A few more signs saying “You’ve entered Golden Eagles Territory” align the streets of Somerset these days. There are a couple more people wearing Somerset football T-shirts at the grocery store.
Funny what a couple of decisive victories can do for a program and a community seeking to move past a couple decades of mostly losing seasons.
“It’s getting to the point around town where my coaches are out running around and people are coming up to ask about Friday night,” second-year coach Bob Landis said. “It’s encouraging for the kids to see the community backing them. There’s actual interest in what’s going on Friday nights.”
For an athletic program known for baseball success and the occasional run in basketball, Somerset is seeing first-hand what a promising football season can provide.
And the Golden Eagles (2-0) are only two weeks into the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference schedule. That said, the 2-0 start is the program’s best since 2004.
“These kids have been working on this since January. They want to play with the conference elite,” Landis said. “They want to show they can beat a quality opponent and play with the upper-tier teams.”
Somerset gets that chance tonight when it hosts Bishop McCort (2-0) at 7 p.m.
It’s the biggest game played at Somerset in years.
“We anticipate a pretty hostile atmosphere and an excited atmosphere at Somerset,” Bishop McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. “We know Somerset is excited about being 2-0 and they’ve played very well. They’re a very formidable opponent.”
The Golden Eagles just aren’t an opponent that’s ever beaten the Crushers.
In 20 tries dating back to 1983, Bishop McCort owns a 20-0 advantage in the series. The Crushers have outscored the Golden Eagles, 716-185.
“As a program, if we’re able to beat a team with that kind of tradition, to beat a quality opponent like that, it would give us some confidence,” Landis said.
For Somerset to reach a 3-0 record, which would match the Golden Eagles’ number of wins during the previous two seasons combined, it will take a strong offensive effort against an opportunistic Bishop McCort defense.
The Crimson Crushers have forced six turnovers, including four during last week’s 10-6 victory over Forest Hills.
“The defense is the strongest point of our team right now,” Sheridan said. “It starts with the defensive line. They are the anchor of our team.”
Senior defensive tackle Gap Barbin is of particular concern for a Somerset offense led by quarterback Tanner Stull, who has 296 passing yards and 173 rushing yards.
“This is a quality Bishop McCort team. There’s a reason they’ve beaten Somerset every year we’ve played,” Landis said. “The Barbin kid is one of the best defensive linemen in the conference. That’s a stout defense.”
Somerset’s defense has performed surprisingly well considering only one starter returned from the previous season.
Sophomores Michael VanLenten, Bryce Mostoller, Logan Eller and Jordan Beistel made significant contributions in a shutout victory over Central Cambria to open the season and a win last week against Bishop Carroll.
The Golden Eagles have allowed 14 points through two games.
“This early in the season, it is a tremendously big game,” Sheridan said.
Cambria Heights at Bishop Guilfoyle: Normally, Bishop Guilfoyle plays home games on Saturdays, but this LHAC game between teams with 1-1 records takes place tonight at Mansion Park in Altoona.
Cambria Heights played Monday at Westmont, and a short week of preparation for a conference road game is less than desirable.
The Highlanders rushed for more than 300 yards against Westmont with Tyler Crawford and Nathan Bearer rushing for two touchdowns apiece.
After a resounding win against Bedford to open the season, Bishop Guilfoyle had its defense torched by Richland in Week 2. Brandon Chabourne has rushed for 205 yards and passed for 227.
Richland at Bedford: The Rams (2-0) are averaging 36.5 points per game and face a Bisons defense that showed improvement last week against Penn Cambria, but is still allowing 37 points per game.
Richland is spreading the wealth offensively, though receiver Kyle Flick has continually made plays. He leads local receivers with 16 receptions and 277 yards. Bedford (0-2) has 337 total yards this season.
Penn Cambria at Central Cambria: The lone local team to earn mention on the Patriot-News state football rankings, Class AA honorable mention Penn Cambria (2-0) has allowed one touchdown and defensive standouts Mack Behe and Devin Lawhead are off to strong starts.
No Panthers player has more than 16 rushing attempts.
Central Cambria (0-2) scored its first offensive touchdown of the season during the third quarter of last week’s loss at Greater Johnstown on Will Seymour’s two yard run. The Red Devils have been outscored, 45-6, so far.
Westmont Hilltop at Greater Johnstown: This LHAC game is, arguably, the most talked about high school game in Pennsylvania this week for all the right reasons, if you’re a fan of the Tom Cruise-driven 1983 hit, “All The Right Moves.”
To honor the movie, Westmont (0-2) will wear Walnut Heights replica uniforms and Johnstown (1-1) will sport the black-and-gold of Ampipe.
No word on if any Hilltoppers or Trojans have said to head coaches Pat Barron (Westmont) or Tony Penna Jr. (Johnstown) “You’re just a typing teacher” during preparation.
Forest Hills at Bishop Carroll: Forest Hills (1-1) reeled off 332 yards of offense last week at Bishop McCort, but it came away with a 10-6 loss. Shawn Dell has rushed for 255 yards on 19 carries, and quarterback Joe Donoughe leads all local passers with 350 yards.
Bishop Carroll (0-2) has played competitive football in losses to a pair of unbeatens – Bishop McCort and Somerset. The Huskies have not rushed the football effectively, but quarterback David Maruca has passed for 346 yards.
Ferndale at Berlin: Ferndale (0-1) officially opened its season with a 30-0 loss to North Star on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets’ opener at Conemaugh Valley was suspended in the third quarter and will be completed Tuesday.
Berlin (2-0) made an impressive statement with last week’s 20-7 victory at Portage.
The Mountaineers ran 56 offensive plays, 52 of those were runs as Drew Glotfelty ran 33 times for 221 yards. Berlin has outscored opponents, 61-13.
Conemaugh Township at Meyersdale: A youthful roster has lead to early-season struggles for Conemaugh Township (0-2), which dropped its home opener to Shade last week. The Indians are averaging 3.3 yards per carry and have committed six turnovers.
Meyersdale (0-2) has taken its lumps on defense in losses to Blacklick Valley and Windber.
The Red Raiders have allowed 91 points, and yielded nearly 500 yards to Windber.
Conemaugh Valley at North Star: Conemaugh Valley (0-1), with three freshmen starters, hung with Penns Manor for one quarter of last week’s non-conference game before losing, 53-6. The Blue Jays will complete its suspended game against Ferndale, which they lead 40-18, on Tuesday.
North Star (1-1) defeated Ferndale, 30-0, in sophomore quarterback Joey Berkebile’s first start. Brantley rice, who was suspended for the Ferndale game because of his ejection in the season opener, returns to the lineup.
Portage at Shade: In what promises to be a low-scoring game, Portage (1-1) and Shade (1-1) are two of the better defenses in the WestPAC. The Mustangs are led by senior linebacker Cody Kephart, who leads local players with 38 tackles.
The Panthers are coming off one of their bigger wins in recent years at Conemaugh Township. Brock Medva (334 rushing yards, 27 tackles) has done a little of everything for Shade.
Blairsville at Ligonier Valley: First place in the Heritage Conference goes to the winners of these two unbeatens.
Blairsville (2-0) is led by quarterback Scott Thompson, who has rushed for three touchdowns and thrown for four. He’ll challenge a Mounties defense that has yet to allow a point.
Senior tailback Ryan Torrance has scored six touchdowns for Ligonier Valley (2-0), including scores on four consecutive possessions against United.
Northern Cambria at United: Northern Cambria (1-1) followed its surprising season-opening win over Penns Manor with an equally surprising loss at Homer-Center. The Colts actually outgained Homer-Center, 238-233.
United (2-0) has been outscored 94-7, including last week’s loss at Ligonier Valley.
Chestnut Ridge at Berks Catholic: Well-traveled Chestnut Ridge (1-1) takes its second long road trip of the season, this one an estimated 162 miles to Berks Catholic (District 3), which is located in Reading. The Lions lost their first road game at Central. Berks Catholic (2-0) has scored 89 points.
Purchase Line at Blacklick Valley: Led by Johnny Sheesley’s six touchdowns and 410 rushing yards, Blacklick Valley
(2-0) is off to a strong start. Purchase Line (0-2), a member of the Heritage Conference, has lost to Ligonier Valley and Blairsville.
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