Troy hosts Towanda in key NTL matchup
With a month left in the regular season for high school football in Pennsylvania the implications for the postseason are huge in a lot of games.
Towanda and Troy square off in a game that has a lot of meaning for both the postseason and the NTL, while Wellsboro looks to stay unbeaten.
In New York both Tioga and Notre Dame have huge divisional matchups, with Tioga facing Harpursville in a battle of unbeatens.
AT TROY (4-2), 7 P.M.
The Black Knights are coming off a win over Mifflinburg, while Troy dropped a game at Loyalsock last week.
"It was a good win for us," Towanda coach Jamie Wecker said. "I will tell you what, we know we have to play a really good team with Troy. The kids know what Troy's got, they know it's a huge game for the NTL and a huge game for districts."
The Trojans know last week's game is one they can learn from.
"The big focus is going to be limiting mistakes," Troy coach Jim Smith said. "When we tend to get in trouble is turnovers. As long as we are safe with the ball, good things will happen. Limiting turnovers and mistakes is going to be the key focus.
"The game was a much better game than the score. In the end when the players were made Loyalsock made the plays and they capitalized. They created points off of everyone of our mistakes. The kids know full well against good football teams that happens and that's something we really have to correct."
The Black Knights are in the fourth game of a six-game stretch against teams with winning records and they know this is a big one.
"We look at one team at a time and this is a big one," Wecker said. "All week we have been looking at the fundamentals and what we have to do. Their offense is predicated around Jed (Wright) their quarterback and he is phenomenal and they have good athletes around him. Their line is athletic. They are a smart team. They are very sound, they don't make a lot of mistakes."
The Black Knights know slowing down the option is a big key.
"That's the number one thing, you have to stop number 12 (Wright)," Wecker said. "You have to stop that option. Actually, you can't stop it, you have to contain it and keep everything in front of us and not give up any big plays."
The Trojans know that the Black Knights will be a challenge this week.
"Towanda stretches the field, they can beat you with a little bit of power football and throw a whole lot of spread with you," Smith said. "We just have to be disciplined, maintain our gap responsibilities. We have to do well and do all the right things. They can certainly stretch the field.
"Having long possessions, that's part of the game plan. To do that, hold onto the football, not turn it over, not created penalties, that's key. We have to keep them off the field that is going to be one of the keys, limiting their points."
Troy knows that last week can help prepare them and they know how big this game is.
"Playing a team like Loyalsock is something we need more of," Smith said. "It's definitely a game we need coming down the backstretch to prepare us for the tough schedule we have finishing out. I'm glad we have that coming into an NTL game. It was a four-quarter test, something I expect to see more of Friday night.
"Most of our team is back and it's important we get a big win. Psychologically they know they can play with this football team, but they also respect the program in Towanda. They understand the kids work very hard in the offseason and in the season. They're very athletic and well coached. We certainly have to bring our 'A' game if we want to beat this football team."
The Black Knights know this week will be an exciting game, and one that is crucial for both teams.
"Everybody is excited," Wecker said. "I know coach Smith pretty well and most of their staff pretty well. We are good friends and this is a fun game planning against them. For this week it is fun, you want to play well against the guys you are friends with. The kids want to play well against the guys they hang out with. It's a personal game for the kids and the coaches to, you are friends with them, but you want to do well against them.
"Certainly, we have got to win. If we want a home game for districts we basically have got to win out. We have got to play well on Friday night. We need to do what we have to do on Friday night and hopefully we can pull it out."
ATHENS (2-4) AT CANTON (2-4), 7 P.M.
After an 0-4 start to the season the Warriors have won back-to-back games, while the Wildcats look to get back on track after losses against Troy and Wellsboro the past two weeks.
"It feels pretty good," Canton coach Jay Perry said of the past two weeks. "The kids are getting a little more confidence. Whatever it's worth, we keep an emphasis that we have a winning record at home. We are looking at the positive side of things right now and being home the next couple weeks benefit us well."
Athens coach Jack Young is trying to keep the team working hard after the past two weeks.
"Right now we are just kind of looking for little things to build off of," Young said. "We had a good week of practice and we have to go in with the right mentality. We just have to be ready to be physical."
Young knows Canton will be a tough test.
"Canton is a scrappy bunch and they are coming off a couple victories," he said. "They are undoubtedly a little confident. They are no nonsense straight forward defensively and they do a few things different on offense."
While Canton is a hard-nosed type football team that likes to run the ball, Young knows they do a lot of different things offensively.
"They are in a lot of ways (a hard-nosed running team), but at the same time they present a lot offensively toward you," Young said. "They might present more formations than any of the last three teams we have played. We have to be prepared to take care of the little things."
The Warriors know that Athens will be another tough game this week.
"(Troy) Stivason is the key, he's a real good athlete," Perry said. "We are going to do some different things with those guys. We will show them a bunch of different looks. He's smart, he's been there a while. We have to make sure he doesn't hurt us with his feet. If he breaks containment he is pretty dangerous."
The Warriors are happy with the way the offense is starting to come along, but they know there is still work to do.
"We are starting to, we have some things we have to clean up," Perry said. "We have to eliminate penalties and play a more mistake free game. Once that happens I think our drives will come. We can't keep going 3rd and 25 with 10-15 yards having been in penalties."
For Canton playing night games this year is bringing out bigger crowds every week.
"It's community wide, we have had more people the last two games at home than we've had in years," Perry said. "It's nice to see the community getting behind the ball team. The kids are feeling it to. We preach to the kids be patient. Once we get home we have a more favorable atmosphere and they are buying into that right now."
Young knows things will be different playing at Canton on a Friday night.
"It's going to be a different atmosphere," Young said. "They got the victory at home last week. We have to go in there and be real solid and take away a little of the momentum they have at home."
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (5-1) AT SAYRE (3-3), 7 P.M.
The Redskins are coming off a loss at Canton and take on a South Williamsport team that is tied atop the NTL small-school standings and are the defending small-school champions.
"The biggest thing is we have to get healthy and we are making simple mistakes in very critical times," Sayre coach Larry Hanafin said. "We just have to understand the urgency of every play. We are fumbling snaps and things of that nature and it's costing us. We are focusing on fundamentals, when you play a team like Canton and make mistakes it won't likely come out in your favor."
For the Redskins some injuries are really making things hard right now.
"It's not easy, it's just part of the situation," Hanafin said. "We are down in the depth chart in a lot of positions and it can be challenging. Everybody is going through it a lot of times. Last year we stayed very healthy throughout the season and had good results. Injuries are a part of the game and you just have to work through it. Guys need to step up and you have to coach them up to play the best you can."
South running back Dominick Bragalone ran for 421 yards last week and has over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in six games this year.
"We watched film on them and it's tough," Hanafin said. "They are very good at what they do. They have real good personnel. Our biggest thing is, we have to meet them at the point of attack. If they play the game on our side of the line of scrimmage it is going to be tough. We have to disrupt things on their side of the line as best we can and go from there.
"Our biggest thing is we have to establish something early. The last couple of weeks it has taken us into the second half to get any kind of chemistry going. That's a big emphasis this week, if we can get first downs then we have the ball and they don't."
GROTON (4-1) AT NOTRE DAME (4-1), 7 P.M.
After a big win over Moravia last week, Notre Dame takes on Groton this week in a matchup that will decide the division champion.
"We are excited about the opportunity to play for a championship, to extend our lead in the division," Notre Dame coach Mike D'Aloisio said. "It's a home game and we are excited about coming home and playing in front of our home crowd.
"Groton is a very good football team. They are tough on both sides of the ball. We feel we have some good offensive weapons, we just have to protect the ball like we've been doing. We have to not commit mental mistakes and then try and slow them down defensively."
D'Aloisio knows that Groton has a lot in common with Moravia.
"I think so, I think they are both very disciplined teams," he said. "You are going to have to out execute them to win. The team that out executes the other team, and commits the fewest turnovers, will win this ball game. It may even come down to an extra point or a two-point conversion. These are two teams that are very close in personnel."
The Crusaders know they have a team capable of playing well this week.
"What I like about this group is they've been pretty resilient right from the beginning of the season," D'Aloisio said. "The close games have helped us. And it should help us coming down the stretch. This group, they seem to answer a score with a score of our own. That keeps teams from gaining a lot of momentum and I like teams that bounce right back. They put it behind them and get back down to business and put a drive together to answer that. Fortunately for us we've been doing that the four games we have played on the field."
WYALUSING (1-5) AT NORTH PENN (4-2), 7 P.M.
While Wyalusing fell to 1-5 last week, coach James Buchman thought it was a good effort against a strong Pius X team.
"We ran into a juggernaut on Friday against Pius X," Buchman said. "They are very well coached and they have extremely good athletes. Even though it was 41-21, I took a moral victory from that one. I saw our team grow, it's something we can use as a building block."
After seeing what happened between Pius and Towanda the week before the Rams know that they can be happy with their effort last week.
"We know what the score was for Towanda," Buchman said. "Pius pretty much shut them down in every phase of the game. I thought we ran the ball better against Pius than Towanda did. Our kids are proud of that because Towanda's a very good football team."
North Penn coach Tom Dickinson knows that the Rams will be a tough test and knows the records don't mean anything.
"They beat us last year, and right there answers it," Dickinson said. "They hadn't had a win going into that game and we cannot allow that to happen this year."
The Rams know their running game will continue to be a key this year.
"It has been good, we have to complement it with the passing game as well," Buchman said. "With the young offensive line we have, with a sophomore tailback and Dylan Otis is just a junior, I'm happy with the way this group is growing."
Dickinson knows how big of a key it will be to stop that run game.
"We've got to put extra people in the box and look to shut them down," he said. "They beat us with the pass, they beat us with the pass. We have to focus on them (the running backs) and try and keep them contained."
North Penn wants to try and get a lot of people involved on offense.
"Each week it's getting a little bit better," Dickinson said. "I felt like (QB) Bo Burleigh did a great job spreading the ball all over. When he spreads it around they can't zero in on one person.
"That's our plan (to spread the ball), they try to play a 5-3 and (if we do) they are going to have to change something up a little bit. What we are hoping to do is make them do things that are out of their normal and chase us a round."
The Rams know that they need to play physical against North Penn.
"I think they are a tough team," Buchman said. "I think we have to play tough to beat them. I think if you play physical against them you can win. I think if we play physical we can win. They have a good group of receivers. They have a good quarterback and a very good running back (Bryce Zaparzynski) who I think leads the league in rushing.
"One thing I preach is we want to be bigger, stronger and faster than every team we play. I think as the year goes on you will see a more physical Wyalusing team."
While every game matters for North Penn as they try and make the postseason, they don't want to look to far ahead.
"People keep saying where we are, but we just take it one game at a time," Dickinson said. "Cowanesque last week, Wyalusing this week. Whatever happens with the playoffs happens. We've been taking this attitude, one game at a time. We prepare for our next opponent and we will continue to do that."
MONTGOMERY (1-5) AT WELLSBORO (6-0), 7 P.M.
For Wellsboro there is a lot of confidence coming off a win over Athens last week, the first time they beat the Wildcats in over a decade.
"They are very upbeat, it's the first time we beat them since 2001," Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrandt said. "It was definitely an emotional win, a good program win."
The Green Hornets just want to keep things going in the right direction with a month left in the regular season.
"We want to try and keep everybody healthy going into the second part of the season," Hildebrandt said. "I think the kids are playing well on both sides of the ball. Special teams, we had issues with that going into Athens and we'll continue to work on that this week."
While Mike Pietropola is having a record-breaking season throwing the ball, the Green Hornets know they can run it when they need to.
"We are a pass first team, but if we need to run the ball we can," Hildebrandt said. "Montgomery puts a lot of guys in the box, so it comes down to what they give us."
While the offense is putting up big numbers this year, Hildebrandt knows that the defense has been a big key.
"Our defense, they take all the pressure off the offense," Hildebrandt said. "They've been lights out, people haven't been able to move the ball on them. The defense gets the ball right back for us, everybody has stepped up on defense. It's not just the secondary, or the linebackers. It's a total team effort week to week."
BUCKTAIL (2-3) AT CV (1-5), 7 P.M.
The Indians have lost five straight and look to get back on track this week as they host their Homecoming game.
Cowanesque Valley's win this year came in week one when they shut out Montgomery, a team that defeated Bucktail last week.
"Our team is excited about this week's homecoming game," Interim Cowanesque Valley coach Kevin Wilson said. "Bucktail games have traditionally been physical and our team is looking forward to it."
TIOGA (5-0) AT HARPURSVILLE (5-0), 1 P.M.
The Tigers know that the next two weeks against Harpursville and Sidney will go a long way toward determining postseason seeding this year.
"I think the next two weeks we are going up against the other two best teams in our division and we will have an idea of where we are not only in the division, but as a team," Tioga coach Nick Aiello said.
Aiello knows that they will face a tough opponent in Harpursville, a team that beat Waverly in week two.
"I think they have all the pieces to their offense," Aiello said. "And, defensively they bring a lot of pressure up front and they like to fly to the football."
For the Tigers this is a game they have been looking forward to and they know the winners are in the driver's seat toward a home playoff game.
"These are the games the kids really get fired up for," Aiello said. "The focus is there and the kids know that they are going against some good competition this week. We are really looking to show what we are made of.
"Right now our goal is to make the playoffs and after that it would be nice to have one of those top seeds to have a home playoff game."
Aiello also knows that the Tigers could see Harpursville or Sidney in the postseason and it is important to play against them now.
"We talked about that to," Aiello said. "There is a good chance we are going to see one of these two teams at least twice this year so it's definitely nice going into these games feeling confident, but also being focused."
For Aiello it's always fun to be a part of a big game.
"That's just good high school football," he said. "It's always great to play in front of a big crowd. It brings out the emotions in the game."
WAVERLY (4-1) AT CHENANGO VALLEY (3-2), 1 P.M.
After a win over Trumansburg last week the Wolverines are feeling confident going into this week.
"It was a good win," Waverly coach Jason Miller said. "I thought for a majority of the game we played very well. It was a division win, so that is important. I think we are gaining confidence every week and are trying to improve."
The Wolverines know that they face a tough test in Chenango Valley this week.
"It's a real tough one, they have been in the last three Class B Championships and won two out of three," Miller said. "They struggled in the early part of the season, but have been on a roll the past three games. It's a tough matchup for us. They are big up front and they present a lot of matchup problem. They simply have a very efficient offense. It's a great week for us to work really hard to improve, so we look at a week like this being a non-divisional game as a blessing. Heading into the last part of our season the last two games are very big divisional games, so a week like this and preparing for a team like Chenango Valley is going to make you better. You don't look to much about winning or losing this game, obviously you want to win and play well, but a game like this is going to make you better."
Miller knows that this week will be an exciting game for the Wolverines.
"I like the atmosphere up there, it's going to be a beautiful afternoon," Miller said. "We tend to play well up there, we don't tend to play well against them on our home field. They are a good football team. It's a great opportunity for us to play a really good team. We had three relatively easy games in a row and it's nice to get a good game."
For the Wolverines this week is back to playing a Saturday game after a week of playing on Friday.
"When we have a long week like this week we can focus on technique and have some drills in the early part of the week and get back to game planning on Wednesday and Thursday and tie it all together on Friday.
"It's a blessing to have the extra day to prepare. If we had a short week, it would be stressful. It is stressful enough as it is."