The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

HS Sports Greater Johnstown

September 13, 2012

Friday preview: Somerset basking in football success

JOHNSTOWN — 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.

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