PA teams get ready for rivalry week
It's rivalry week for Pennsylvania football teams. Records are thrown out the window with hometown pride now on the line.
TOWANDA (5-4) AT WYALUSING (2-7), 7 P.M.
It's the annual Bronze Helmet game with both teams coming in on different paths.
Wyalusing is riding high off their biggest win of the season over Warrior Run while Towanda is looking to rebound after another tough loss.
The Rams rushed for a season high 386 yards against the Defenders, something coach James Buchman has been looking for.
"That's exactly what we should be doing," he said. "The offense is clicking pretty good the last couple of weeks. The young players know the offense and they kind of showcased that last Friday."
The Rams put together a full game, too, as they were strong defensively, holding Warrior Run to 169 yards of total offense.
"I want us to play tough defense," Buchman said. "A couple games we have, a couple games we haven't. Offensively we've been able to move the ball but we needed to make some stops and that's what we did on Friday."
For Towanda, despite last week's close 21-14 loss to Wellsboro, they saw plenty of good.
"At our weekly team meeting we saw what we did well and things we need to improve on," Towanda coach Jamie Wecker said. "Wellsboro is a talented football team. We did some things well, we just to focus on some fundamentals. We'll see what the kids do this week."
Offensively the Knights will stick with what got them here.
"I don't think we're going to do anything different that what we've done throughout the season," Wecker explained. "We'll see what works and stick with that. We would like to move the ball better through the air, we may try to do some stuff there."
As for the Rams, they know how good the Black Knight defense is.
"Towanda flies around," Buchman remarked. "They're very athletic on defense, they have very tough kids. They have a very good program, I take my hat off to them but our players are not scared of Towanda. We'll stick to our guns and run the ball. That's the type of team we are."
Buchman believes he can contain Towanda's speed on offense with fundamental defense.
"You can play a three, four or five front, just as long as your players are disciplined at the point of attack," he said.
Containing quarterback Noah Huff is especially key.
"He must keep him wrapped up," Buchman added. "We need to make some tops when they're driving the ball, put our foot down once in a while and get three and outs."
Running the ball like they have been will also be important for Wyalusing.
"I think another weapon on defense is having a good offense," Buchman said.
Towanda believes they can keep Wyalusing's power run game under wraps, too.
"It's pretty basic, line up with them, match their formation with alignment and hope the kids show up to play," Wecker said. "Be physical, don't let them bust the big plays. Our kids spent a lot of time in the weight room in the off-season, hopefully it shows during the game."
Wecker believes is paramount for his young team to head into districts on a high note.
"We need to go down there and play well," he said. "Hopefully we win and build up more confidence. If we play to our potential we can pretty much play with anybody we can face. The kids are trying to fix those mistakes throughout the season. I think they've learned a lot."
The two coaches also know that records don't matter in a rivalry game.
"Towanda has owned the series the last 12 years," Buchman said. "We're just going to come out and play tough and play competitively. Both of us could be going into this game 5-4. Finishing strong against this team is definitely going to help us going forward in building the program."
"When you play Wyalusing record and talents, all those things sort of go out the window," Wecker added. "It's more of a pride game."
WELLSBORO (9-0) AT NORTH PENN (6-3)
When Wellsboro and North Penn get together it's always a brawl but this time there is more on the line.
"The rivalry, every yea that's what they're looking forward to," North Penn coach Tom Dickinson said. "Where (Wellsboro) is sitting, it makes it even that much bigger of a game."
The Hornets are looking to make history tonight as they try for their first ever perfect regular season along with claiming the NTL Large School title out right.
"We started this journey nine weeks ago, now we need to finish the job," Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrandt remarked. "It is our rivalry but we've got more on the line, we have the NTL to win. We have no intentions of sharing that title."
The match-up will feature two of the top quarterbacks in the area. Wellsboro's Mike Pietropola has put up video game numbers this season but Panther Bo Burleigh has thrown for over 1,000 yards himself.
"You really don't see those two types of offenses in the NTL," Dickinson remarked. "It could be a three hour football game."
North Penn is hoping to find the right balance of Burleigh in the air and Bryce Zaparzynski on the ground to keep their offense humming.
"That's our whole key," Dickinson said. "It's been just about 50/50 all year. That's what we like to be."
The Panthers feel if they can sustain long drives then they have a shot to contain Wellsboro's offense.
"That's the plan," the veteran coach remarked. "Towanda was able to drive the ball. The least amount of time their offense is on the field the less opportunity they have to score. They have a very good defense so it's not easy to do."
Containing Wellsboro's big play threat will be important, too.
"They have so many weapons," Dickinson said. "You can't zero in on anything. They had a couple key runs against Towanda and their passing game is record setting. We'll just try to be sound, simple as possible and try and limit them to making huge plays."
The Hornets, though, are just coming off playing in a tough atmosphere at Towanda.
"It was a hard fought win on both sides of the ball," Hildebrandt said about the Towanda game.
It was their first real test since playing Troy week two and he felt they did well.
"Towanda hasn't lost too many games at home," Hildebrandt remarked. "For us to play four quarters, I thought our conditioning was very good going into the fourth quarter."
He sees North Penn's air attack as a test on his secondary this week.
"It hasn't been tested too much this year," Hildebrandt said. "Not too many teams throw the ball like North Penn. We have athletes to defend the pass but they also have a good running back in Bryce. We need to contain him as well."
Last week offensively the Hornets used their ground game to get the job done. This week, they will see what the defense gives them.
"We don't try to change too much," Hildebrandt said. "We'll react to what they're giving us."
Regardless, this has been quite the season for the Hornets.
"We've gotten a lot of support in the community and school district," Hildebrandt said. "It's good to see all those people out at games."
ATHENS (3-6) AT SAYRE (3-6), 7 P.M.
While neither team is fighting for a playoff spot, the Rusty Rail matchup between Valley rivals always is a big game.
"It's a rivalry game," Sayre coach Larry Hanafin said. "For the seniors it's their last game ever. The motivation is there, we just have to come out ready to play. Athens is not bad, they are still a solid football team.
"It's always huge. We have never beaten them in what seems like forever. To beat them would be a feather in our hat, it would mean ending on a high note. Any time you come out winning it's always good."
Athens coach Jack Young knows that this game means a lot to the players.
"No matter what, heading into the playoffs or not, winning a championship or not, this is a big game," Young said. "This is the type of game the kids from both teams will remember for the rest of their lives. I think both teams will come out and play better than the week before and I think this could be a crazy one.
"That's what is special about having a rivalry game like this at the end of the year. No matter what it is, Canton/Troy, Towanda/Wyalusing, Sayre and Athens. A lot of years it might be lopsided, but so many have been classic battles and those are the games you remember."
The Redskins know that Athens will be a tough test coming off a loss to Muncy last week.
"We have to take care of the ball, that's a big thing," Hanafin said. "Muncy was really good and we gave them three straight turnovers and they cashed in on them. They are clearly an above average team regardless. We have to take care of the football and be comfortable and come out ready to play.
"The moral seems good, we know where we went wrong, we feel we can correct things that are in our control and work on them this week."
Athens knows this game will be a challenge.
"They are a typical Sayre bunch, they are scrappy as heck," Young said. "There is no doubt we are going to see one of the better running backs we have seen all year. (Jeremy) Kyc is a special running back, they have some other kids that really play hard and it will be a tough matchup."
Sayre knows they need to have more balance this week.
"We have to get something going other than Jeremy," Hanafin said. "When he gets going we are able to move the ball and control the clock, but Muncy keyed on him and stymied him."
TROY (7-2) AT CANTON (5-4), 1:30 P.M.
The Old Shoe game always is an exciting time, but with both teams fighting for potential playoff spots and playoff seeding, this game takes on extra meaning.
For Canton it's been five straight wins, but this will be one of their toughest tests of the year.
"When we went 0-4 we kind of got together as a team and decided that this was where we wanted to be at this point in time," Canton coach Jay Perry said. "To go into the Old Shoe game on a roll."
Both teams know this is an exiting game.
"This is not really a game we have to talk too much in terms of being excited," Troy coach Jim Smith said. "The kids have a lot to play for on our end and on their end. It's always a battle."
And, both teams know this will be a tough game.
"You can't focus on one person," Perry said. "They are so disciplined at what they do. They are very well coached. You just kind of have to play across the board. You try to take it one carry at a time and hopefully shut down their run game.
"They are very well disciplined on defense. They fly to the ball. Three, four, five tacklers around the ball on every play. You have to be disciplined in what we need to do and make sure we get our blocks up front to start with. Anytime you can keep their offense off the field you are doing good. They don't throw a lot, but they're a threat to score. They can score on you in tow plays or three plays. Their offense is like Novocain. It takes a while to work, but sooner or later it takes affect. We just have to be disciplined and shut down the big play on them."
The Trojans know this is a Canton team coming in on a hot streak.
"Canton is a much improved team," Smith said. "Week after week they are getting better. They are very confident, they are aggressive, they are getting healthier. They have got a lot of kids with four years experience and they are going to come out and play some football Sunday."
The Trojans know how much this game means to them.
"It's important for us to win to keep home field advantage (for districts), but we can't really look beyond Saturday," Smith said. "We have to have eyes on Canton, we can't look any further."
While they have won five straight, Canton knows that means nothing on Saturday.
"Any other game I would say this is right where we want to be, but I've been involved in too many old shoe games," Perry said. "You throw the records out the window. One team comes in with what they think is an advantage, next thing you know the other team is shutting them down. It's a typical Old Shoe game. Troy is coming in 7-2, we've got a five-game winning streak, but you throw the records out the window."
COWANESQUE VALLEY AT OTTO-ELDRED, 7 P.M.
The Indians will look to finish out their season on a high note as they travel to Otto-Eldred tonight.