PENNS MANOR name and colors slide

They say beating a team three times in the same season is one of the hardest things to do in sports.

Doing it twice is pretty hard, too, especially when that opponent is hot.

The 3-4 Purchase Line Red Dragons are hot and dangerous. The 6-0 Penns Manor Comets have to find a way to cool them off.

The two Heritage Conference rivals hook up for the second time this season Friday night on the Comets’ turf in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class 1A football playoffs. Penns Manor won the first meeting, 23-8, in the third game of the season.

Purchase Line fell to 0-3 at that point. The Dragons have a way of getting stronger as the season goes on under fourth-year coach Matt Falisec, and they’re doing it again. They enter Friday night the winners of three of their previous four games, and they are averaging 46.5 points per outing in that stretch.

While Penns Manor was enjoying a bye weekend, ninth-seeded Purchase Line was dispatching eighth-seeded West Shamokin in the first round, 57-35.

The Dragons have found their offense, and it has been more than Josh Syster running around, past and over defenders. A running back by trade, Syster has been taking a lot of snaps, eliminating handoffs and taking off. He has rushed for 1,265 yards in seven games and has scored 20 touchdowns. He has sneaked in a big pass play every now and then, too.

Speaking of big pass plays, top-seeded Penns Manor needed a couple big fourth-down conversions that went for touchdowns to fuel the win. The Comets scored twice in the fourth quarter after the game was tied at 8.

Defensively, the Comets limited Syster, who was playing strictly running back at that point, to 112 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. Penns Manor allowed only 144 total yards, with only 4 passing.

Penns Manor gained 270 total yards, with 55 coming on the two big pass plays from quarterback Max Hill to Dimitri Lieb to open the scoring and Austin Hill to put the Comets ahead.

It’s hard to find an advantage in this one. Maybe it’s that Penns Manor has had an extra week to prepare for the newfangled Dragons. 

Prediction: Penns Manor, 16-14.

WILLIAMSBURG (4-3) at HOMER-CENTER (4-1): Here’s one way to get an opponent’s attention: put up 50 points in your previous game.

That’s what seventh-seeded Williamsburg did against Blairs-ville last week, and second-seeded Homer-Center took notice.

But enough on that here. See more at right.

Prediction: Homer-Center, 49-32.

CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (4-3) at MARION CENTER (6-0): Marion Center already went that beat-a-team-a-second-time route, knocking out Northern Cambria last week, 13-0, in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Now there’s a berth in the championship game at stake in this week’s only Saturday game. 

Cambria Heights, the seventh-seed, received a forfeit from second-seeded Southern Huntingdon last week due to a COVID-19 issue.

The Highlanders do most of their damage on the ground, averaging 241.0 yards per game. Leading rusher Ryan Haluska has gained 752 yards in six games.

Cambria Heights has wins on the field over winless Johnstown (41-6), Penn Cambria (21-0) and a one-win Bishop McCort (20-14) team and losses to Central Cambria (28-8), 6-1 Richland (44-7) and unbeaten Bedford (36-7).

The added attraction here is that Cambria Heights is leaving the Laurel Highlands Conference to enter the Heritage Conference next season as its 10th team.

Prediction: Marion Center, 35-14.

WASHINGTON (5-2) at APOLLO-RIDGE (5-0): In a perfect world, Apollo-Ridge would have been matched in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs against Serra Catholic, which postponed their showdown for the Allegheny Conference title two weeks ago due to a COVID-19 issue. That game would have elevated the seed of the winner. As it is, Apollo-Ridge is stuck in the middle of the pack as the fourth seed. (Serra Catholic, which played only four games, is seventh).

Instead, the Vikings drew a perennial power.

Washington has won five of six after opening the season with a 7-6 loss to once-beaten McGuffey. The other loss came in a 41-0 upset at Trinity on Oct. 9.

The Prexies wrapped up a playoff berth with a 43-6 over Frazier last week. They gained 320 yards in the first half and led 43-0.

Both teams have playmakers. This could come down to turnovers. Apollo-Ridge has committed only three this season.

Conventional wisdom says to go with the team with the stronger playoff portfolio — can’t do it.

Prediction: Apollo-Ridge, 41-22. 

PHLIPISBURG-OSCEOLA (1-5) at NORTHERN CAMBRIA (4-3): Northern Cambria rolled to a 4-0 start and then lost three straight, exiting the District 6 Class 2A playoffs last week in a 13-0 loss to Marion Center and resuming the regular season this week.

The Mountaineers have lost five straight against a formidable Mountain League schedule after opening the season with a win over winless Huntingdon.

The Colts are banged up, and they have been pretty much all year.

Prediction: Philipsburg-Osceola, 22-19. 

CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (3-3) at UNITED (1-6): One thing you can say about the United Lions: They can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

United could have closed up shop before last week, but the Lions hit the road and got thumped by Moshannon Valley. Now they have a chance to finish with a win at home.

Conemaugh Township put up all its wins in succession before losing to once-beating Northern Bedford last week.

Prediction: Conemaugh Township, 34-28.

WEST SHAMOKIN (3-4) at SALTSBURG (2-5): Both teams exited the District 6 playoffs last week, West Shamokin in a 57-35 loss to Purchase Line and Saltsburg in a 49-21 loss at Juniata Valley.

This game was scheduled for next week, but since both teams had open spots on the schedule, they moved it up to this week.

The way these teams have been playing defense, this could develop into a barnburner.

Prediction: West Shamokin, 48-41.