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.”
Greater Johnstown at Bedford
Bedford has outscored its past two opponents a combined 103-10.
Kody Blevins had a big role in last week’s 54-10 win at Westmont. Blevins returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half, a potential 14-point swing that put the Bisons on the winning track.
Blevins also had a long rushing touchdown and a pass reception for a score for the 4-1 Bisons.
“He certainly ran the ball extremely well and obviously with the interception as well,” Steele said. “He’s building confidence and coming into his own. We have several ballcarriers that we feel are doing a nice job for us so it’s not like defenses can key on one player.”
Johnstown has dropped two straight to slip to 2-3. Last week the Trojans couldn’t handle Somerset’s running game in the second half, and Johnstown was hurt by 18 penalties for more than 140 yards.
Trojans sophomore quarterback Jeremy Updyke has completed 41 of 82 passes for 559 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. He threw for 227 yards against Somerset.
Johnstown has scored only two touchdowns in the past two weeks after scoring seven TDs at Westmont in a Week 3 victory.
“Success breeds success and we’re happy to be 4-1,” Steele said. “We take it one week at a time. Certainly Johnstown presents a lot of challenges.”
Penn Cambria at Cambria Heights
Heights (1-4) has lost three straight since its dramatic 36-35 win over Westmont in Week 2. During the losing streak, the Highlanders have scored only one touchdown and 10 points. Last week Forest Hills blanked Heights 42-0.
Penn Cambria (0-5) is winless, including shutout losses the past two weeks against Bishop Guilfoyle (36-0) and Bishop Carroll (21-0).
Opponents have outscored the Panthers 121-22.
Central Cambria at Forest Hills
The Red Devils have won four straight since a season-opening loss at now undefeated Somerset, including three straight hard-fought, close victories over Bishop Carroll (17-7), Cambria Heights (10-7) and Penn Cambria (16-13).
Central Cambria has rushed for 922 yards, with three different runners gaining at least 200 yards. Junior quarterback Will Seymour has 273 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, despite being slowed by a nagging injury last week. He’s passed for 429 yards and a pair of scores.
Forest Hills has won the past six meetings of the teams, including two playoff games, and the Rangers are 19-2 against the Devils since 1996. Central Cambria posted wins in 2007 and 2008.
The Rangers (3-2) beat Cambria Heights 42-0 last week, but were routed 40-14 at Bishop Guilfoyle two weeks ago.
Quarterback Joe Donoughe has passed for 776 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s rushed for 313 yards and seven scores.
Conemaugh Township at Windber
Windber’s lineup will be intact as the Ramblers try to rebound from a loss at Ligonier Valley while renewing a Somerset County border rivalry against Conemaugh Township.
Last week the Ramblers dealt with injuries to quarterback Devon Tomlinson, running back Dustin Blough and back Dan Tomlinson.
“We’re going to be at 100 percent. A couple of guys we’ll keep an eye on early and see how they’re doing,” Windber coach Matt Grohal, whose 3-2 team fell 33-26 at undefeated Ligonier. “They progressed well through the week. They’re banged up but we’ll have everybody.”
Devon Tomlinson has passed for 641 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 146. Blough and Dan Tomlinson have combined for 543 rushing yards.
Ramblers receiver Matt Barkley leads the area with 27 catches, 501 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’re probably six turnovers away from being 5-0,” Grohal said. “Even in a loss, we got better against Ligonier. We’ve played a killer schedule up to this point. If we can protect the ball and play mistake-free football, we’re a good football team. The two times we lost, we turned the ball over seven times. You’re not going to beat good football teams if you turn the ball over at that rate.”
Township (1-4) beat Blacklick Valley 40-6 last week.
Quarterback Bruno Rosa has been back the past two weeks after an injury, and he’s passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Myers leads the Indians with 311 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Formica has 11 catches for 189 yards and two scores.
“This is a fun week around here and I’m sure it is in Windber too,” Township coach Sam Zambanini said. “You can throw out the records. Our guys play harder when it’s a rivalry game, especially when it’s Windber.”
Windber won last year’s meeting 19-6, but Township had won the previous five games in the series, including twice in District 5 competition.
Portage at Blacklick Valley
Portage (3-1) had an open date because the Mustangs originally were to play Rockwood last week.
Blacklick is winless in four games and coming off a one-sided loss to Township.
Portage has 1,141 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, an average of 285.3 yards per game and 8.8 per run. Both Luke Dividock (415) and Cody Kephart (416) have more than 400 rushing yards. Michael Bryja has passed for 362 yards and five touchdowns.
Blacklick has lost nine fumbles in four games. The Vikings are led by senior Garrett Smith’s 265 rushing yards and 124 receiving yards.
Conemaugh Valley at Meyersdale
Meyersdale (4-1) picked up a forfeit win over Ferndale last week. The Red Raiders fell to Portage 43-28 during their most recent on-field action.
Meyersdale’s ground game has produced 1,049 yards and 18 touchdowns, with Gavin Berkley gaining 450 yards and scoring eight times.
Conemaugh Valley (1-4) lost to Shade in the Jays’ first night home game. Sophomore Brandon Galasso has 104 carries for 407 yards and a touchdown. Junior Anthony Hutzell has 262 rushing yards and a touchdown.
North Star at Shade
Thomas Miller is among the area leaders with 730 rushing yards and eight touchdowns for the 3-2 Cougars. As a team, North Star has 1,053 rushing yards, an average of 210.6 a game.
The Cougars fell 26-12 at undefeated Berlin last week, snapping a three-game winning streak.
Shade (3-2) has two straight shutouts, 32-0 at Conemaugh Valley and 26-0 over Ferndale in a game halted at halftime.
The Panthers have 1,113 rushing yards, an average of 222.6 a game, with four runners gaining 230 or more yards.
Homer-Center at United
Undefeated Homer-Center travels to winless United.
The Lions had their best showing last week in a 14-13 loss to Saltsburg. United had allowed 103 points in the two previous games.
Homer-Center pounded Purchase Line 37-14 last week. The Wildcats haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game.
Ligonier Valley at Saltsburg
Ligonier (5-0) held off a non-conference challenge from Windber last week, 33-26. The Rams have used a balanced ground game to produce 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns. Collin Smith (262), Dereck Croyle (271) and quarterback Scott Fennell (298) each have run for more than 260 yards. Fennell has passed for 622 yards and six touchdowns to go with his six rushing scores.
Saltsburg (1-4) notched its first win last week at United. The Trojans have stayed close to Marion Center (21-18) and remained within two touchdowns against North Star (28-14) and Penns Manor (28-12).
Berlin Brothersvalley at Northern Cambria
Berlin has rushed for 1,480 yards, nearly 300 a game, and possess the area’s leading runner in sophomore Braden Fochtman (1,042 yards). The ground game has been anchored by a relatively young and inexperienced line that has progressed throughout the season.
“We graduated four starting offensive linemen from last year,” said Berlin coach Doug Paul, whose team is the defending 5-A champion. “(Senior) Stew Trulick is the only returning starting offensive lineman from last year. We have two senior starters, one who was a back-up tight end, who moved to center, Jake Snyder. Shane Pepper is a junior. Kody Martin is a junior. We have Dante Paul, a sophomore, starting on the offensive line at guard. Our tight end Luke Sprowls is a senior and a returning starter.
“We shuffled some kids around a little bit,” he added.
Northern Cambria (2-3) is coming off a 26-7 victory at Purchase Line.
The Colts lost a close game at Blairsville (24-19) and routed United (53-7) the previous two weeks.
Dartagnan Suchar has a team-high 360 rushing yards and seven touchdowns for the Colts. Nolan Paronish has 318 rushing yards.
St. Joseph’s at Chestnut Ridge
Chestnut Ridge (3-2) has won two straight and three of the past four.
The Lions are led by junior Matt Wiley’s 482 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 77 carries, 6.3 per run. Senior Beau Bosch has 269 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he’s passed for 111 yards and one score.
Ridge won at Philipsburg-Osceola (24-7) last week and had an impressive win over a highly-regarded Bald Eagle Area squad (23-10) in Week 4.
St. Joseph’s Academy (2-3) of Boalsburg had an 18-man roster listed on MaxPreps. Wolves junior quarterback Phillip Fenstermacker completed 46 of 84 passes for 620 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.
Junior back Kashim Buey rushed for 470 yards and five scores. Junior Mike Jabco has 21 catches for 335 yards and three scores, while Buey had 14 receptions for 191 yards and two TDs.