Second opportunities don’t come along very often, especially not in a championship game against an arch-rival.
Bedford High School coach Kevin Steele and his players will seek redemption and some hardware against Chestnut Ridge in the District 5-8 Class AA subregion championship game at Northern Bedford’s Panther Community Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“There is a lot at stake,” Steele said. “First and foremost, it’s win or go home. A district championship is on the line. Then, Chestnut Ridge on top of that. There is a lot at stake.
“We’ve worked hard this week. Hopefully we’re better prepared.”
Chestnut Ridge coach Max Shoemaker’s Lions edged Bedford 27-21 on the road in Week 10. Each team brings an 8-3 record and momentum after one-sided 5-AA semifinal victories last weekend.
Shoemaker, formerly a very successful coach of the Bisons, knows winning twice against Bedford in the same season won’t be a simple task.
“Every game is a new experience,” Shoemaker said. “We have to be ready and prepared for anything they throw at us.”
Two weeks ago when the teams met in Bedford, the Lions ran the ball 46 times for 315 yards and four rushing touchdowns. That’s an average of 6.9 yards a carry.
“The big thing is we’ve got to do a better job of controlling their running game,” Steele said. “They had a huge night of running with Bosch and Wiley. On the offensive side we need to do a better job of moving the chains so we can keep their offense off the field.”
Against Bedford, Ridge senior quarterback Beau Bosch ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. In that Week 10 game, junior back Matt Wiley had 19 attempts for 147 yards and a score. Wiley is eighth in the area statistically with 909 rushing yards, and Bosch has 748 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“They have a solid offensive line,” Steele said. “Bosch is a good athlete and he runs the ball very well.
“Mix in Wiley, and they have a couple weapons. Their option attack, you have to be disciplined, and the first time we weren’t disciplined and it cost us.”
Ridge kept on running last week in a 55-20 rout over District 8 Westinghouse. The Lions ran 45 times for 286 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Bosch completed four of five passes for 130 yards and two more scores.
On defense, Chestnut Ridge had three sacks and four interceptions against the Bulldogs.
Bedford has a balanced ground game with Jeremiah Bingham (672), Kody Blevins (562), Austin Montgomery (492) and August Cook (364) combining for 2,090 rushing yards. Quarterback Montgomery has completed 64 of 123 passes for 1,170 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Receiver Zach Shaffer has 23 catches for 532 yards to rank fifth in the area.
“Their offense is so balanced. They run the option well,” Shoemaker said. “Montgomery, for being a young kid, a sophomore, really fakes well. Fundamentally we have to be extremely disciplined in reading their keys and playing our responsibility each play.
“The Bingham boy at fullback has 700 or 800 yards. Montgomery has 500. The Blevins boy had 500-some yards. They spread the wealth and do it well. Austin has mixed in passing and has thrown for just about 1,000 yards. Their offense, you can’t key on stopping any one individual. You have to play disciplined.”
The Bisons also will have a lift from Blevins, who was injured and missed the first meeting against Ridge, leaving a hole on offense and defense, where he plays linebacker.
“It certainly helps to have him back,” Steele said. “He’s a good leader, a good athlete. He understands the scheme and will help the situation.”
The game holds a special significance in each district.
“It’s a great game in regards to the community and should be a fun atmosphere to participate in,” Shoemaker said.
“It should be a great high school football game,” added Steele. “Both teams are excited. Both communities are excited. It’s a great atmosphere. This is what the kids put all hat effort into.”
In tonight’s other action:
District 5 Tournament
Class A - Semifinal
Meyersdale at Berlin Brothersvalley
Another rematch will take place in the 5-A semifinal at the Snyder of Berlin Complex.
Top-seeded Berlin Brothersvalley will host No. 4 Meyersdale. The Red Raiders defeated the Mountaineers 46-38 in triple overtime during Week 8 at Meyersdale.
“This was the game we were hoping we’d get back,” said Berlin coach Doug Paul, whose team is 9-1 and coming off a first-round bye. “Watching films there are a lot of things we could correct from that game. Part of it is a credit to the big, strong running back, (Meyersdale’s Gavin) Berkley. But that was our poorest tackling game all season. Pass defense, we weren’t in position. We weren’t going after the ball. Offensively, it was blocking. We were letting guys come through the line. We spent a lot of time working on that.”
Meyersdale followed the big win over Berlin with a narrow victory at Shade (21-20) and a loss to third-seeded Tussey Mountain (27-13), another 5-A semifinalist.
Last week in the quarterfinals, the Red Raiders came back to edge visiting Windber 18-15.
Meyersdale also is savoring a rematch with hopes of earning a title shot while eliminating a rival.
“All you have to do is say their name and we’re ready to go,” said Meyersdale running back Gavin Berkley, who had 31 carries for 152 yards and four touchdowns in the triple overtime win. “It’s going to be another great game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Berkley has 1,200 rushing yards to rank fifth in the area.
Berlin has the top rusher in sophomore Braden Fochtman, who has 1,801 yards on 190 carries, despite not playing during a bye week.
Paul feels the Mountaineers’ offense has plenty to improve upon and his staff and players used two weeks of practice to prepare for Meyersdale.
“Losing to them during the regular season is one thing, but to be the team to end the other team’s season is a whole different element to this rivalry,” Paul said. “There is a whole lot more on the table this time than last time. The team that loses goes home. It’s two rival schools and it should be a great high school football atmosphere.”
District 5-6-8-9 Subregion
Class AAA - Championship
Clearfield vs. Somerset, at Hollidaysburg
Somerset (10-1) had its first district playoff victory since 1989 last week in a 28-20 win at University Prep.
The Golden Eagles hope to pull off an upset to avoid another long wait.
Clearfield (11-0) has rushed for 3,701 yards and 56 touchdowns as a team.
The Bison beat Greater Johnstown 42-7 last week in the semifinals.
Clearfield quarterback Christian Lezzer, who committed to Division I Boston College as an inside linebacker this spring, has rushed for 1,567 yards and 29 touchdowns on 194 carries, an average of 8.1 per run and 142.5 a game.
“The best way I could put it is spread power,” Somerset coach Bob Landis said of the Bison offense. “They try to spread you out with certain formations but they’ll also go double tights with three in the backfield, and they’ll come right at you.
“They do some power stuff and they spread you out and run the ball. They do throw the ball some. They’re 11-0 for a reason.”
Clearfield’s Tyler Stratton has 992 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Lezzer has thrown for 546 yards and five touchdowns, and Erik Sellers has 232 passing yards and two scores.
“They’re a heavy run offense and they throw when they have to,” Landis said.
Somerset has two players capable of running the offense from the quarterback spot. Tanner Stull has rushed for 835 yards and passed for 583. Dylan Barnes has 558 rushing yards and 732 passing yards.
District 6 Tournament
Class AA - Semifinal
Tyrone at Richland
Top-seeded and undefeated Richland (11-0) has outscored opponents 520-124 and has won 25 of its past 26 games.
The Rams, ranked third in the state, actually have gone 35-4 since the 2011 season.
“We just try to play to our standard,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said, when asked about high expectations and the target on the Rams’ figurative back. “Our kids know that, and they practice hard each week. We know that we have a talented team and if we execute we are going to have a good chance to win.
“Tyrone is a quality team. We will need an improved effort.”
The fourth-seeded Golden Eagles are 9-2 after bouncing back from an early 21-7 deficit in last week’s quarterfinal to beat Bald Eagle Area 26-21.
Tyrone quarterback Erik Wagner has thrown for 1,482 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. James Oliver has rushed for 1,492 yards and 26 touchdowns, and he has 31 catches for 602 yards and five scores.
Richland counters with a stable of big play athletes and the experience of 25 seniors. Rams quarterback Matt Shaffer leads the area with 2,149 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Running back Tanner Solarczyk is second with 1,417 rushing yards. Kyle Flick is atop the receiving yards with 831.
Last year, the Rams beat the Eagles 43-22 in the 6-AA semifinals at Richland.
Class A - Semifinal
Bishop Guilfoyle at Portage
Each team brings an eight-game winning streak into the 6-A semifinals.
Bishop Guilfoyle (8-2) lost its first two games of the season to Bedford and Richland, two playoff teams, and hasn’t lost since.
Portage (9-1) fell at Berlin, the top seed in 5-A, during Week 2, then reeled off eight wins in a row to earn the top seed in 6-A.
“We’re ready to go. Two great football teams playing against each other,” Portage coach Gary Gouse said. “I think both (semifinal) games are like finals.”
Tonight’s winner faces the semifinal winner of Saturday’s game between Bishop Carroll and host Homer-Center.
Bishop Guilfoyle quarterback Brandon Chadbourn has thrown for 791 yards and eight touchdowns, and rushed for 861 yards and 10 scores.
“He’s the catalyst of their team,” Gouse said. “He’s their fastest player and very athletic. He does a lot for them offensively and defensively. He’s all over the place, a highly skilled athlete.”
Portage is 5-0 at home, including last week’s 49-14 6-A quarterfinal win over Blairsville.
“Being at home is really big for our kids,” Gouse said. “We have a great crowd and they rally behind us. We need to stay in the game and get them involved in it.”
Portage will rely on running back Caleb Kephart, who ranks third in the area with 1,389 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Luke Dividock has 813 rushing yards and seven scores. Quarterback Michael Bryja ranks eighth with 985 passing yards.
“Getting out of the gate is going to be really important,” Gouse said. “Early in the game, trying to get a lead and not playing from behind, that’s important.
“We told the kids it’s just four quarters to get to the final,” he added. “This is a really good group of kids and I’m really proud of them. I know they’ll play their hardest.”