The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

High School Sports

September 20, 2013

Rams, Trojans collide in Week 4 of season

— Tony Penna Jr. and his staff have watched the video tape and read the scouting reports on Richland throughout the week.

The Johnstown High coach saw many similarities to the Rams team that went 14-1 and was a state semifinalist in Class AA last year.

“The first thing is they’re just so good at what they do,” said Penna, whose 2-1 Trojans will host undefeated Richland, the third-ranked team in the PFN state poll. “It’s a product of them playing together for as long as they did, their coaches and their system. As a coach you have to marvel at how efficient they are in every phase of the game, offense, defense and special teams.”

The Trojans lost 42-0 to Richland last season, but Johnstown holds a 10-2 mark in the all-time LHAC series against the Rams.

“Johnstown has a lot of young talent,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “They’re trying to find their identity. They’re certainly one of the more talented teams in the Laurel Highlands. We have to keep those skill kids under wraps. Hopefully that will lead to success.”

Johnstown sophomore quarterback Jeremy Updyke has displayed the poise of a veteran while completing 25 of 53 passes for 332 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Jeremy has made a ton of progress,” Penna said. “He’s a field general. I was impressed how he managed things last week. He can beat you in a multitude of ways. Every snap he gets better and better.”

“He throws the ball well, and he’s an athletic kid,” Bailey added. “It seems like he has good leadership skills. Those are things he will continue to develop and he will become one of the better quarterbacks in the league before he’s done.”

Sophomore running back Terrell Jones has a team-high 240 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns for the Trojans. Senior Jayvon Braxton had four rushing touchdowns in last week’s win at Westmont and had 121 of his 169 season total on the ground against the Hilltoppers.

Receivers Taurean Jones (four catches, 91 yards) and Willie Robinson (5-103, two touchdowns) have had success.

“When you can run the football like that it opens up a lot of doors,” Penna said, referring to Johnstown’s 398 rushing yards in a 47-18 win at Westmont. “The most important thing is we started fast. The week before we dug ourselves a big hole (in a  35-14 loss at Central Cambria).

“We took care of the football (at Westmont). We played solid defense. We limited the mistakes. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to run the football like that.”

Richland senior quarterback Matt Shaffer leads the area with 602 passing yards, completing 37 of 55 attempts. Kyle Flick has 251 yards on 11 receptions, and Nico Pecora has eight catches for 100 yards.

On the ground, senior Tanner Solarczyk has 316 rushing yards on 35 carries, including four touchdowns and 28 points.

“We’re happy with where we’re at right now,” Bailey said. “We knew coming in we were going to be one of the favorites in the area. For the most part we’ve been able to have a lot of success on offense, defense and special teams.”

When asked if his staff instructs the Trojans to ignore the hype surrounding Richland’s success, Penna said, “You can try to tell 15, 16 and 17 year olds to ignore the hype but that’s not realistic. We tell them to embrace it.

“We know who we are and what type of team we can be,” he added. “We told them to enjoy the stage and be excited about the chance to perform. This is why you play high school football, to be in games like this.”

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