ST. MARYS — With the annual heat acclimation week starting Monday, it was time for the District 9 League’s annual football Media Day held Tuesday at St. Marys Area High School.
Coaches and players representing the league’s 22 teams were on hand to talk about the upcoming season that begins later this month. The preseason coaches poll was released giving the predicted top three finishers in the newly-formatted divisions. Listed below are the top three finishers with the other teams in the divisions listed in alphabetical order.
— Region 1: 1. Karns City, 2. St. Marys, 3. DuBois. Other teams: Bradford, Brookville, Central Clarion, Moniteau, Punxsutawney.
— Region 2: 1. Redbank Valley, 2. Port Allegany, 3. Brockway. Other teams: Kane, Keystone, Ridgway, Smethport, Union/A-C Valley.
— Region 3: 1. Coudersport, 2. Cameron County, 3. Otto-Eldred and Elk County Catholic. Other teams: Bucktail, Sheffield.
While the heat acclimation workouts run all through next week, the first official practice (full contact) is Aug. 15 with all teams playing one scrimmage on Aug. 20. The first weekend of the regular season is Aug. 26-27.
For area teams, Redbank Valley and Union/A-C Valley, their scrimmages have the Bulldogs hosting Brookville and the Falcon Knights host West Shamokin and Moniteau in a tri-scrimmage on Aug. 20.
In the season openers on Aug. 26, the Bulldogs host Smethport while the Falcon Knights host Cameron County.
Here are some odds and ends from Media Day from the Bulldogs and Falcon Knights:
— The Bulldogs are coming off a run to the PIAA Class 1A Championship game where they lost 21-14 to Bishop Guilfoyle and finished 13-2. Blane Gold enters his third season as head coach.
Gold on being the preseason favorites in the new division setup: “I think we learned last year that being called the favorites doesn’t mean anything. ... At one point, we were ranked No. 1 in the state and we didn’t win a championship, so we don’t put a lot of stock in that. Last year I preached to these guys that nobody’s going to care what they did the previous year and once again, nobody is going to care about last year. The only thing being a favorite means is that you’re going to get your absolute best from everybody and we learned that quickly last year (opening loss to Keystone), so you won’t see us posting that anywhere or bragging about that or talking about it. It doesn’t mean anything to us.”
Senior receiver/defensive back Aiden Ortz: “We have a lot of starters back. Obviously, we lost a lot of talent, but it happens every year. Ever since the summer workouts, we’ve been going to seven-on-sevens, Penn State was the big one and we went in there wanting to compete and we didn’t care if we won or lost. We were competing with 5A championship teams from Maryland and Virginia and one team had six Penn State commits already, but we only lost by like a touchdown. If we compete like that, we can compete a lot better against the teams we play in the regular season.”
Senior slotback/defensive back Tate Minich: “(The seniors) have had a very successful varsity career, being in a district championship game all three years in varsity football. The group here are 8-3 in the playoffs, so this is technically our fifth year of football and just to be able to put that all behind you is tough, but we really have to focus on this year, week one and our main focus is Smethport.”
Senior quarterback Cam Wagner: “Our goal every day during summer workouts, seven on sevens, any lineman workout, is just to get better every day. If we leave knowing that we left everything we have that day out on the field, then we know that we got better from when we first walked in. I don’t think I’ve even looked at the schedule yet, because I’m just worried about the first game against Smethport.”
Senior lineman Carsen Rupp: “We can’t have that hangover from last year. We have to keep improving and looking for new ways to get better. ... It’s a new year and a new chapter for the senior class.”
— The Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights were 9-3 last year, two losses coming to Redbank Valley with one in the D9 Class 1A final. Head coach Brad Dittman returns for his fifth season.
Dittman on heading into another season: “The times we’ve been together, I see guys who are experienced, leaders and they handle themselves well. I know they want to pay attention to the details and the details are key for us this year to get those wins. The ball security that killed us in a few games, the blocked punts that killed us, those are the details we need to really fine-tune on this year.”
Dittman mentioned that his program’s freshmen class will be on the JV/Varsity roster, putting the roster at roughly 38 players in grades nine through 12.
Senior running back Mikey Card, who led the team with 898 yards: “We’ve all been working hard in the weight room and I think we’re going to come out strong. I’m just hoping to get more yards. That’s really all I’m thinking about. We can get the ball all over the place, run, pass, we have someone who can get the ball.”
Senior receiver/defensive back Skyler Roxbury, who led the team in receiving and interceptions with eight: “The defensive linemen and linebackers getting to the quarterback kind of just gave me an open lane and made the quarterback have a bad throw and I just read his eyes and take the ball. As long as someone gets the ball, I’m really not concerned it’s me getting the interception.”
Senior lineman Landon Chalmers: “I definitely thought the beginning of the season we were rough around the edges with where people were supposed to go, but then toward the end of the season, we switched some people around ... that put the puzzle back together and really made us a good line. We have to feel some shoes this year and maybe Mikey or I will move (back to linebacker) and get some younger guys on the line to be able to prove what they can do.”
Senior quarterback/linebacker Bailey Crissman: “I think we’ll be all right (offensively). Losing Caden (Rainey) is hard, but with Dawson (Camper), Skyler, Mikey and Ryan (Cooper), all of them, they are still special pieces that I can use to get us closer to where we want to go. Probably the biggest goal is to keep the interceptions and turnovers down and I’ve been working to make better decisions on the field.”