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2009 Scouting Report

The 2009 Johnstown Trojan football season will kickoff Friday night with a road contest against Forest Hills.  This will be the second year in a row the Trojans will be playing at G.H. Miller Memorial Field in Sidman (the finest grass surface in Western Pennsylvania if you ask me).  Last year's contest was a tale of two halves as the Rangers took it to JHS in the first half and went to the locker room with a seemingly comfortable 21-0 lead.

In arguably their gutsiest performance of the 2008 campaign, the Trojans fought back to tie the score and force overtime.  Although they ultimately lost, a lot was said about the statement that game made and it surely helped the Trojans as far as growth in concerned. 

Although some of the key players for Forest Hills in that contest have long graduated, mainly Scott Mehall and Tyler Rosenberger, veteran Coach Don Bailey has one great feather in his cap, three-year starting quarterback Zach Glessner.  Glessner's 1,577 yards passing were third best in the LHAC a year ago.  In the early going, look for Chris Moss, Jared McCombie and Adam Helsel to be his favorite targets.

Replacing Mehall at RB is also no easy task but Nick Dudukovich and Chris Lazaration will be up to it. 

One of the strongest characteristics of a Don Bailey-coached team, at least from the offensive perspective, is that they can never really be classified as a "running team" or a "passing team" regardless as to what their personnel might tell you on a paper.  A great example of this was the 2006 version of the Rangers.  They came into a week nine contest with the Trojans touting one of the best passing attacks the school had since Don's son Brandon was quarterbacking the team.  Despite the prolific numbers that Travis Rearick and the FH receiving corps put up to that point of the season, Bailey's plan all along was to run the ball against the Trojans, exploiting a weakness in that year's unit. 

So at this point it's hard to say what Bailey's M.O. will be against the Trojans in 2009.  Although he returns most of his linemen, Kevin Marabito's defense is probably the stronger unit at this point of the year as they return just about everyone aside from David Istanich.  The Trojans' front seven might be as strong as it has been from top to bottom in several years.  Sophomore Alkwon Williams moves to the inside after playing outside linebacker a year ago as a freshman.  Look for him to be a run-stopping force. 

When the Rangers have the ball, look for the key to be stopping the run and forcing the pass.  Although Glessner is a super-talented thrower, he has a much more inexperienced receiving corp and one would think the Trojan secondary would be favorite in that match-up.  If the Rangers can establish the line of scrimmage and run on the Trojans, it could be a long night.

As far as when the Trojans have the ball, look for the spread to be used not only to exploit the Trojans' tremendous athletic ability from the skill positions (including returning QB John Siciliano whose scrambling ability is a vital asset to this squad) but to downplay what might be the biggest question mark going into the season:  the offensive line.  It has been stated that throughout camp the unit has been a work in progress so running between the tackles might be tough in the early going.  Whether running on his own, or passing the ball to a virtually endless supply of receivers (Richard Agurs, Jordan Jefferson, LaQuinn Stephens-Howling, Gervon Simon and Calvin Anderson to name a few), the speed and athleticism of this unit will definitely cause a mismatch with the Rangers' secondary.  Execution will be key.

Wrapping up with Special Teams, the Rangers' Pat Donoughe returns to handle the kicking duties and he'll also punt this season too.  A traditional straight-on style linemen kicker, Donoughe was extremely accurate and dependable last year.  The kicking game is a big question mark because the Trojans lost Jon Maurizio to graduation.  Siciliano is slated to punt while Swedish exchange student Oskar Almgren has been named kicker.  The Trojans' faithful have been treated to nearly eight years of solid kicking and punting with Ben Landis and Maurizio so for the first time in a long time, this is a question mark. 

Now, to the rest of the week one docket for the LHAC:

Bishop Carroll at Bedford
BC is a program that you have to look at on the surface and ask "what happened?"  They are not that far removed from being a state runner-up at Class A and a perennial state ranked team in that class.  However, they've have some sub-par seasons in Ebensburg.  Add to that the fact that numbers are down, both at the school and regarding kids coming out for football and they lost their leading running back Brendon Julock (he decided to go back to Blacklick Valley).  Dan Smith's Bisons aren't in great shape either as they lost many seniors from a team that won only one game last year and three games in the last two seasons.  I look for BC to win this one.

Bishop McCort at Bishop Guilfoyle
The Johnstown-Altoona rivalry makes it way to the Catholic high schools as these two squads get familiar with each other again.  Last year they renewed their long dormant rivalry as BG joined the LHAC.  The Marauders played the Crushers tough and I look for them to do the same this year.  However, with enrollments dropping and tuition increasing, this may be one of the last good McCort teams for some time.  Take the Crushers in a close one.

Somerset at Cambria Heights
Two struggling programs right now, but week one offers all the hope in the world.  While I think both these squads could struggle on the season, I look for Cambria Heights, with Caleb Vescovi, one of the more unheralded athletes in the conference, to help the Highlanders come away with a season opening win.

Richland at Central Cambria
This could be a breakout year for Brandon Bailey and his Rams, a season where they not only finish above .500 and make the playoffs, but actually beat some teams that might surprise you.  Gino Ramires enters his senior year as one of the best passers in the league.  He stepped up last year following Marco Pecora's four-year runner as starter and the high powered Ram offense hardly missed a beat.  Ken Bussard returns 11 lettermen but no starters on offense.  After going 9-4 the last two years, one may believe that the Red Devils have plateaued. 

Westmont at Penn Cambria
Last but not least this week, the Hilltoppers and the Panthers.  Westmont is down a lot of good skill players from the past few seasons while Ernie Fetzer returns the best all-purpose back in the league in Zak Newton.  I look for the Panthers to make easy work of Westy. 

Finally, we'll take a look at the other 6-AAA schools in action this weekend:

Bellefonte at St. Marys
The Red Raiders will be using a potent double-wing attack on offense this year and it will be on display at this 9-AAA team during the first week.  Look for Bellefonte to pull off the win and show they want to get back to respectability in the 6-AAA scene.

Hollidaysburg at State College
The Golden Tigers are just about everyone's 6-AAA favorites and they have a whale of an opener against highly touted 6-AAAA State College.  I see it as a win-win for the Golden Tigers though, if they pull off the upset over the Little Lions then they get the AAAA points now, and will amass many power points throughout the season.  If they lose, they can look back on this experience and only make themselves stronger and solidify their position in 6-AAA.

Indian Valley at West Perry
The Warriors open at this counterpart from District 4.  They beat WP by 29 points a year ago and will look to do the same en route to improving their four win campaign from a year ago.
Johnstown's week two opponent is the Cambria Heights Highlanders.  This will be the Trojans' second chance to secure their spot in history among the best programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and achieve their 600th win.  The Highlanders are one of a handful of LHAC teams, past and present, that have yet to defeat Johnstown since the Trojans entered the LHAC in 2001 (Richland, Central and Bishop Guilfoyle are the others).

As I mentioned briefly in MMR this week, it seems strange that newspaper accounts of CH's loss to Somerset had words like overconfident and humbled.  This was much to my surprise as the program, while I think might be in the beginning phases of being turned around by Coach Justin Myers, has won just one game in the past two seasons. 

That being said, the Highlanders, particularly their defense, will be out for to avenge the blowout they took from the hands of Somerset.  It appears as if the Golden Eagles' defense shut down the run pretty well against Cambria Heights.  The workhorse in that contest was Dillon Thomas, who was held to just 59 yards on 11 carries.  Tyler Huber had 30 yards on 2 carries, but one of those was a 29-yard TD scamper.

Being forced to the air is no problem for the Highlanders though as they return one of the better pure passers in the area in Caleb Vescovi.  Truth be told, CH might actually opt to pass first.  Vescovi was 14-of-35 for 184 yards and one TD in the loss.  He was picked off twice.  Leading receivers for the Highlanders were Erik Welteroth (5 receptions, 106 yards, 1 TD) and Bryce Brawley (6 catches for 57 yards). 

When the Trojans have the ball, the leading tacklers are Brandt Beck with 11 tackles and Tyler McLaurin with 9.  Not much else in the way of defensive stats has been posted by Heights.

In the third and final phase, special teams, Ian Olsavsky handles both the punting and the kickoff duties.  He punted four times for 88 yards and kicked off three times for 88 yards in the loss.  Nick Galczynski handles the placekicking and was a perfect 2-for-2 against Somerset.  In the return game, Brawley was the leader in both punts and kicks returned.  He returned two punts for 14 yards and 4 kickoffs for 87 yards in the contest with Somerset.

The keys to this week on the offensive side of the ball for the Trojans is simple:  execute.  They should be licking their chops to go against a defensive unit that gave up over 50 points to a Somerset squad that lost a lot of talent from a year ago.  I would love to see a series or two of no-huddle thrown in as well.  It will be important for this inexperienced offensive line to get off their blocks and get an ego boost against an opponent they should handle. 

On the defensive side of the ball, if the Trojans can shut down the pass, they should win this game easily.  Heights threw the ball over three times as much as Forest Hills did a week ago.  The combination of pressure and coverage from the 3-4 and 3-5 looks need to work hand in hand Friday night to shut down the passing attack.  I don't believe Cambria Heights will be able to run the ball with much success. 

I look for the Trojans to breakout against this opponent that they should beat.  In the process, they'll square their regular season record at 1-1 and move the program up the list of the most winning programs in the state.

Elsewhere in the LHAC:

Bedford at Richland
The Rams look like they have the most balanced team on offense they've had since Brandon Bailey took over.  Look for Rizzo and Ramires to run and pass Richland to a big victory at home.

Bishop Guilfoyle at Somerset
Boy I could go either way on this one but I'll give the smallest of edges to the Golden Eagles on their home turf.  Perhaps one could say they should have saved some points from their drubbing of Cambria Heights, but to quote Mike Tomlin "I personally don't subscribe to that hocus pocus."

Forest Hills at Bishop Carroll
I predict a quite easy win for Don Bailey's Rangers.  As they did to the Trojans a week ago, look for that time of possession, drain the clock running game in the second half once FH takes control of the game.  It will be another big night for Nick Dudukovich. 

Penn Cambria at Bishop McCort
This may sound crazy, but every season has them, but I'm going with an upset special in a game at the Point that will be a thriller.  It could be an early season lesson for Ken Salem's Crushers.  Zak Newton and company win a shootout in downtown J-town.

Central Cambria at Westmont
In years past, I always gave the Hilltoppers the benefit of the doubt at home at Price Field on Saturday afternoons.  However, that's just not going to be the case this season as Westy is thin on talent this season.  Look for the Red Devils to win this one going away and get their record back to .500.

...and the rest of District 6-AAA:

Bellefonte at Brookville
For the second week in a row, we will see the Red Raiders' double-wing attack fall to a District 9 opponent.  However this one is just a Class AA team.  Brookville beat Union-Rimersburg last week so should Bellefonte win, they would amass 90 points (80 for beating a Class AA team and 10 bonus points for their one win).

Hollidaysburg at South Western
The Golden Tigers get right back on the winning by defeating District 3-AAAA South Western.  They'll leapfrog their way into first place with 120 points for beating a AAAA team and taking 10 bonus points for SW's win in the process. 

Central at Indian Valley
The Scarlet Dragons are for real this year and look improved from their team from a year ago that beat many people's expectations.  The Warriors will go down in defeat to these invaders from Martinsburg.

 Recent history has proven that for some reason the Johnstown Trojans don't have the level of success against Westmont that should have over the past few seasons.  (I guess that's why they don't play the games on paper!)  JHS has struggled against Westmont lately and especially in Saturday afternoon games at Price Field.  The Trojans have not beaten a Hilltopper team since 2006 and have not won on the road at Westmont since 2003.  That 2003 date is the only time they've won at Price Field since the Trojans joined the LHAC in 2001. 

That all is ancient history though.  I really feel that the Trojans will get back on the winning track against Westmont this year at Matt Glennon's team is depleted of talent at the skill positions from a year ago and from past teams as well. 

Casey Eckenrod is the Hilltoppers' quarterback this year and through two games he is 13-for-20 for 123 yards.  He has not thrown for a touchdown but has been picked off twice.  His favorite targets are Joe Glennon (3 receptions, 38 yards) and Nate Bennett (4 receptions for 50 yards).

As Westmont has gone on the ground more in this early stage of the season, the workhorses have been Alex Intihar (29 carries, 124 yards) and Ryan Burnheimer (25 carries, 106 yards, 2 TDs). 

On the defensive side of the ball, Steve Popchak has made 23 total tackles while Burnheimer, a two-way player, has 25 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries.  There really aren't any other notable stats from the defense.

Finally, on special teams and the return game, Intihar (2 punt returns, 30 yards), Dan Price (2 PRs, 51 yards) and Popchak (1 PR, 10 yards) get the reps while on the kicking side, Sean Sapolich handles both the punting and kicking responsibilities and appears to be quite good.  He has punted the ball 5 times for 151 yards and dropped one inside the 20.  From the tee, he has six kickoffs for 265 yards and one touchback.  He has yet to attempt any extra points or field goals. 

So despite recent history, I look for an easy victory for the Trojans Saturday afternoon.  I would be perfectly fine with another contest of limited throwing, although Westy is better than Cambria Heights so I'm sure we'll see more than one attempt.  Siciliano will continue to run the ball with confidence and remain the Trojans' leading rusher.  (I predict he'll easily be a 1,000-yard rusher by the end of the season). 

Defensively, this game could be another feather in the hat of a unit that improved greatly from week one.  Although Westy is in a down year, this is a much better squad than Cambria Heights so the "D" needs to flex their muscle and stop the run.  The combination of good pass rush and athletic prowess in the secondary could again lead to multiple picks. 

I take the Trojans going away.  Prove me right boys!!!!

Now for a look around the rest of the LHAC:

Bedford at Forest Hills
What at one time was a huge section rivalry has lost a bit of its luster with the current downfall of the Bisons' program.  Forest Hills had a bit of a letdown and let Bishop Carroll hang with them a lot longer than most expected.  Don't expect a repeat of that Friday night, Rangers roll.

Bishop Carroll at Richland
Even though I just gave props to the Huskies, I look for them to be in for a long night against this balanced Rams' attack.  Brandon Bailey's boys win a tight one and improve to 3-0.  

Somerset at Bishop McCort
Last week I picked an upset special against the Crushers, not this week.  This one will be over by the half.  Expect a big night from Dane Domonkos, both in the receiving and kicking game.

Central Cambria at Penn Cambria
Rivarly game between two veteran coaches in Ernie Fetzer and Ken Bussard.  I really have this as a push.  I'll give the slightest of advantages to the Panthers with the home field advantage and their high-powered running game.

Bishop Guilfoyle at Cambria Heights
No contest here as the Catholic school invaders from Altoona will take it to the Highlanders.  I don't expect there to be a running clock like last week, but this one won't be close.

and before we leave, we'll also peek at the rest of the District 6-AAA scene:

Clearfield at Indian Valley
The Warriors will host Clearfield, a 9-AAA squad.  I'll take Clearfield in a tight one.  

Central at Bellefonte
Look for the Scarlet Dragons to score another win over a 6-AAA school as they defeated Indian Valley a week ago.

Hollidaysburg at West Chester Henderson
Another brutal home game for the Golden Tigers (I see why they want to go WPIAL!).  Even if they start 0-3, they're still my 6-AAA favorites.  This schedule will only make them that much tougher to beat.  This week, they travel to 1-AAAA West Chester Henderson.

I know I sound like a broken record at times when it comes to not picking Johnstown to beat McCort until they prove they can do it.  In other words, some teams have other team's numbers.  I feel the opposite in the case of Richland.  In the eight seasons since JHS joined the LHAC, the Rams have yet to defeat the Trojans.  I feel that until Richland can prove they can beat Johnstown, you have to go with Johnstown. 

That being said, after seeing the Rams in action last Friday and watching their game with Bedford on Atlantic Broadband I feel this year's installment of the series has all the makings of an exciting game.

As in the past, the Rams' offense is high-powered from the passing game side of things.  Leading the charge is quarterback Gino Ramires.  Through three games, Gino is 46-for-75 for 630 yards and 5 touchdowns.  He's been picked off two times.  His favorite targets are Ryan Silvia (10 receptions, 196 yards, 1 TD), Adam Ludwig (9 receptions, 178 yards, 1 TD) and Jordan Rozich (9 receptions, 90 yards, 2 TDs).

Something a little different about this year's Richland team is that they have been able to run the ball with more success than they have in the past, at least from the running back position that is.  Sophomore John Rizzo has 166 yards on 29 carries and has scored 6 touchdowns.  Rizzo isn't the protypical spread offense running back, he has the size of a blocking fullback.  John George has carried the ball 12 times for 66 yards and Ramires has also scored twice on the ground.

Defensively, Richland has a unit that is a bit overshadowed by their offensive identity but they are capable of making things happen.  Jordan Cinko has 31 tackles while Craig Harris has 21 and Timothy Koshute has 19.  Koshute also leads the team with four sacks.

In the Special Teams game, Ramires handles the punting and is quite capable.  He has punted six times for 196 yards and has had two downed inside the 20.  Greg Sichak splits placekicking duties with George.  Sichak has kicked off 18 times for 979 yards and has 6 touchbacks.  He's also kicked one field goal.  George has connected on 9 PATs.

On the return side of things, Ludwig seems to be the workhorse in both punts (2 PRs, no yards) and kicks (5 KRs, 165 yards).

When Richland has the ball, obviously pass defense is vital.  Although the Trojans played very good pass defense against Cambria Heights, Richland's passing game is worlds better than the Highlanders (I think that goes without saying).  One thing about Ramires is that he throws the deep ball extremely well.  He might throw the swings and quick outs, etc as well as his predecessor Marco Pecora did, but he really has a quick release.  The Rams' o-line is not the biggest unit in the world and even when they're beat, Ramires is able to get the pass off most times.  I'm not saying the pass rush should be abondoned because there were times when BC got pressure, but it might be more important to have the secondary keep things in front of them.

Even though I mentioned the running game, Rizzo was not able to get much going against a BC defensive unit that I would say is not anywhere near Johnstown's.  Therefore, I think the Trojans will be able to shut down the run. 

When Johnstown has the ball, I really don't think they'll have any problems running a mixed balance of offense similar to the one they did against Westmont.  This game is going to come down to which defense plays better and in the end, that will be Johnstown. 

Now, let's look around the rest of the LHAC:

Penn Cambria at Bedford
Fresh off their dramatic victory in the game for the Goal Post Trophy look for Ernie Fetzer's Panthers to continue to roll.  They should have little problems against the hapless Bisons of Bedford.

Forest Hills at Bishop Guilfoyle
Don Bailey takes his squad to the beautiful confines of Mansion Park for the Saturday night special.  The Ranger defense will hold BG to less than 10 points and the offense would get it done on the ground as the Rangers will improve to 4-0.

Cambria Heights at Central Cambria
The Red Devils will pick up an easy win in front of the home fans.  Nothing much to see here.

Bishop McCort at Bishop Carroll
The downfall of the BC program takes a lot of the luster off what used to be a really exciting match-up.  The Crushers will put on, yet again, another fireworks display on the offensive stat sheet.  Big land or by air, look for the Crushers to win big.

Westmont at Somerset
Although some think this might be one of the few games the Hilltoppers can win on their remaining schedule, I look for the Golden Eagles' patented option-attack to win a close one at their home field.  

Also, here's a peek at the District 6-AAA scene:

Bellefonte at Hollidaysburg
Wow, the Golden Tigers finally get to play a home game!  They will get off the winless monkey off their back and defeat fellow 6-AAA Bellefonte in a big fashion.

Indian Valley at DuBois
The Warriors could score a lot of points should they defeat DuBois but I'm not counting on that happening. 
The Somerset Golden Eagles run a triple-option attack and their stat sheet shows two signs of that system being effective:  a quarterback and fullback with solid rushing numbers.  Quarterback Trevor Niemiec is the leading rusher on the squad with 62 carries for 483 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Fullback Gunnar Smith complements him quite well, with 36 carries for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns.  

It is no secret this is a run-first squad, but Niemiec is 17-for-37 with 131 yards and 1 touchdown through the air.  He has yet to be picked off this season by an opposing defense.  Josh Beistel (5 receptions, 32 yards), Dylan Cramer (4 receptions, 26 yards, 1 touchdown) and Smith (5 receptiosn, 38 yards) have been the preferred targets.

Defensively, Beistel paces the unit with 38 tackles while Cramer (28 tackles) and Smith (23 tackles) are also solid performers on both sides of the ball.  Patrick Hela as 3 sacks while both Lucas Walker and Smith have intercepted one pass each.

Beistel and Cramer are also the workhorses of the return game. Through the first four contests of the season Beistel has returned 5 kickoffs for 109 yards and 3 punts for 1 yard.  Cramer has brought back 5 kickoffs for 88 yards and 2 punts for 3 yards.

Nathan Coughenour handles both the punting and kicking responsibilities.  He has punted the ball 10 times for 389 yards and has dropped 1 inside the 20.  He has kicked off 18 times for 764 yards and has converted 7 extra points for Somerset on the season.

When Johnstown has the ball, I really don't look to see that much of a change of pace from their gameplan of the past few weeks.  Although Kashmir Pretlor at running back might be a question mark with his injury, the offense moved the ball well for the most part but was just not able to finish.  From watching the Golden Eagles' loss to Bishop McCort on the Atlantic Broadband Game of the Week, it's no secret that a successful running attack can exploit the Somerset defense.  Although the Trojans' run offense is a bit different from the more traditional attack of McCort, JHS can use a lot of different players to tire out the Golden Eagle defenders.  Even if Pretlor would not play, you have Siciliano, Jefferson, Stephens-Howling and Rose, all capable ballhandlers, that can attack in a variety of ways.

An important focus MUST be on scoring on all red zone possessions.  When you are playing an option offense as Somerset does, you have the potential of a situation where time of possession is skewed in favor of your opponent.  The team can absolutely not convert their chances.

Making the transition to when the Trojans are on defense, as I eluded to in the MMR this past week:  discipline and assignment football will be key.  The option attack tends to give teams problems, mainly because it's hard to replicate a great attack from scout team players.  Depending on the scheme, there is a player assigned to hit the quarterback and players assigned to take out the pitch.  One of the best things to do to an option team is hit the quarterback, repeatedly.  An adept option quarterback stays true to the scheme to the very end, pitching at the last possible moment.  When you drill a signal caller into the ground a few times, they may have the tendency to get skittish.

I look for the Trojans to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Richland a week ago with a nice victory at home. 

Now for a quick breakdown of the rest of the LHAC for Week 5:

Central Cambria at Bedford
The struggles of Dan Smith's final season as coach of the Bisons continues.  Look for the Red Devils to win this one going away.

Bishop Guilfoyle at Penn Cambria
Ernie Fetzer's ground attack will be way too much for BG to handle.  Look for another 30-plus, 200-yard-plus evening from Zak Newton

Cambria Heights at Forest Hills
Not much to see here, other than a mercy-rule running clock in the second half as Don Bailey, the mentor, once again beats the pupil in Justin Myers.

Bishop Carroll at Westmont
I see this one as a push on paper, but I'll give the slightest of edges to Westmont as they're on their home field.  Add to that BC is a team very low in numbers, I see a Hilltopper win on Saturday afternoon.

Richland at Bishop McCort
Most likely the best match-up of the week in the LHAC.  Richland is coming off the emotional high of defeating Johnstown a week ago while the Crushers really haven't been tested yet.  Ken Salem's running game will be too much for the Rams in front of a packed house at the Point.

Also, let's take a look at the scene in District 6-AAA:

Philipsburg-Osceola at Bellefonte
I'm looking for the double-wing attack of the Red Raiders to score a victory over Class AA P-O.

Hollidaysburg at Indian Valley
Since the Golden Tigers got their first taste of victory a week ago, I look for them to go on a run now and take their place atop the 6-AAA standings.  No contest here as IV gets beat by the better team.  Luke Rhoades had a monster game a week ago, look for more of that Friday night. 


Johnstown will make their second trip to the campus of St. Francis to take on the Bishop Carroll Huskies.  Previously, BC shared the fields of Central Cambria and Penn Cambria for their home games.  As they did two years ago, the Trojans should return home with another easy victory.

The old saying goes something like this:  show me a team with two quarterbacks and I'll show you a team with no quarterbacks.  Now, I'm not 100% sure if that is the case with BC or if there have been injury issues, but seeing that the team is 0-5, I'll let you draw your own conclusion.  That being said, I did see BC in person in their game with Richland and I can tell you that from that contest, they did swap signal callers at times.  

Neither QB used has thrown a TD pass, Josh Barzdo is 10-of-30 for 98 yards and 3 INTs while Shawn Perich is 13-of-34 for 215 yards and 1 INT.  Josh Schall (5 receptions, 83 yards), Ryan Woo (5 receptions, 81 yards) and tight end Eric Minemyer (4 receptions, 76 yards) lead the way in receiving stats.

Perich is BC's leading rusher with 281 yards from 50 carries and he's hit pay dirt twice.  Josh Chumrik has 19 carries for 111 yards and Woo has 82 yards and 2 TDs on 27 carries.

Chumrik (44 tackles, 4 sacks), Perich (35 tackles) and Woo (3 INTs) lead the way for the Husky defense.

To the kicking game, Chumrik handles the kickoff duties with nine of them for 394 yards and one touchback.  Michael Pyo handles the placekicking and has connected on two extra points and two field goals.  

The punting duties have been shared this year between Woo (9 punts, 254 yards, 1 In20), Mike Lesney (4 punts, 109 yards, 1 In20) and Shawn Harrington (5 punts, 155 yards).  

Woo (one punt return 5 yards; 4 kick returns 102 yards) and Perich (4 kick returns, 88 yards) handle the bulk of the return duties.  

Having seen this team in person, they are as unimpressive in real life as they are on paper.  Richland had their way throwing the ball on them and if that is what the Trojans wish to do, that's fine.  The running game should also be successful because the Trojans' lateral speed on the edges will be way too much for BC to handle.  

Another key issue is on special teams.  Since BC is down in numbers, nine of their eleven starters play on both sides of the ball.  Because of this, they substitute liberally on special teams to get as many kids a quick breather as possible.  This could potentially set up not only situations for blocked kicks, but also the potential for a big return as well as fakes.  At one point in their game with Richland, the Rams set up to punt and at the snap the only BC in position was the returner.  The other ten players were shuffling on to the field late and if they wished to, Richland could have simply jogged for the first down.  I look for two to three big plays from the special teams side of things.  LaQuinn Stephens-Howling and Jordan Jefferson will both have big plays Friday night.

So in wrapping up, there really isn't much to say here other than this should be a two to three touchdown margin of victory for the Trojans.

Now, let's take a look at the rest of the LHAC and District 6-AAA:

Central Cambria at Forest Hills
This could be the best game of the week in the league.  Look for the Rangers to remain unbeaten, but they'll have a battle on their hands with Ken Bussard's Red Devil squad.

Johnstown at Bishop Carroll
The Trojans make the trip to Loretto for their second appearance at Degol Field to take on Bishop Carroll.  The Huskies, a once proud and mighty program have fallen on tough times and will remain winless.

Penn Cambria at Cambria Heights
Look for another big night from the Zak-attack as Newton and the rest of the Panthers take it to the Highlanders.

Somerset at Richland
Richland returns to the friendly confines of their home field and will bounce back from the loss they took from McCort a week ago by soundly defeating Somerset.

Westmont at Bishop McCort
This is one of the more heated rivalries in the LHAC, but it won't be close.  Seidel and company will roll.  In the past, Westy teams have been outclassed by McCort yet the Hilltoppers have hung with the Crushers through a half.  I'm not expecting this to be the case at the Point Stadium Friday night.

Bedford at Bishop Guilfoyle
The Saturday Night Special at Mansion Park, while between two subpar teams, is at least evenly matched.  This one is a push, but for some reason, I see the Bisons breaking out and having a good night for outgoing Coach Dan Smith.

Central Mountain at Hollidaysburg
The Golden Tigers will pick up a nice home win over a AAAA team and overtake the 6-AAA points lead.  

Bellefonte at DuBois
The Red Raiders will hit the road and more than likely come home with a loss.

Indian Valley at Huntingdon
IV travels to the Bearcats, a former 6-AAA foe.  Look for the Warriors to keep it close but ultimately come back to Mifflin County with a loss.
Each week when I start the Scouting Report I normally lead with the quarterback's stats.  The signal-caller is normally the glamour player on a team's offensive stat sheet and even if he is not, he is a focal point.  I'm going to break with that trend because when you look at Ken Salem's Crimson Crushers on paper, you cannot start with anyone other than Josh Seidel.  He has carried the ball 82 times for 913 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season.  That's more touchdowns than a lot of TEAMS have on the ground.  That's an average of 152.2 yards per game.  From those numbers alone, it's not hard to believe the Crushers have only attempted 50 passes on the year! 
Behind Seidel is a player that has received a lot of playing time in Chaz Merriman.  Merriman has 285 yards on 52 carries and 7 touchdowns.  Also in the rushing game is Dane Domonkos, who has carried the ball 15 times, many of the wildcat formation, for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns.
If not for Seidel, Domonkos would clearly be the star of this team based on his versatility alone.  Aside from his humble rushing statistics, he's the team's leading reciever, kick returner, punt returner and still handles the placekicking on PATs and field goals.
The diminutive senior (5-7, 150) has nine receptions for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns while Seidel has 7 catches for 124 yards and a score in the Crushers' limited passing attack.  Domonkos himself is 2-3 passing for 41 yards.  John Pinkerton has taken the bulk of the reps at QB this year and he is a very efficient 23-31 for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns versus 2 interceptions.  Backup Jesse Cooper has pitched in with 87 yards from a 11-for-16 performance.
Defensively, the Crushers are paced by Merriman (54 tackles), Luke James (48 tackles), Stephen Belskey (46 tackles, 3 sacks) and Seidel (45 tackles).  Also, Anthony Pioli has three sacks and Patrick O'Reilly has two interceptions.

Ken Salem's Special Teams are no slouches either.  Domonkos has 5 kick returns for 253 yards and 6 punt returns for 97 yards.  Seidel has 3 kick returns for 111 yards. 

For the few times the Crushers have needed to punt, Mark Fritz has filled that role capably with 5 punts for 155 yards, all of which he has dropped inside the 20. 
The kicking duties are split as the afore mentioned Domonkos still handles the extra points and field goals.  On the season he has 33 extra points and two field goals.  He is the school's all-time leading scorer, passing up Pete Duranko's former school record last week.
Andrew Penska has done a fine job with the kickoff duties and he's been quite busy!  He has kicked the ball of 28 times for 1,469 yards and has 4 touchbacks. 
So, what can the Trojans do in each of the three phases to win this game?  Well, when they have the ball, I would continue to mix it up with the run and the pass.  The team went almost exclusively from under center the past few weeks but this might be a return to the shutgun formation.  When you have a big play runner like Siciliano at quarterback, you're always a moment away from big play potential.  I think that the Trojans being able to throw the ball in adverse weather conditions a week ago can help their passing game confidence.  Although I wouldn't mind seeing a deep ball every once in a great while, I'd rather a shorter, more precision attack using Agurs and Sisco on intermediate routes could be successful.  It will move the chains and eat up time of possession.

Defensively, one has to wonder whether a nine-in-the-box, stop the run at all costs approach might be the way to go.  If not that, at least a base package heavy with run blitzes.  I think it is a safe assumption that simply running a base defense against the Crushers' dominant offensive line will put your defense in for a long night.  Also, I have the feeling that daring Salem to pass, STILL won't actually make him pass!  And why should it when you see those numbers.  To steal Dan Patrick's phrase from his days as a SportsCenter anchor, when it comes to Seidel, you really can't stop, you can only hope to contain him.  To this point, that's not opinion either but statistical fact. 

In the Special Teams side of things, you won't see four more talented returners in one game in this conference as you will Friday night with Jefferson and Stephens-Howling of Johnstown and Domonkos and Seidel for McCort.  I predict we will see more than one deep return by these exciting athletes, giving their respective squads a win in the field position battle. 

It is no secret this will be an extremely challeging game for the Trojans, their toughest opponent of the year.  One thing is for certain, past instances of penalties and/or turnover problems will make for a long night.  For the Trojans to be in this game, they need to take care of the ball and execute offensively with near perfection.

Now, let's take our weekly look at the rest of the LHAC and District 6-AAA:

Forest Hills (6-0) at Penn Cambria (5-1)
Game of the Week in the LHAC for sure as these two will battle it out for Section 1 supremacy.  I look for Ernie Fetzer's Panthers to come up big here and pull off the mildest of upsets and drop the maiden loss of the season on Don Bailey's Rangers.  Either way it should be a good one in Cresson.
Bishop Carroll (0-6) at Somerset (2-4)
The Huskies struggles continue, I look for them to remain winless, albeit in a close on with Somerset, but the in the end, the Golden Eagles' option attack will be too much.  Craig Sponsky's team turns the ball over far too much to be considered a factor.
Cambria Heights (0-6) at Bedford (1-5)
Although the Bisons only have one victory this year, they are coming off a 22-point performance against BG a week ago, I look for them to have a victorius evening at home.
Bishop Guilfoyle (3-3) at Central Cambria (3-3)
Ken Bussard's Red Devils were disappointed a week ago against Forest Hills but I can see them getting back on track against the Catholic school squad from BG.

Richland (5-1) at Westmont (1-5)
The Rams are currently in fourth place in the Class AA standings and I look for them to have a nice close to their regular season.  Their potent offense will have a great day Saturday afternoon at Price Field against a woeful Westy team.

Hollidaysburg (3-3) at Cardozo (DC) (1-3)
Although the Golden Tigers have to hit the road for some serious travel, I don't see them losing to this opponent, one of the weaker DC-area squads.
Central Mountain (3-3) at Bellefonte (1-5)
Although the Wildcats are a mid-pack team in the District 6-8-9-10 subregion, they far outclass the Red Raiders.  I'll take CM going away.

St. Marys (4-2) at Indian Valley (1-5)
The Flying Dutch, a Class AAA team out of District 9, will invade Mitchell Field Friday night and come out with an easy victory.

Although the Trojans have played at Mansion Park thrice for the 6-AAA title since they've joined the LHAC, Friday marks the first regular season game at the facility since 1990 when the Trojans lost the last game of their storied rivalry with Altoona 24-6.

Bishop Guilfoyle's stats appear to only be updated through the fourth game, so we're just going to take what we're given.  Honestly, I don't think much analysis needs done anyway because this is an opponent that the Trojans should defeat soundly.  Last year's BG team was far better than the 2009 version and JHS won easily a year ago at Trojan Stadium.

Eugene Ehredt is the top player for BG with 406 rushing yards and 117 receiving yards, both team highs. He's scored five touchdowns on the ground.  

Timmy Heiss is another contributor in the receiving game with 6 catches for 63 yards and 1 touchdown. 

It seems to have been quarterback-by-committee as Billy Beard (6-25, 90 yards, 1 INT), Jacob Karnes (10-27, 95 yards, 1 TD) and A.J. Kitt (5-10, 38 yards, 1 TD) have all lodged stats.

Karnes is the leading tackler on defense with 31 while Kyle Kessler has 29.  Kitt (24) and Ehredt (22) round out the grappling leaders.  Rudy Fusco has 2 sacks while Ehredt has picked off 3 passes. 

In the kicking game, Jacob Dunning assumes most of the kicking duties.  He's kicked off 7 times for 260 yards and has connected on four PATs and 1 FG.  Ehredt handles the punting with 13 boots for 509 yards.

Finally, in the return game, Auther Darr leads the team with 7 punt returns for 214 yards while Ehredt has three kick returns for 61 yards. 

This is a great game for the Trojans to bounce back from the disappointing loss to McCort.  If they take the momentum that had in the second half, coupled with an increased focus on ball security and stay away from turnovers, they should be fine. 

Now, for the rest of the LHAC and 6-AAA scene:

Bishop McCort (7-0) at Central Cambria (4-3)
The Crushers will head to Ebensburg and remain undefeated on that steady diet of Seidel, Domonkos and Merriman.

Somerset (3-4) at Penn Cambria (4-3)
The Panthers took an undefeated Forest Hills team to the fourth quarter before the Rangers pulled away.  Look for the Coach Fetzer running attack led by Zak Newton to get back on the winning side of the ledger as they host the Golden Eagles in this non-section match-up. 

Westmont (1-6) at Bedford (2-5)
If this game were on Saturday afternoon at Price, I'd pick the Hilltoppers, but Bedford is a tough place to play, mainly because it's the longest bus ride in the conference.  Look for the Bisons to improve to 3-5. 

Bishop Carroll (0-7) at Cambria Heights (0-7)
In the battle of something's-got-to-give, I give the advantage to Cambria Heights based on sheer numbers.  BC only dresses around 25 players these days.  Add that to the passing attack the Highlanders have, I give them the advantage at home at Patton Stadium.

Richland (6-1) at Forest Hills (7-0)
This Bailey Bowl could be the best one yet, as the Rams come in with one loss while the Rangers undefeated.  I still think FH has the more talented team and it front of what will no doubt be a huge home crowd, I give them the edge in a close one.

Hollidaysburg (4-3) at Cedar Cliff (4-3)
This is an extremely tough task for the Golden Tigers and I see them dropping this one.  Cedar Cliff is a Mid-Penn member and Quad-A team and they're coming off a 20-point defeat over an Altoona team that is better than it's 2-5 record. 

Bellefonte (1-6) at Penns Valley (1-6)
This is a game that I believe the Red Raiders will win.  Their school policy has eliminated them from the playoffs so the rest of this year is for pride. 

Indian Valley (1-6) at Central Mountain (4-3)
Look for the Wildcats to win against another 6-AAA foe.

I'd like to start this week's Scouting Report with a quote from last week's Penn Cambria game story that ran in the Tribune-Democrat:

“It was wet, sloppy, a bad night,” said Penn Cambria coach Ernie Fetzer. “Of course, even on a good night we don’t throw it more than three times. We win by running. It’s how we play.”

A few weeks ago, I tongue-in-cheek mentioned the Trojans go nine in the box against McCort.  That could be said for Friday night with Penn Cambria as well.  The 6-2 Panthers invaded Trojan Stadium with what will be the game of the week in the LHAC. 

And the ground game is the way PC goes, as they've only thrown 26 passes this year according to MaxPreps and 24 of them were attempted by Zak Newton, the all-purpose star of Ernie Fetzer's squad.  He's 11-for-24 passing with 146 yards and 2 TDs to 1 INT but that is not where Zak excels.  The senior has carried the ball 198 times for 1,239 yards and 10 TDs. 

A great complement to Newton has been Adam Zaliznock, who has carried the ball 84 times for 587 yards and 3 TDs.  Short yardage specialist Aaron McGhee has been a big contributor too.  Although he only has 40 yards on 11 carries, he's scored six times.

Newton (54 tackles), Zaliznock (39) and McGhee (38) also lead the defense.  McGhee and Doug Roberts each have two sacks.  Jeff Graboski has three interceptions on defense. 

Newton also handles the punting (9 punts, 97 yards) and kick returns (8 for 79 yards). 

There are no kicking statistics.  In past years, Ernie Fetzer's teams have not had a kicker and have gone for two.

It's safe to say it will be hard for the Trojans, as it would be for any LHAC team to "stop the run".  Because the Panthers do so much of it, you really have to bend and not break. 

Offensively, the Trojans have a tendency to quick strike.  When a team runs as much as PC does and wins time of possession like they most likely do, you really have to curb the turnovers and score at every opportunity.

This is a game the Trojans can win, but expect a tight battle.  However, if penalties and turnovers rear their ugly head again, this could be a disappointing senior night for JHS.

Now, let's look at the rest of the LHAC and 6-AAA:

Bedford (3-5) at Bishop McCort (8-0)
The Bisons travel to Point Stadium for a Friday night showdown with the Crimson Crushers.  Look for McCort to complete its regular season undefeated with an easy win.  The machine keeps rolling.

Bishop Guilfoyle (3-5) at Bishop Carroll (1-7)
I have seen both of these teams in person get destroyed by Johnstown and I honestly do not know which team is better.  I give the slightest of edges to BC as they are home and coming off a nice win over Cambria Heights.

Cambria Heights (0-8) at Richland (6-2)
The two most prolific passing attacks in the LHAC get together at Richland and although Vescovi throws a nice ball for Heights, the Rams' attack not only with Ramires throwing it but Rizzo running it, will be too much for them.  

Central Cambria (4-4) at Somerset (3-5)
Ken Bussard's Red Devils get on the bus and head down 219 to take on Somerset.  They'll come home with a win, but expect a close one, at least through one half.  The Golden Eagles can be pesky at home and their option attack can catch teams off balance.

Forest Hills (8-0) at Westmont (1-7)
Don Bailey's Rangers will march into Price Field and dominate, marching out 9-0.  Expect a big game from Nick Dudukovich, again.  

Bellefonte (1-7) at Indian Valley (1-7)
A battle of the two 6-AAA bottom-feeders.  Something's got to give and I'm just glad I don't work for the Centre Daily Times or Lewistown Sentinel and have to pick a winner here.

Hollidaysburg (4-4) at Williamsport (5-3)
The Golden Tigers travel east to take on the Millionaires.  This would be a nice win for Hollidaysburg points wise as they would be beating a five-win AAAA team. 

 Week ten takes the Trojans to the seat of Cambria County, Ebensburg and the Red Devils of Central Cambria High School. 

Quarterback Blake Bussard is 42-for-96 passing for 486 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He has been picked off 4 times as well.  His favorite targets are Erik Espe (9 receptions, 139 yards, 1 TD) and Max Michkofsky (9 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD).

Espe and Michkofsky are also leaders in the ground game.  Espe has 72 carries for 406 yards and 6 TDs while Michkofsky has 60 carries for 442 yards and 4 TDs.

On defense, Nick Wissinger leads the unit with 70 tackles while Michkofsy and Mitchell Brown are not far behind with 69 and 60 stops respectively.  Mario Deyulis leads the club with two sacks while Bussard, Espe and Brown each have two interceptions.

Stephen O'Saben is the key returner for Coach Bussard's squad.  He has returned 13 punt returns for 118 yards and 10 kickoffs for 161 yards.  On the kicking game side, CC is blessed with a very talented kicker in Austin Crimmins.  He has 33 kickoffs for 1771 yards and 7 touchbacks and has also converted 17 extra points and connected on 5 field goals.

I don't have a real long, in-depth analysis or break down of this game.  It's one that I feel the Trojans will win but they must be careful they don't fall into a trap.  It is the final home game for CC so it's their senior night.  They are going to want to go out in style on that note.  It also looks like they will be the final team in the eight-team field of the AA playoffs and they'll want to use it as a great test to see where they are.

On the other hand, the Trojans will most likely use this as a tune-up for their own playoff game, which will be the district championship game against Hollidaysburg.  It would be great to get this game in hand early and get most of the starters out of it in the second half and more importantly, get the team out with limited injury issues.

Now, to our quick look around at week ten in the LHAC and 6-AAA scene.  We have some non-conference, some playoffs and a team off in the LHAC.

Chestnut Ridge (5-4) at Bedford (3-6)
Big time rivalry game in Bedford.  I give to the edge to the Lions as they are the better team this year, but you never know.

Bishop Carroll (2-7) at Southern Huntingdon (4-5)
Regular season week ten non-conference finale for both squads. I look for the Rockets to win this home contest. 

Bishop Guilfoyle (3-6) at United (8-1)
I'm actually at a loss as to why BG would even make their team eligible for this game.  The Lions, reigning Heritage Conference champs, will make easy work of the Marauders.

Forest Hills (9-0) at Somerset (3-6)
Although the Rangers will hit the road, they will come away as a 10-0 team and head into the Class AA playoffs with a full head of steam.  Nick Dudukovich gets a lot of ink for his offensive game, but the Ranger defense has only given up 56 points all season.

Penn Cambria (6-3) at Richland (7-2)
I think some Panther weaknesses were exposed by Johnstown last week.  That combined with the fact that Brandon Bailey's Rams are fighting for a home playoff game for the first time in their program history make this a huge game for them.  I look for them to win a close one. 

Westmont (1-8) at Cambria Heights (0-9)
I hate seeing teams go 0-10 but I am not picking the Highlanders because of that.  I am picking them because they have a potent passing game and Westy can be passed on.  Look for the CH seniors to go out as winners in their last chance. 

Bishop McCort will be the top seed in the Class A playoffs.  They will enjoy a first round bye and will await the winner of the Moshannon Valley-Mount Union game. 

Bald Eagle Area (2-7) at Bellefonte (1-8)
The Red Raiders are struggling through the season at this point and I don't see them getting their second win against the Eagles.

Indian Valley (2-7) at Lewistown (2-7)
Although we have a pair of two-win teams, Mitchell Field will be packed as this is a big rivalry game.  IV has the mo' coming off the victory over Bellefonte a week ago.  The Warriors will go home with the Old Iron Kettle.

DuBois (4-5) at Hollidaysburg (4-5)
The Golden Tigers will win their home regular season finale and finish at .500 going into the 6-AAA final with Johnstown.

We've got a super-abbreviated version of the Scouting Report this week with the Trojans idle.  Five LHAC teams are in playoff action so below are capsules of their contests.

Mount Union at Bishop McCort
After finishing the regular season at 9-0 the Crimson Crushers sat back and enjoyed an off week while awaiting a winner.  They have that in Mount Union.  Look for Ken Salem's squad to make easy work of the Trojans in a first round playoff contest at Point Stadium. 

Penn Cambria at Central
Ernie Fetzer's Panthers started the season good but have fallen on hard times lately.  Former LHAC-member Central has had an outstanding season and I look for them to advance.

Huntingdon at Richland
The Rams will enjoy their first home playoff contest in program history and I look for them to get away Friday night with a win.

Central Cambria at Forest Hills
Look for Coach Bailey to get win #301 easily as the Red Devils stumble into the playoffs and will stumble out with an exit. 

So, the LHAC has five teams in this weekend and will come out with three teams alive.  Four, counting Johhstown that's on an off week.
When you look at the Hollidaysburg stat sheet, one name that stands out is James Muir.  He's a standout on the passing, rushing and receiving lists.  He's 31-of-84 for 242 yards and 1 TD.  He's been picked off 7 times.  Muir's carried the ball 127 times for 1,017 yards and 13 TDs and has 8 catches for 106 yards and 1 TD.

Chad Barton has also factored in on the passing game for the Golden Tigers this year.  He is 23-of-42 for 279 yards and 2 TDs.  He's been intercepted 2 times.

Other leaders in the rushing game are Luke Rhodes (109 carries, 576 yards, 11 TDs) and Zach Rentz (28 carries, 191 yards, 2 TDs).  On the receiving side, Rhodes has 10 catches for 94 yards and T.J. Keefer has 23 catches for 245 yards and 2 TDs. 

Brandon Simpson is the catalyst on defense, leading the unit with 75 tackles.  Rhodes has contributed with 66.

In other defensive numbers, Colt Edwards has 4 sacks while Keefer and Rhodes each have 3 INTs. 

The Golden Tigers' return game is anchored by Muir (9 KRs, 209 yards) and Keefer (6 PRs, 33 yards).   On the kicking game, Rhodes has punted 23 times for 622 yards and has dropped 3 inside the 20.  Andrew Dick has also punted 14 times for 415 yards and dropped 1 inside the 20.  Dick also handles the placekicking duties and has kicked off 38 times for 1,846 yards and three touchbacks.  He's also converted 13 extra points and one field goal.

By now, everyone knows how I feel about this game.  I feel the Trojans should win this game going away.  I'll give you one nugget as far as prior opponents.  While the Golden Tigers and Trojans don't have any opponents in common there is a common thread.  Some might look at the schedule and see why Hollidaysburg is going to join the WPIAL; they play a lot of AAAA teams.  On paper, people might look at that as vindication for their poor record.  However, I give you this food for thought:  they lost to DuBois, a team that lost to Chestnut Ridge.  Chestnut Ridge lost in back-to-back weeks to a sub-par Bedford squad. 

Wrapping up with the on the field analysis, you have to look at Muir and Rhodes as being the guys to key on.  They tend to run more than pass, which I believe plays right into the strength of the Trojan defense, especially in light of the way the unit has played the last few games.  On offense, I feel Siciliano can have a great day against this defense.  Word is DuBois' quarterback had an outstanding game against Hollidaysburg and he's nowhere near on par with the level of athleticism that Sicilano brings to the table.

If the Trojans can keep the pre-snap penalties to a minimum, play a disciplined, aggressive style of defense they will hold the Tigers to very little production on offense.  If the offense is focused, the really need to just play their game.  Read-option of the shotgun, pass when necessary, eat clock and around 9:00, give or take a few minutes, they'll be holding that district championship trophy and ready to take on the champs of D4.

And now, before we leave, let's look at the four other LHAC teams in playoff action this week:

Richland (9-2) at Forest Hills (11-0)
Bailey Bowl II on tap for Friday night in Sidman.  I hope a certain local television sportscaster doesn't refer to this again as a "sibling rivalry"!  This would be a big time, signature win for the Rams' program, but I cannot go against this Forest Hills team.  Their stout defense and strong running game will be too much, again. 

Penns Manor (10-1) at Bishop McCort (10-0)
Another playoff game at the Point for Ken Salem's Crushers who got it done without Josh Seidel a week ago.  Whether or not he goes this week I don't think it will matter.  McCort wins big.

Bedford (5-6) vs. Westinghouse (3-6)
This is a push in the truest sense of the word, like I'd like to push it right off the state bracket sheet.  I have no idea what Westinghouse brings to the table but they do get to host the game at their home field in Cupples Stadium.  I still can't call this one.

 (Note:  all statistical data pulled from MaxPreps as of 11/25/09)

The Trojans will take on the Selinsgrove Seals Friday night in a PIAA playoff contest.  It is only the second PIAA inter-district playoff game the Trojans have played in program history.  The first was five years ago, also against Selinsgrove.  To say the Seals' program is impressive is an understatement.  They have won the District 4-AAA title six years in a row and eight of the last ten.  They have won their conference (formerly the CSC, currently the Heartland) seven years in a row.  

They come into this game with a 12-0 record and are led by Coach Dave Hess.  Hess is in his second year at the helm of the Seals and has compiled an impressive 25-2 record thus far.  He took over for the venerable Bill Scott who coached the previous 36 seasons, compiled a career record of 267-145-1 and won numerous conference and district titles along the way.  

But Hess was no stranger to this program, prior to him being named head coach, he was on the Coach Scott's staff for 24 years.  However, it was in his rookie campaign as head coach that the team went farther than they even had, advancing past the state quarterfinal round.  This earned Hess AP honors as Coach of the Year.  They have reached the state quarterfinal round every year since 2004 but only last year did they advance to the semifinals.  They lost last year to Archbishop Wood in that round.  From 2004 to 2007 they were knocked out of the quarterfinal round each year, three times the lost to the team that would eventually win the state title (Thomas Jefferson in 2004 and 2007 and Franklin Regional in 2005).

That is all ancient history though, so let's fast forward to the present.  The Seals are 12-0 and top ranked Class AAA team in the state and when you look at them on paper, it's hard to find a weakness.  They have outscored their opponents 576-76 and only two teams have scored double digits points on them.  They have pitched five shutouts on the season.  Offensively, they have scored over 60 points once, over 50 points five times and over 40 points four times.  They average 48 points a game and hold their opponents to an average of 6.3 points per game.  Their lowest points scored for one game on the season is 34.  Needless to say, the running clock has been their friend this year!

According to some critics, one of the things that has dogged the Seals in the past is a weak regular season schedule.  Some feel this has hampered them and been a reason it took them so long to get past the quarterfinal round and to advance to a state title.  Former Coach Scott said as much in a postseason radio interview a few seasons back.  That being said, earlier this season I heard Harrisburg Patriot-News scribe Andrew Shay during halftime of a PCN Game of the Week that this could be the Seals team that goes to state.  This is such a topic of interest that it's actually a web poll on the Selinsgrove website.

The combined record of the teams that Selinsgrove has played thus far is 64-68.  For the sake of argument, Johnstown's isn't that better as their opponents on the season are 57-60.  However, the Trojans can boast that two of three teams that beat them are both undefeated and will be playing for the District 6 titles in Class AA (Forest Hills) and Class A (Bishop McCort) this weekend.  

The Seals and Trojans are in very similar circumstances in having a small and relatively weak field in district play.  There are only seven 4-AAA schools but only Selinsgrove and Shikellamy have winning records.  As we know in the Trojan Nation, only four teams compete at 6-AAA and the Trojans were the only team left with a winning record and two of the teams didn't even enter postseason play.  

I am not going to opine on what is the case here because I'm not taking anything away from the Seals this year.  The fact of the matter is they've taken care of business.  I respect and can see both sides of the argument.  

Now, to some individual analysis.  First, the offense, led by quarterback Cory Briggs.  Briggs in an extremely accurate 103-for-188 for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns.  He's only been picked off three times on the season.  Briggs has a very good arm and is permitted to audible quite a bit at the line.  With that kind of intelligence, it's no surprise that he's going to play at Harvard.  The Seals run multiple sets and have taking up running some shotgun formation the past few weeks.  The stats say they pass more than run, but that is probably an effect of them blowing so many teams out.  

The workhorse of the running game is Kyle Reinard with 982 yards and 12 touchdowns on 106 carries.  Backing up Reinard is Cameron Benner with 56 carries for 384 yards and six touchdowns.  Other contributors in the running game have been Grant Fleetwood (65 carries, 519 yards, 5 TDs), Matt Wenrich (30 carries, 315 yards, 7 TDs) and Seth Lauver (35 carries, 246 yards and 5 TDs).  The latter two backs play primarily as fullbacks.  

Following that running back committee type approach is an excellent receiving corps led by Ryan Keiser.  The senior is headed to Penn State as a preferred walk-on and leads the Seals with 41 receptions for 752 yards and 12 touchdowns.  The next best option has been tight end Kyle Schuck with 27 receptions for 354 yards and seven touchdowns.  Schuck is questionable with an injury and may not play against the Trojans.  Rounding out Briggs' options are Matt Ruby (15 receptions, 234 yards, 3 TDs) and Reinard (10 receptions, 120 yards, 2 TDs), who will both catch passes out of the backfield and line up split.  

Switching gears to the defense, the Seals still run the 3-5 which has become their trademark and they execute it to near perfection.  All 11 guys are very athletic and can move all over the field.  They swarm the ball as a unit and blitz from all over the formation.

Lauver is the leading tackler with 53 and he's also chipped in with 3 sacks.  Dakota Wolf (47) and Dylan Elliot (46) are also key contributors on the unit as is Spencer Myers.  Myers, a Maryland wrestling recruit, has 45 tackles and 5.5 sacks to go along with his duties as one of the offensive line leaders.  Bryant Trautman, a fullback on offense, is an inside backer with Lauver and has 45 tackles.  Wenrich and Dan Bausinger each have two interceptions.  Wenrich also is among the team leaders in tackles with 44.  

Four of the five linebackers are 220 pounds or bigger, so not only do you have athleticism, but you've got good size at the position as well.  

Normally when I review special teams I simply review the kicking game and return game and I'll get to that, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Seals have blocked five punts and one field goal on the season.  Benner (6 KRs, 114 yards), Reinard (4 KRs, 209 yards) and Keiser (2 KRs, 119 yards) lead the way in the kick return game while it's Keiser (13 PRs, 167 yards) and Reinard (13 PRs, 135 yards) in the punt return side of things.

On the rare occasions when the Seals are forced to punt, Reinard has handled the bulk of those duties.  He's booted the ball 12 times for 435 yards and has dropped on inside the 20.  

The kicking responsibilities are shared, as Kyle Benner does the kicking off and does it quite well.  He has been busy too, with 73 kickoffs for 3735 yards and 10 touchbacks.  On the other hand, Spencer Hotaling handles the placekicking and he also performs high, with 65 PATs and one field goal.  

OK, now that you've had a chance to take a few deep breaths following all that, I'll give a few opportunities for advantage and an intangible.  Then, I'll close with an interesting anecdote.  

Offensively for the Seals, the line has been a question mark all season.  They really aren't able to protect well in a five and seven step drop.  Most of the passing game comes from three step drops, quick hitches, slants and fades.  The running game is primarily zone runs to the tailback or dives/traps to the fullback.  If the Trojans front four can put pressure on this unit, they could give them a challenge they haven't faced before.  

It is generally thought that the Seals' pass defense is a question mark.  One can't really call it a weakness because none of the Seals' opponents are particularly good at throwing the ball.  Not only that, I don't know if any of the D4 teams the Seals have faced have the kind of team speed the Trojans possess.  Stephens-Howling and Jefferson can get after it and you can't take for granted that you have one of the fastest kids (if not the fastest, I really don't know if the kids have been individually timed) playing quarterback and having his hands on the ball every play.  

One thing I feel that cannot be ignored is that the Seals will be on the bus traveling for a long period of time and then asked to get out and play in what will be a cold night.  I know some in Seal Nation might feel it not fair to be playing the game in the Trojans' backyard, but I would argue that the bigger injustice is this game not being played on Saturday afternoon.  When the Trojans had to travel to Selinsgrove in 2004, the game was on Saturday afternoon.  The team was able to travel Friday and stay in a hotel that night.  Although JHS ultimately lost, I maintain it was an advantage for them to get into town a day early and get comfortable.  

I'll close the review of this game by taking a trip back in time.  Nineteen years ago the Trojans found themselves in a similar situation to what they are in this year.  Actually the parallels are very familiar.  In 1990, the Trojans went to an opening round WPIAL playoff game with Brownsville with a record of 7-3.  This year the Trojans come into their first round PIAA playoff game with a record of 8-3.  In 1990, the Brownsville Falcons entered said playoff game as the #1 ranked team in the state while the Trojans were a huge underdog.  This year the Seals come into this playoff game as the #1 ranked team in the state while, again, the Trojans are the underdog.  Back in 1990 no one gave the Trojans a chance for a couple of other reasons too.  First of all, the game was played in Brownsville.  Also, the Falcons defeated the Trojans 35-21 in week two at a game at Point Stadium that really wasn't as close as that score might lead you to believe.  

Prior to that game in 1990 a Post-Gazette writer stated something similar to the following:  Brownsville beat Johnstown by 14 points in the second week of the season.  The Falcons have only gotten better since then.  Brownsville by 21.

That was all the motivation Jerry Davitch needed as he photocopied that clipping, enlarged it and placed in every player's locker prior to the game.

Final score:  Johnstown 20, Brownsville 3.

I'm just sayin'!

Finally, let's take a quick peek at the three LHAC teams remaining in the playoffs aside from Johnstown:

Bedford (6-6) vs. Karns City (10-2), Northern Bedford High School, Friday 7pm
The Bisons' season, and therefore Coach Smith's career (he announced his retirement at the beginning of the season) will end to the hands of the 9-AA champs.

Bishop McCort (11-0) vs. Bellwood-Antis (11-0), Altoona Mansion Park, Saturday 7pm
I think the Crushers' fantastic run comes to an end Saturday night at the hands of Bellwood-Antis.  The Blue Devils program is great, Coach Hayes always has the team up for big games, and this is without a doubt the best team McCort has faced in quite awhile.  B-A in a close one.

Forest Hills (12-0) vs. Tyrone (10-2), Altoona Mansion Park, Friday 7pm
I look for Don Bailey's Rangers to improve to 13-0 against John Franco's Golden Eagles.  This is a good Tyrone squad, but on the level of the great teams Franco has had in recent memory.  I think the Rangers' defense is far too tough and will definitely be up for the challenge. 

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