T-D HS Football

Lions, Gremlins ready to tangle again in PIAA playoffs

By: Cory Isenberg

Karns City ended the football season for Chestnut Ridge last year.
The Lions (9-3) are hoping they can return that favor on Friday night in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs when Ridge takes on the Gremlins (11-1) at Northern Bedford’s Panther Community Stadium in a rematch of the battle between the District 5 champion and the District 9 winner. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“When we lost to Karns City last year (35-29), many of our kids set their sights on getting back to this point,” Lions’ coach Max Shoemaker said in an interview Monday night. “We didn’t talk about it as a team goal or anything, but in the back of their minds, this is where we wanted to get to. Now the feeling is let’s do it.”
Karns City coach Ed Conto said his team is the one making the long road trip this season.
“This should be a very good game,” the Gremlins’ coach said. “Last year’s game was very physical and we are going to be playing on their turf and it’s been a while since we played on a muddy field.”
The Lions have to quickly put their emotional victory over Bedford in the District 5-AA title game in the rearview mirror.
“We talked about that today,” Shoemaker said. “The celebration is over and we put Bedford to rest. Now we have to focus on the next game and hopefully with no aftereffects. This is a senior-oriented team with goals set a year ago with that bitter loss. This is an opportunity for us. We’ve had some landmark wins the last few years and we’d like to get another this week.”
Shoemaker said that the Gremlins are similar to the squad that his team played last year with about seven players back on offense and four or five on defense.
“Many of their skill kids are back and they have very good balance,” Shoemaker said. “They rotate fresh faces in on the line all the time and do a little bit of everything on offense. They go back and forth into different formations and change personnel. They are highly organized in their system. Our defense is going to have to be able to adjust to those formations.”
Karns City senior quarterback Tyler Kepple was coming back from an injury last season when the teams met. This year Kepple is at full strength and has completed 62.6 percent (97 of 155) of his passes. He has thrown for 30 touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. Junior Logan Moroney has 32 catches for 558 yards while senior Dakota Mohney has 34 for 541.
The Gremlins, who won their second straight district title and their 10th overall, rush the ball by committee with three players - Tristan Rhoades, Zach Moore and Wyatt Everetts - all accumulating over 500 yards, and five others having over 100 yards each.
“On defense, we’ve been consistent most of the season,” Shoemaker said. “Against Karns City, we are going to have to play solid defense and we can’t give up the big plays. We have to win the turnover battle and the special teams battle, which really hurt us last year.”
On offense, Ridge will continue to lean on senior quarterback Beau Bosch, who has rushed for nearly 750 yards and passed for over 400. Junior Matt Wiley is the Lions top rusher with 909 yards on 147 carries and there are four other Ridge players that have run for at least 100 yards. Senior J.D. Weyant is Bosch’s favorite passing target.
“Wiley and Bosch are the 1-2 punch for Ridge,” Conto said. “When their quarterback falls forward, he gets almost five yards a carry.
“As far as the keys for us, we have to be consistent with what we do with no mistakes or turnovers and be able to run and pass the ball. We have been able to take advantage of whatever teams are giving us.”
Shoemaker said his team has to have a good week of preparation and focus.
“Their offense sets the table for what they do, but their defense is no slouch either,” the Ridge coach said. “We have shown some tremendous improvement on offense over the past few weeks and have been able to do what we needed to do. Our passing game hasn’t been prominent as projected this year, but we will do what has gotten us this far with our run option and try not to make any big mistakes.”