, Brookville at Bradford, Kane at Moniteau, St. Marys at Ridgway and Karns City at Brockway.
The preseason coaches poll had the top-three ranking in the Large School Division as Clarion, Ridgway and Brookville.
Clarion, now combined with Clarion-Limestone and North Clarion as in recent years, should be loaded up for a serious run as the Bobcats have the services of former C-L star Austin Newcombe, who set the D9 single-season rushing record last year with over 2,600 yards.
The Bobcats have 37 players on the roster — 17 from Clarion, 14 from C-L and six from North Clarion.
The Bobcats travel to Punxsutawney (2-8), which lost almost all of its playmakers to graduation.
The Raiders (6-5) and Owls (6-5) (combined for 129 points and nearly 1,400 yards of offense in last year’s opener with the Raiders winning 69-60 behind Jack Krug’s school-record 555 yards passing. Krug missed most of last year but still managed to throw for 930 yards and 14 TDs.
Ridgway won the division title last year with its lone loss coming at the hands of the Raiders. The Elkers, 11-2 last year, have their quarterback returning in senior Paul Gresco (1379 yards, 11 TDs) and their top two running backs in senior Jake Wickett (534 yards, 9 TDs) and junior Gabe Watts (747 yards, 10 TDs).
Brockway, 10-3 last year and the Raiders’ foe next week at home, has former Raiders assistant Tom Weaver back on the sideline for his second year. The Rovers have running back Jon Wood back as much of the team’s key players were lost to graduation.
Karns City, 4-6, miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010, so don’t be shocked that the Gremlins are improved with a solid sophomore class along with third-year starting quarterback Anthony Kamenski back. The Gremlins lost four games by seven or less points a year ago.
St. Marys, of course, has a coaching change as former longtime Brookville head coach and recent assistant Chris Dworek takes over the Flying Dutchmen with former Raiders offensive coordinator Frank Varischetti on the staff with him.
The Dutch, 0-10 last year, carry a 21-game losing streak into the season.
Kane was 2-8 last year while Moniteau was 7-5. The Warriors bring back Nick Martino as their top returning rusher. They’ll try to replace graduated quarterback Chance Nagy, who accounted for a majority of the team’s yards from scrimmage.
DISTRICT RANKINGS — D9Sports.Com released its first overall district football rankings in conjunction with the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg:
1. Clearfield, 2. Clarion, 3. Ridgway, 4. Brookville, 5, Redbank Valley, 6. Brockway, 7. Coudersport, 8. DuBois, 9. Elk Co. Catholic, 10. Curwensville.
Expect movement throughout the season.