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This week's top high school football matchups

on August 28, 2014 10:30 AM

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MARS at INDIANA

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Rebuilt Indiana looks to make a splash in the WPIAL Greater Allegheny Conference, welcoming the preseason favorite.

About Mars: The Planets tied for the conference title last year and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. They return 225-pound fullback Josh Schultheis, who gained 3,601 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in the previous two seasons. Marshall Robinson, a 380-pound lineman, was dominant against Indiana last year.

About Indiana: The Indians are coming off a 5-6 season in which they rallied with two late-regular-season wins to get into the WPIAL playoffs and then knocked off Ringgold in the first round. Indiana’s expectations remain high despite a smaller roster and the loss of key players. Junior Jacob Zilinskas takes over the starting quarterback role full time and has Riley Stapleton, last year’s receptions leader in the area, as a target.

Last year: Mars won 38-15.

Next week: Indiana plays at Hampton on Friday.

 

BLAIRSVILLE at WESTINGHOUSE

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Talented Blairsville opens a season of high expectations with a non-conference game against a City League basement dweller.

About Blairsville: The Bobcats were set to fly in 2013, but instead slogged their way through an injury-filled 6-5 campaign. Blairsville returns 1,170-yard rusher Deion Robinson and quarterback Scott Thompson (73 of 137, 1,125 yards, 8 TDs, 11 ints), among other experienced skill players. The Bobcats’ physicality up front, particularly on defense, has been a question in recent years. Their front lines look to set a new tone early.

About Westinghouse: Not much has gone the Bulldogs’ way the last couple years. They went winless in the City League last season (1-9 overall) and have just one league win in the last two years. Westinghouse attempted to join the WPIAL starting this season and got the motion approved by the Pittsburgh Public Schools board only to be denied by the WPIAL. On the field, the Bulldogs will be led by seniors Kejuan Burg, a fullback and defensive lineman, and Kameron Watson, a wide receiver. Westinghouse is 2-0 against Blairsville all-time.

Last meeting: Westinghouse won 19-13 in 1962.

Next week: Blairsville plays host to Marion Center on Friday.

 

HOMER-CENTER at PENNS MANOR

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: The last two Heritage Conference champions meet in a rematch of last year’s conference title game, while both retooled teams start to answer questions about their futures.

About Homer-Center: The Wildcats went on an unforgettable run to their first Heritage Conference championship and their first District 6 title since 1994. A senior-laden offensive line paved the way last year. This year they’ll look to the underclassmen to block, while senior skill players such as quarterback Aaron Berezansky and fullback Ean Lee carry the load.

About Penns Manor: It’s all about reloading for the Comets, who weathered the loss of record-setting quarterback Danny Ferens last year to go 9-2 and appear in the District 6 playoffs for the seventh straight season. Now the losses are more about quantity than quality, and Penns Manor has plenty of holes to fill. Clayton Stupic, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, could lead a more passing-involved attack after an electric cameo in a last-minute comeback at Ligonier Valley last year.

Last year: Homer-Center won 41-21 in Week 9 to claim the Heritage Conference championship.

Next week: Both teams play Friday. Homer-Center travels to Saltsburg, and Penns Manor visits Northern Cambria.

 

LIGONIER VALLEY at NORTHERN CAMBRIA

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: The second Frank Paronish era begins at Northern Cambria as the coach leads the rebuilding Colts against a Heritage Conference power.

About Ligonier Valley: All eyes are on sophomore Collin Smith, who ran for 500 yards on 83 carries as a freshman running back. He’s the quarterback now, with seniors Michael Keller and Jordan Jones in the backfield. They highlight a relatively unseasoned team, especially for the Rams’ standards in recent years. Coach Roger Beitel will have his squad well-drilled for another competitive season in the Heritage Conference, though.

About Northern Cambria: The Colts fell to 5-5 and just missed the playoffs last year after three straight appearances. Frank Paronish is back after going 28-25 from 2002-06 at Northern Cambria. His up-tempo offense will be run by Tyler Pershing, who played nine games last year and started several. The Colts have the largest roster in the area, with 49 players, but lack experienced depth.

Last year: Northern Cambria won 35-34 in Week 9.

Next week: Both teams play Friday. Ligonier Valley visits Purchase Line, and Northern Cambria welcomes Penns Manor.

 

MARION CENTER at UNITED

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: The team that brought up the rear of the Heritage Conference meet in the opener, with both looking to turn some heads.

About Marion Center: The Stingers have won just five games over the last two seasons but return an experienced core led by senior quarterback Blake Orr, who threw for 888 yards last year. A stout line looks to create holes for running backs Colton Fairman, Kyle McCullough and Zach Edwards.

About United: The Lions have lost 25 of their last 29 games and are on a 20-game losing streak, coming off back-to-back 0-10 seasons. They also have averaged fewer than 5.0 points per game the last two seasons. Coach Lance Holupka begins his second season after bringing back some energy to the program last year.

Last year: Marion Center won 34-14.

Next week: Both teams play Friday. Marion Center travels to Blairsville, and United welcomes St. Joseph’s Academy.

 

PURCHASE LINE at SALTSBURG

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Purchase Line kicks off its most anticipated season in several years, visiting a Saltsburg team looking for a renaissance of its own.

About Purchase Line: The Red Dragons are a trendy pick atop the Heritage Conference this year, returning last season’s leading rusher in the area, Grant Syster (1,593 yards). Purchase Line won four of its last five games to finish 5-5 last season, its best record since 2009. The Dragons return seven starters on offense, including four on the offensive line. Sophomore Hunter Rice (450 yards) adds depth behind Syster.

About Saltsburg: The Trojans return 1,122-yard passer Frankie Plowman as a sophomore, though he’s expected to share time at quarterback with senior Tyler Frassenei. Saltsburg hasn’t had a winning season since 1996 and has won just three games over the last two seasons.

Last year: Purchase Line won 41-0.

Next week: Both teams play Friday. Purchase Line welcomes Ligonier Valley, and Saltsburg plays host to Homer-Center.

 

APOLLO-RIDGE at WEST SHAMOKIN

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Armstrong School District rivals move up to Class AA together, and this time they’re both competitors in the WPIAL?Allegheny Conference.

About Apollo-Ridge: The Vikings are flying high after last season, getting their first playoff win since 2007. Apollo-Ridge boasts talented skill players, highlighted by Pitt commit and preseason all-state selection Tre Tipton (44 receptions, 697 yards, 5 interceptions). Alex Smith (27 catches, 578 yards) and sophomore Duane Brown (16 receptions, 237 yards, 5 interceptions) keep defenses honest, and Jonah Casella returns to the backfield. The quarterback position is in question, with unheralded junior Dillon Shipman taking over for the graduated Jesse Zelonka, last season’s All-Gazette Offensive Player of the Year.

About West Shamokin: The Wolves also made the playoffs last year, qualifying for the first time in the best season in school history, dating to 2000. Their 6-4 record was easily their best, topping the previous high mark of 3-7. Andrew Wingard (830 yards) and Zac Horner (624) return for a one-two punch in the running game, and quarterback Alex Lasslo (43 of 75, 791 yards, 10 TDs, 5 ints) led the area in completion percentage last season.

Last year: Apollo-Ridge won 42-15.

Next week: Both teams play Friday. Apollo-Ridge plays host to Valley, and West Shamokin visits Kittanning.

 

DERRY at WASHINGTON

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Derry opens WPIAL Interstate Conference play against a Class AA power.

About Derry: The Trojans have moved down to Class AA from Class AAA after a few trying years. Derry has lost 18 straight games. It’s last win was the opener in 2012. Coach Tim Sweeney takes over after the Trojans were 3-25 in three seasons under Al Gaiardo. He has just a 31-player roster to work with, but it includes experienced backs Troy Balega, Tyler Balega and Josh Flack.

About Washington: The Prexies finished 7-3 overall and finished second in the Interstate Conference last season, losing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. They have lost star running back Shai McKenzie, who is at Virginia Tech, and will rely on quarterback Jonathan Spina and running backs Malik Wells, Jordan West and Kurt Adkins.

Series history: This is the first meeting.

Next week: Derry plays host to Mount Pleasant on Friday.

 

PUNXSUTAWNEY at MONITEAU

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday

Matchup: Punxsutawney looks to avenge a blowout loss at the end of last season.

About Punxsutawney: The Chucks went through their worst year out of the last several, finishing 3-7, with losses in their last four games, including a 36-0 loss at Moniteau in Week 9. Punxsutawney will rely on its senior class, including quarterback Dakota Thomas, who went 10 of 33 for 191 yards in limited time last year, and running back Perry Arrington.

About Moniteau: The Warriors went 3-7 last year, but all three victories came over their final four games, and they finished 2-2 in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Large School Division. Moniteau has a sizable 12-player senior class leading the way.

Last year: Moniteau won 36-0.

Next week: Punxsutawney plays host to Keystone on Friday.

 

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