First-year Blairsville head coach Rick Artley was part of the Bobcats’ staff last year entering a marquee game with Heritage Conference heavyweight Ligonier Valley.
Ligonier posted a one-sided victory during that meeting of unbeaten teams.
Artley believes the Bobcats learned from that experience and will be better equipped to face the Rams in yet another clash of 2-0 teams tonight at Blairsville.
“We knew last year we didn’t match up with them when we were both 2-0 going into it last year,” Artley said. “I think we match up a little better watching the film from last year. I hope mentally they believe they can play with them. I know last year we just couldn’t compete with them. We got blown out last year.”
Ligonier coach Roger Beitel is concerned by Blairsville’s one-two punch of playmakers in quarterback Scott Thompson and running back Deion Robinson.
“Our main concern right now is realistically that we have to try to contain them. Robinson’s speed, he’s a game-changer,” Beitel said. “You watch him on field and see a kid who can score from anywhere on the field. Last spring he won the Heritage Conference in the 100 and 200 (meter dash in track). He burned (Penns Manor’s Danny) Ferens, and we know Ferens is a great athlete.”
Robinson has 51 carries for 274 yards and four touchdowns. He averages 137 yards a game and 5.4 per carry.
Thompson stepped up when Purchase Line’s defense focused on Robinson, holding him to 82 yards in Blairsville’s 34-26 win last week. The quarterback overcame several miscues to complete 14 of 21 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another score. Through two weeks he’s passed for 316 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
“Scotty Thompson is a big quarterback, 200 pounds,” Beitel said. “He runs the ball and throws the ball effectively. They have a two-headed monster we have to prepare for. I don’t know if you can stop them. We have to limit what they do.”
Ligonier has more than a few playmakers. Senior tight end Alec Bloom is a 6-foot-7 Division I recruit who verbally committed to UConn. Bloom leads the area with 203 receiving yards on 12 receptions. Last week he had nine catches for 138 yards, nearly all in the first half of a win against United.
Freshman Collin Smith rushed for 107 yards in his first varsity start. He had runs of 40 and 35 yards among his 10 carries.
“He’s a freshman but you get some of these kids who are freshmen who can contribute right away,” Artley said.
“He was able to get to the outside and make a couple real nice long runs. He also does a lot on defense as a strong safety. He’s a good athlete.”
Quarterback Scott Fennell is 19 of 31 for 288 passing yards as the steady leader of the offense.
“He’s doing what I think quarterbacks should do, and that is doing whatever it takes to help the team win whether that means throwing the ball or running the ball,” Beitel said of his signal caller.
Artley noticed Ligonier’s ability to play takeaway.
“I think they’re plus-8 on the turnover battle in the first two weeks where we have turned it over six times,” Artley said. “We have to take care of the football.”
United at Northern Cambria
The Lions and Colts each are winless heading into this Heritage Conference game.
Northern Cambria dropped a close opener at Penns Manor (21-20) and fell to visiting Homer-Center (34-13). Senior Dartagnan Suchar is 6 of 18 for 68 passing yards, and he’s carried 33 times for 156 rushing yards. Senior Nolan Paronish leads the Colts with 171 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Opponents have outscored United 73-10. The Lions fell to Bishop Canevin (31-3) and Ligonier (42-7).
Bedford at Richland
Richland has won six straight in this series, with Bedford’s most recent victory coming in 2004.
The Rams and Bisons each are 2-0, which puts Herlinger Field into the conference spotlight tonight.
Richland quarterback Matt Shaffer is the area’s top passer with 374 passing yards, and the Rams have a group of impact players such as back Tanner Solarczyk, receiver Kyle Flick and defensive back Nico Pecora to go with an experienced line and often stifling defense.
Bedford sophomore Austin Montgomery has passed for 109 yards and a touchdown, and has rushed for 144 yards and another score. Bedford averages 234.5 rushing yards a game through two weeks.
The Bisons defense has allowed only 10 points in a Week 1 win over Bishop Guilfoyle (13-10). Last week, Bedford beat Penn Cambria (20-2) with the Panthers score resulting from a safety.
Bishop Carroll at Forest Hills
Forest Hills is unbeaten after winning hard-fought games at Westmont and against Bishop McCort. Rangers quarterback Joe Donoughe has been a catalyst, passing for 340 yards (22 of 42) and rushing for 166 yards on 26 attempts. Shareef Blough has eight catches for 139 yards, and Dustin Ohler has seven receptions for 136 yards. Blough has two interceptions.
Bishop Carroll will try to rebound after a close loss to Somerset (24-13). The Huskies opened with a win over Bishop McCort (13-3) in a defensive battle. Tyler Janosik fronts the Huskies with 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Janosik has 24 tackles, an average of 12 a game.
Somerset at Bishop McCort
McCort scored its first touchdown of the season late in the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game at Forest Hills. But the Rangers rallied to score in the final minute to win in Sidman.
Still, after the close setback, the Crushers appeared to regain some of their swagger. Sophomore quarterback Blake Wade efficiently led the offense, and junior running back Marc Smith ran for more than 100 yards and scored the team’s lone touchdown. Punter Braden Junker twice pinned the Rangers inside their own 5-yard line, leading to a pair of momentum-swaying, fourth-quarter safeties.
Undefeated Somerset has one of the conference’s top quarterbacks, senior Tanner Stull, who has completed 18 of 31 passes for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also rushing 29 times for 195 yards and two scores. Stull averages 6.7 yards a run. Raven Beeman caught five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Bishop Guilfoyle at Cambria Heights
Bishop Guilfoyle has had difficulty scoring points through two winless weeks. The Marauders tallied 10 against Bedford (13-10 loss) and 14 against Richland (43-14 loss).
Damon Rickens has completed 14 of 34 passes for 132 yards and four interceptions. The Marauders have used seven different ball carries to rush for 267 yards on 72 attempts, a 133.5 average per game and 3.7 per run.
Heights dropped its opener at Richland (48-7) but bounced back with a dramatic one-point victory over visiting Westmont Hilltop (36-35). Highlanders senior Josh Fees has a team-high 190 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Dennis Link has 98 yards on 23 carries.
Central Cambria at Penn Cambria
Central Cambria raced to a four-touchdown advantage early and stunned visiting Greater Johnstown last week. The Red Devils look to carry momentum into winless Penn Cambria.
Red Devil Scott Bauer ranks fifth in the area with 206 rushing yards. Junior Will Seymour completed 10 of 19 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, and the quarterback has rushed for 119 yards. Sophomore Kerry Kirsch ran for 121 yards in two games.
Penn Cambria has been held to a touchdown or less in two losses. Quarterback Chad Tsikalas has completed 13 of 28 passes for 152 yards and three interceptions. Michael Kost carried seven times for a team-high 71 yards, and Tyler Strasser had a team-high 19 carries for 66 yards.
Meyersdale at Conemaugh Township
Meyersdale is rolling through two weeks, and winless Township will miss its injured starting quarterback in this WestPAC contest in Davidsville.
Unbeaten Meyersdale beat visiting Windber last week. The Red Raiders offense is a run-first unit, with Meyersdale collecting 559 rushing yards, an average of 279.5 a game and 7.3 per run. The Raiders have completed only one pass for 14 yards. Gavin Berkey has 41 carries for 248 yards and six touchdowns. His 36 points are the most in the area.
Township coach Sam Zambanini said veteran quarterback Bruno Rosa will be out with an arm injury.
“He’s on the shelf this week. We’re going to mix it up a little bit,” Zambanini said. “(Junior Luke) Maurer played some jayvee (quarterback) last year and is one of our receivers. Our jayvee quarterback is a freshman, Jeff Tresnicky.
“I made the analogy at practice and said, ‘We’re down one guy. It could be worse. The Steelers are down three starters.’”
Shade at Portage
Portage will try to rebound after a 28-14 loss at Berlin in a much-hyped WestPAC match up.
The Mustangs had been labeled frontrunners in the conference but couldn’t stop a powerhouse Berlin squad. Luke Dividock leads Portage with 197 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Michael Bryja has passed for 150 yards.
Shade is 1-1 after a 28-14 victory over Conemaugh Township. The Panthers’ Nash Walker completed 6 of 11 passes for 140 yards, and he’s rushed 22 times for 184 yards and three scores. Tyler Kline has 117 yards on 27 carries.
Portage has won 10 straight in the series, with Shade’s most recent win over the Mustangs in 1998 (21-8).
Blacklick Valley at Purchase Line
Blacklick Valley had a bye last week after its scheduled opponent Rockwood dropped its football program prior to Week 1.
The Vikings dropped their opener 42-3 to Meyersdale. Blacklick gained only 39 rushing yards and 75 passing yards in the setback.
Purchase Line hung tough with undefeated Blairsville last week before falling 34-26.
Grant Syster ran for 277 yards to help the Dragons bounce back from a 20-0 deficit to close within 20-12.
Brentwood at Windber
Brentwood (1-1) replaces Rockwood on the Ramblers’ schedule, and in turn, Windber replaces Imani Christian on the Spartans’ schedule as each program was left scrambling to fill a Week 3 date.
The Spartans beat Serra Catholic in Week 1 and played strong against Monessen until the Greyhounds pulled away. Brentwood senior back Justin Vickless rushed for 1,521 yards last season but suffered a knee injury early in camp and has been limited during the first two games while wearing a brace. Reports in the Pittsburgh media said Vickless is expected to play tonight.
“They’re big and physical. They have great skill guys,” Windber coach Matt Grohal said. “We like where we’re at heading into Week 3 even with a loss last week. We played well for three quarters.”
Ramblers quarterback Devon Tomlinson is among the area leaders with 360 passing yards, and receivers Dan Tomlinson (12 catches, 168 yards) and Matt Barkley (12-155) are near the top of the statistics.
“It’s senior night, and we certainly didn’t want a bye week,” Grohal said of replacing Rockwood with a WPIAL opponent. “Despite anything that happens this week, we’re going to get better by playing that type of opponent. They were picked second in their conference behind Clairton. It isn’t very often you get to play a WPIAL School and our kids are excited for the opportunity Friday night.”
Berks Catholic at Chestnut Ridge
Berks Catholic won its first two games by a combined 83-13 score against Pope John Paul II and Twin Valley.
The Reading-area team has 480 rushing yards and 231 passing yards in two games. Nine backs have had positive rushing yards, led by Cooper Kutz (9-118) and Marcus Wilson (9-105).
Ridge traveled to Pittsburgh to beat Carrick 23-13 in Week 2. The Lions are 1-1. Matt Wiley led Ridge with 101 rushing yards on 20 carries last week. Quarterback Beau Bosch ran for two touchdowns and threw for another against Carrick.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.