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High School Sports

October 3, 2013

Unbeatens Somerset, Richland to clash in LHAC

— Somerset has allowed only 43 points through five weeks this season, a paltry 8.6 points a game.

Last week, Richland put up 70 points against Bishop McCort. The Rams haven’t scored fewer than 43 points this season and average 52.4 points per week.

Those numbers represent just one intriguing trend entering tonight’s meeting of undefeated LHAC teams at Herlinger Field.

“Obviously it’s a big task in front of us,” said Somerset coach Bob Landis, whose defense contained a traditionally potent Johnstown offense last week, using a combination of team speed and physicality to win 28-7. “Richland is ranked third in the state for a reason. They’re a very good football team. Offensively and defensively they’re a senior heavy team and they have a ton of big-game experience.”

While the Rams’ offense is exceptional with area leading passer Matt Shaffer at quarterback, one of the region’s top backs in Tanner Solarczyk and a big-play receiver in Kyle Flick, Richland’s defense is among the best too.

Richland has given up 52 points, or 10.4 a game.

“We’ve had extremely high expectations,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “Our kids are grounded in the fact that our expectation is that every play we go out and perform at a high level. Our goal on offense is to score  a touchdown. Our goal on defense is to make the other team punt it.”

The plan has worked almost flawlessly through five weeks.

“Offensively they do a lot of things well,” Landis said. “If you commit guys to cover the passing game they hurt you with their run game. If you commit guys to the run game they hurt you with the passing attack. They’re very balanced. Coach Bailey has done a fantastic job with them. It’s one of those deals where you need to be prepared to cover every inch of the field.”

Somerset’s offense lost veteran quarterback Tanner Stull to injury, but sophomore Dylan Barnes didn’t miss a step in his two starts.

Last week at Johnstown, the Golden Eagles were held in check during the first half, but had success when bruising back Matt Boyer was featured in the second half. Once Boyer got going, it opened up the field for Barnes, who also had a big game on the ground.

Barnes has 201 rushing yards on 27 carries, a 7.4 average. Senior Boyer has 247 yards on 25 attempts, 9.9 a run. Stull had gained 315 rushing yards before his injury, and the Eagles have 985 rushing yards as a team. Barnes is 8 of 16 passing for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’ve known about Dylan Barnes since he was in second grade,” said Bailey, whose son Karsen and Barnes competed in various youth sports leagues years ago.

 “He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s very smooth, very confident. It’s a luxury for them to have such a quality backup as Dylan Barnes.

“My son is in the same grade. I would watch him play basketball in the Windber Rec league and East Hills. (Years ago) He was doing things that a lot of kids in the sixth grade can’t do. It causes a problem. The Boyer kid is a big tough kid. You’ve got to respect that and keep people in the box. That means you put your defenders on an island in the secondary.”

Shaffer has thrown for 1,096 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions, and Flick hauled in 22 passes for 489 yards and seven scores. Solarczyk has 611 rushing yards on 66 carries, a 9.3 average.

According to Bailey, with 58 career touchdown passes, Shaffer is only six TD passes away from the District 6 record shared by his coach (Bailey had 64 touchdown passes at Forest Hills), Tyrone’s Steve Franco and Forest Hills’ Travis Rearick. Flick is nearing district all-time marks in receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns.

“This is a huge game for our program with the development of the program,” Landis said. “We’re playing the No. 3 team in the state for the lead in the LHAC. As far as a regular season game, this is the biggest game we’ve had at Somerset in a while.

“I think the attitude is that we have an opportunity in front of us,” Landis added. “We’ve talked all week about taking advantage of the opportunity in front of us. It’s going to be a great atmosphere up there.”

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