A busy week for area H.S. football
Off to a 4-1 start, the Sayre Redskins are in control of their own destiny.
The NTL small-school title, a spot in districts, are all possible if they keep winning.
This week is a big small-school matchup for Sayre as they host Canton, who is 1-4 this year, but is a perennial small-school power.
CANTON AT SAYRE
Today, 7 p.m.
"It feels good when you think about it," Sayre coach Larry Hanafin said of the 4-1 start. "But, from my vantage point, all I'm thinking about is the next practice. I think overall the vibe is good, but from our vantage point we focus on the task at hand and we let all the other things circulate around us without making them a factor."
Last week the Redskins fell behind 6-0 to Cowanesque Valley in the first quarter before coming back to get the win.
"We felt good because they were a couple ahead of us," Hanafin said. "It was a hard fought, tough game. We stayed composed. We won a tough ball game. We feel good about that. In the past we let leads slip and this time we hung on. We feel mentally, we took a step forward."
Sayre knows Canton will be a tough test.
"Canton is Canton, we know no matter what, they are so sound fundamentally, psychologically tough," Hanafin said. "All I know is we have to get better. We have to take care of the smaller things. Canton is always Canton, they are awfully good."
Last week Sayre used their passing game to spark the win, and they know they may need to do that to win games, but they will also not give up on their running game.
"We'll stick to our bread and butter, if we have to pass we feel confident we can," Hanafin said. "By nature I don't like passing, but this year we feel good about passing the ball. The players are confident they can do it, we'll do whatever we have to do move the ball."
Hanafin knows the Redskins have to play good defense against Canton.
"The biggest thing is they have to come off the ball hard and very fast," Hanafin said. "They (Canton) are just very disciplined. They hit the hole. We have to meet fire with fire and stay sound and stay in our gaps. We have to stay disciplined."
WELLSBORO AT ATHENS
Today, 7 p.m.
A week ago the Wildcats took control in the NTL large-school title chase, defeating Troy to become the last team unbeaten in NTL play.
Now, the Wildcats face another large-school test in Wellsboro.
"The kids understand, this is just another step, another league game," Athens coach Jack Young said. "If we want to be considered champions, if we want to win a championship, we have to take care of business against a solid Wellsboro team.
The past week has been a difficult one for the Wildcats, who played an emotional game last Friday a day after learning 2012 Athens' graduate Sarah Reid had died in a car crash.
This week has been a difficult one for Athens.
"There has been some scheduling issues we had to look at this week," Young said. "The kids came back ready to play, prepared and they concentrated on getting their bodies and mind ready to play another ballgame Friday night.
"It has been tough, the services were Tuesday and some of our young men were directly involved in that. It brought a lot of emotions back to where they were Thursday afternoon. Tuesday was a tough day, we got what we could get done. Today (Wednesday) the kids came back, we had 100% participation and they were ready to go."
Athens faces a Wellsboro team that is coming off a win over CMVT that helped them get to 3-2 on the year.
"They are ready to go again, last week helped them get back in a better frame of mind for football,"
Wellsboro coach Steve Boyce said. "You go against Athens, who is a quality team. If things go in our favor and good things happen we can take one away from them."
Wellsboro knows this will be one of their biggest tests of the year.
"Athens is a tricky team because they let you know right up front what they are doing," Boyce said. "They don't do anything tricky, they just dare you to stop them and they have weapons everywhere."
Athens knows that Wellsboro is an improved team.
"They are a scrappy bunch, they appear to me that it is a team that is getting better every week," Young said. "Those are the type of teams that can sometimes be dangerous. We have to make sure we are ready to go."
Wellsboro knows they have to control the clock on offense and play mistake-free football.
"Controlling the tempo of the game, controlling the ball and the time of possession, that is key for us, if we can establish the ground game, all the better," Boyce said. "We talked with the kids that of the three aspects of the game, we have to win special teams. When we lost that was one of the key factors we shot ourselves in the foot. This week has to be a perfect game."
After turnover problems earlier in the season, Athens played a turnover-free game last week and they hope that continues.
"That's what it's all about, getting better and improving each week," Young said. "We obviously had an issue with putting the ball on the turf and we want to keep it a past issue."
TOWANDA AT MIFFLINBURG
Today, 7 p.m.
Coming off their first victory of the season, the Black Knights are ready to get back to work.
"It's nice to finally get a win," Towanda coach Jamie Wecker said. "The kids are working hard, but we've made too many mistakes here and there. The balls not bouncing our way. It was nice to have it bounce our way."
Towanda is looking to improve the little things that cost them the first four weeks.
"We are focusing on fixing the little things, we are still making too many mistakes," Wecker said. "We were not holding onto the ball well enough, we have to try to fix and not turn the ball over in the red zone, we are going to be OK. We know it's a tough game. We have to take care of the things we can control, improve ourselves the best we can and hopefully get a win."
Wecker knows that Mifflinburg will be another tough test for a Towanda team that has had a tough schedule to begin the year.
"They present some problems," Wecker said. "Their quarterback throws and runs well, they use two quarterbacks and they both run well. They run a wing T type of offense and they go spread.
"That's a lot to prepare for, they get their athletes out in space and get the ball to them. We have to be very disciplined and do our assignments. We can't get lazy mentally. We take out fundamentals on defense and make sure they don't move the ball on us."
Towanda hopes that last week's win is something they can build from.
"We still have some pretty good competition, it's one win," Wecker said. "Hopefully it's the beginning of something we can start adding to. We'll take care of each game by itself and focus on winning Friday. Hopefully we can get another win and the confidence would grow and then we go from there."
LOYALSOCK AT TROY
Today, 7 p.m.
Coming off their first loss of the year the Trojans face another tough test this week.
"They are extremely excited, they are having a good week of practice, they know they will be tested," Troy coach Jim Smith said.
Smith knows that Loyalsock is one of the district's tougher teams.
"Offensively they are explosive," he said. "They have an extremely talented quarterback and receivers and running backs. They are big up front, they move the ball well."
Troy knows this is a good test to see where they stack up in the district.
"They are very excited about this opportunity," Smith said. "They have been excited about this opportunity all year. They know they will be tested. It is a measuring stick. It's nice to know where you stand with the teams out of our league."
Heading into the second half of the season with a 4-1 mark, Smith knows every game is big now.
"From here on out every game is important," he said. "Our schedule is tough, we are taking it one week at a time and right now our focus is Loyalsock."
While last week was a tough week as the Trojans suffered their first loss of the year, Smith knows they can learn from that.
"It's the first time we really have been tested as a team, and it's important that it finally happened,"
Smith said. "We found out what playing four quarters means. I thought we played pretty good for three quarters last week, but we found out how important for quarters is.
"The response when things go bad is really what the measure of a team is. They put that game behind them and they are looking ahead."
WAVERLY AT WATKINS GLEN
Today, 7 p.m.
The Wolverines are unbeaten and they know that this week is another important game in their hunt for the division title.
"Sitting 5-0 we control our destiny," Waverly coach Jason Miller said. "This is an important division game. I say we are moving on week to week, not resting on our laurels, not looking at rankings. We have to improve our fundamentals to get us ready for the postseason."
Miller is happy with the way his team is looking as they get ready for the game.
"We've had a pretty good week so far," Miller said. "We are preparing for a different offense than we are used to seeing. We spent a little more time on defense. Hopefully we get our assignments right and be ready to go."
After a week off after Edison forfeited the rest of their season, Miller thought Waverly was a little rusty at times at Lansing last week.
"After watching the film, I saw we were pretty good in the second half, the first half, a little rusty," he said. "We made some mistakes, missed completing some balls. I expect to be better and run the ball more and set up the pass and get in rhythm."
Waverly knows this week will be another tough test.
"They have a very good back in Brady Myers, who rushed for over 200 yards last week," Miller said. "They are big up front, they double team well, we need to be able to take on the double teams, not over pursue the ball. We have to stay in the back, make sure at the point of attack we are doing a good job taking on the blocks. We have to make the ball bounce to the sidelines and use our speed to get to the running back."
NOTRE DAME AT TIOGA
Today, 7 p.m.
The Tigers know this is a big game in their division title hopes as they face another 4-1 team.
"I think they are doing some really good things," Tioga coach Nick Aiello said. "They are 4-1 for a reason, they have some athletes we have to be aware of they are always well coached."
Aiello knows the players are excited to face a challenge the next couple of weeks.
"This is huge, I told these kids we can't be looking ahead," Aiello said. "Both Notre Dame and Spencer Van-Etten next week, if we want to win this division we have to go on the hunt.
"I think anxious is the right word, they are anxious to go against an opponent that comes in with a good record and see where they stand. We are definitely looking for a game against a quality opponent."
Last week Tioga's passing game got going a little bit and with last year's starter Ryan Vergason working back into the mix, the Tigers would like some balance, but they know the key will be to keep running the ball well.
"Balance is always the goal, if we can throw we are going to, if we have that option," Aiello said. "It's no secret we like to keep the ball on the ground."
Aiello believes Vergason could be a threat in the running game and on defense the next couple of weeks he will work his way back in.
"He's a huge threat in my mind, it may not look like that on game day, he may not get a whole lot of carries, but to me he's a huge threat that helps to keep the defense on his heels," Aiello said. "We are being a little conservative with him right now, this Friday is eight weeks since the break. It's huge having him back, the kids look at him as a leader. With him being out in the preseason, they still voted him as the captain."
Aiello knows it's big for this game to be at home.
"It will be senior night for us, we will be geared up," Aiello said. "The home crowd has been great for us."
CV AT NORTH PENN
Today, 7 p.m.
A week ago both North Penn and Cowanesque Valley suffered road losses to fall to 2-3 on the year.
"We have to go back and work on the little stuff," North Penn coach Tom Dickinson said. "It was a different offense, we did a lot of teamwork last week, but neglected some individual stuff. We have to take the time to work on the little things."
After CV fell to Sayre and North Penn fell at Hughesville last week, both teams know they have to move on and get ready for a new week.
"We've been saying, we have to take it a game at a time" Dickinson said. "Hughesville is a good team, it wasn't like they were a slouch. We have to put it behind us and get back home. We have to get after them and get a victory back."
The Panthers know CV won't be an easy game.
"They are spreading it out, but we truly have to stop their run," Dickinson said. "Their quarterback and running back are good athletes, we have to focus on shutting that down and play the pass after that.
"We are just doing what we do and try and get better. We have to block better, our running backs haft to hit the holes a little quicker. We are working on our passing game."
WYALUSING AT PIUS X
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
The Rams are looking for their first win as they take the road to take on an out-of-district opponent this week.
Wyalusing coach Jim Huffman wants to focus on the positive things his team has done this year and put last week's loss at Canton behind them.
"We are just trying to pick out the positive things," Huffman said. "We played really tough against Troy, we took a step back against Canton. We have to focus on some of the positive things and come to play every week.
"We can't just play a quarter, we have to play four quarters and put things together. We have to quit giving up easy points and putting ourselves in a hole. That's our big problem right now."
The Rams know that this week will not be easy.
"They are pretty fast, they run the spread offense," Huffman said. "It looks like they have pretty good size and they have a real big quarterback. I would say they throw the ball well.
"We'll try to put a little pressure on the quarterback. We just make sure we are in our areas. As long as you get in your area it doesn't matter what route they run, you should be there to defend it."