BY MIKE MASTOVICH
When Berlin and Meyersdale meet on the football field, the border rivalry traditionally produces a hard-fought game regardless of how the two teams are faring in the standings.
This season, both the undefeated Mountaineers and once-beaten Red Raiders are among the top teams in the WestPAC, which only enhances an already much-anticipated meeting at Meyersdale tonight.
“It’s a rivalry game. Normally you can throw records out the window with this one,” said Berlin coach Doug Paul, whose team is 7-0 and has outscored opponents 286-52. “But this year both teams are having outstanding seasons. It should be an electric atmosphere.”
Meyersdale coach Chris Schrock pointed to both tangible and intangible reasons this will be a big test for his 6-1 squad.
“It’s always a huge rivalry. Our kids are always fired up to play them and their kids are fired up to play us no matter what,” Schrock said. “I’m sure everybody understands the gravity of the situation. It’s more than bragging rights.
“Potentially,” Schrock added, “the winner of this game could be the No. 1 seed (in District 5-A) depending on how things play out in Bedford County. It’s a share of the conference title. It’s homefield advantage and at least a bye week. It’s a lot more than the backyard brawl.”
Berlin has the area’s leading rusher and only 100-point scorer in sophomore back Braden Fochtman, who has 1,252 yards, 16 touchdowns and 102 points on 112 carries. He averages 11.2 yards per carry and 178.9 a game.
“We’re going to have to stop a pretty high-powered offense,” Schrock said. “They have one of the best running backs, if not the best, in the area. The more I watch him on film, the more I’m impressed. But as the weeks have gone on, they’ve become more and more multidimensional. They have a variety of weapons they’re using.”
Berlin senior quarterback EJ Custer has thrown for 456 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Nick Stockwell has 12 receptions for 333 yards and seven touchdowns. A dozen other runners have positive yards to complement Fochtman as the Mountaineers have 2,044 rushing yards as a team, an average of 292 a game, with 30 rushing touchdowns.
“We’ve tried to make it a point that we had to get some other people involved in the offense,” Paul said. “Braden is averaging 10 or 11 yards a carry. Sometimes you fall into that trap and just give him the ball, give him the ball. If you’re going to have success in the playoffs, you have to have other kids involved in the offense.”
Meyersdale has relied on back Gavin Berkley, who ranks sixth in the area with 684 rushing yards on 95 carries. His totals might be better, but the Raiders have only played six games on the field due to a forfeit win over Ferndale.
Meyersdale has gained 1,472 yards on the ground, an average of 210.3 a game, and scored 23 rushing touchdowns.
The Red Raiders’ defense, led by Berkley’s 60 tackles, has helped Meyersdale post a 215-81 scoring advantage over opponents.
“Three big things jump out at me,” Paul said of Meyersdale. “No. 1 is their physical size. They’re big. They’re like a Division III football team. Their offensive line averages 250 pounds. The second thing that jumps out on me is their defense. They’re a really aggressive, get-at-it defense. Their kids fly to the ball and will hit you. The third thing that jumps out is Gavin Berkley. He runs hard. I don’t know if we’ve seen a back like him all year.”
Schrock is counting on Berkley and company to carry a big load.
“Our offense has to stay on the field,” Schrock said. “We need to be able to go on long drives and possess the ball. Keep the ball out of their hands. That might end up being our best defense, a ball-control offense that can eat the clock.”
Conemaugh Valley at Blacklick Valley
Conemaugh Valley (1-5) is coming off a bye in Week 7, which originally had Rockwood on the schedule.
Blacklick (1-5) beat winless Ferndale 44-19 at The Hive.
The Vikings have beaten the Blue Jays seven straight times since Conemaugh Valley’s most recent win in the series, 28-2 in 2005. Blacklick Valley outscored the Jays 211-54 in those seven wins.
Sophomore Brandon Galasso leads the Blue Jays with 467 rushing yards and a touchdown on 123 carries. He gains 3.8 yards per run. Junior Anthony Hutzell has 56 carries for 256 yards and a score, an average of 4.6 a carry.
Blacklick Valley senior Garrett Smith has 81 carries for 348 yards, 4.3 per run, and freshman Isaiah Scott has 288 yards on 60 attempts, a 4.8 average.
Portage at Conemaugh Township
Portage (5-1) has won four straight while scoring 173 points.
The Mustangs mix the run and the pass, with Caleb Kephart’s 830 rushing yards ranking third in the area, and quarterback Michael Bryja’s 567 passing yards ranking ninth. Kephart has 11 touchdowns and 70 points.
Conemaugh Township (1-6) has dropped two straight since winning its first game of the season against Blacklick Valley. Sophomore Austin Meyers has a team-best 413 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 109 carries. Senior Kody Ofsanko averages more than six yards per carry, with 392 yards and six touchdowns on 65 attempts.
Ferndale at Windber
Ferndale (0-6) returned to the field last week after 2 1/2 weeks off. Blacklick beat the Yellow Jackets 44-19, though Ferndale held the lead in the contest.
The Jackets lineup was healthy enough to play after the team had halted a game at Shade at halftime due to injuries and forfeited to Meyersdale. Ferndale had another off day during Week 6 because that was the original date of the Rockwood game prior to the Rockets dropping their program.
Windber (4-3) fell 37-12 at Portage a week after a dramatic 42-35 victory at Conemaugh Township. The Ramblers have rushed for 1,544 yards, an average of 220.6 a game, with Dustin Blough (74-575) and Dan Tomlinson (43-405) leading the ground game. Devon Tomlinson completed 52 of 90 passes for 939 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Central Cambria at Bedford
Central Cambria (5-2) had a five-game winning streak halted against Bishop Guilfoyle last week, 30-6. The Red Devils will have to bounce back against a solid Bedford (5-2) team that has scored 178 points in its last four games, three of those wins prior to last week’s loss to frontrunner Somerset, 35-27.
Central Cambria junior quarterback Will Seymour has completed 61 of 110 passes for 624 yards and three touchdowns, and he’s carried 89 times for 419 yards and nine touchdowns. Tanner Ambrisco has 31 catches for 333 yards and a pair of scores, and on defense he is among area leaders with five interceptions.
Bedford’s Austin Montgomery is a dual threat with 601 passing yards and 345 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Four different Bisons runners have more than 300 rushing yards, and Bedford has 22 rushing touchdowns. Zach Shaffer has 15 catches for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
Bishop Carroll at Greater Johnstown
Last season, Bishop Carroll upset Johnstown 14-6 in Week 8 for the Huskies lone victory of the season.
That setback accelerated what eventually became a four-game losing streak to end Johnstown’s season and a string of six losses in seven games.
This time, Carroll (4-3) holds the better record over Johnstown (3-4) thanks largely to the Huskies formidable defense. Bishop Carroll has two shutout wins over Forest Hills and Penn Cambria, and the Huskies limited Bishop McCort to only three points in a season-opening win.
Johnstown ended a three-game losing streak with a 41-31 victory over rival Bishop McCort last week.
Bishop Carroll senior Tyler Janosik ranks ninth in the area with 574 rushing yards. He has seven touchdowns on the ground.
Trojans quarterback Jeremy Updyke is fourth among area passers with 1,076 yards, completing 66 of 123 passes. Receiver Willie Robinson has 17 catches for 370 yards.
Cambria Heights at Bishop McCort
Cambria Heights (1-6) has lost five straight while Bishop McCort (1-6) won its first game of the season two weeks ago before falling at Johnstown in Week 7.
Cambria Heights’ Isaac Sclesky ranks seventh in the area with 81 tackles, 11.6 a game, and has two sacks. Josh Fees had a team-high 573 rushing yards, though Bishop Carroll limited him to 31 yards on 15 carries last week.
Opponents have outscored the Crushers 230-127. McCort beat Westmont 55-20 in its lone victory.
Forest Hills at Somerset
Somerset (6-1) shrugged off the effects of a last-minute loss at Richland in Week 6 by winning another tough game against Bedford, 35-27, in Week 7.
The rugged stretch continues with a matchup against Forest Hills (4-3). The Rangers beat Penn Cambria on the road last week, 22-6.
Somerset’s defense has set the tone for the Golden Eagles throughout the season, holding four of the first five opponents to single-digit scoring. The 55 combined points scored by Richland and Bedford are more than the 43 Somerset allowed in the first five weeks. Somerset’s Bryce Mostoller had an area-high eight sacks, and Logan Eller ranks third in the area with 94 tackles.
Forest Hills quarterback Joe Donoughe is third with 1,156 passing yards. Donoughe rushed for 472 yards and eight touchdowns.
Penn Cambria at Richland
Undefeated Richland (7-0) rolled over Westmont Hilltop last week as quarterback Matt Shaffer broke the District 6 career touchdown pass mark with his 66th.
Shaffer was 8 of 8 for 188 yards and five touchdowns, all in the first half. Nico Pecora had three first-quarter touchdowns as the Rams led 36-0 after one quarter. Shaffer leads the area with 1,414 passing yards, and back Tanner Solarczyk is seocnd with 937 rushing yards.
Penn Cambria (1-6) lost 22-6 to Forest Hills last week after picking up a 32-22 victory at Cambria Heights in Week 6.
Ligonier Valley at Homer-Center
Ligonier Valley (6-1) will play undefeated Homer-Center (7-0) in the Rams’ second straight game against a Heritage Conference frontrunner. Ligonier Valley fell to Penns Manor on the last play in a Week 7 battle of unbeaten teams.
The Rams mounted a comeback behind the pass-catch combination of quarterback Scott Fennell to end Alec Bloom as Ligonier took a lead with 35 seconds left. But Penns Manor got off its final play with only :01 on the clock and scored on a 36-yard pass-run play to win 31-29.
Homer-Center pounded Conemaugh Township 38-12 in a nonconference road game last week.
Fennell has thrown for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns, with Bloom making 36 catches for an area-best 677 yards and nine touchdowns. Last week the duo was nearly unstoppable as Bloom hauled in 10 receptions for 201 yards and a pair of scores. The Rams rushed for 1,275 yards, 182.1 a game.
Homer-Center has outscored opponents 263-67. The Wildcats have scored 34 or more points in six of seven games, while holding opponents to single digits three times. No team has scored more than 16 points against Homer-Center.
Blairsville at United
Winless United (0-7) fell 47-6 at Purchase Line last week. The Lions have allowed 272 points, while scoring 36. United’s highest point total was 13 in a one-point setback to Saltsburg in Week 5.
Blairsville (4-3) snapped a two-game skid in convincing fashion last week, beating Saltsburg 41-0. The Bobcats’ Deion Robinson carried 146 times for 817 yards and 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Scott Thompson passed for 589 yards.
Chestnut Ridge at Allegany, Md.
Chestnut Ridge (5-2) has won four straight games, including last week’s 42-21 victory over Kutztown.
Matt Wiley has 102 carries for 607 yards and seven touchdowns. Beau Bosch has gained 317 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns. Noah Osman has six of Ridge’s 13 interceptions this season.
Allegany (3-3) fell 20-7 last week against Calvert, Md. In Week 6, Allegany beat Ridgway 42-0.
North Star at West Greene
The Cougars found a late replacement for Rockwood in the Week 8 schedule in West Greene, which originally was to play Geibel Catholic tonight.
North Star Athletic Director and football coach Stacy Schmitt said the Cougars (4-3) will travel to District 7 West Greene (1-6) in Waynesburg.
Opponents have outscored West Greene 277-59. The Pioneers lost 38-12 at Mapletown last week. In the six weeks prior to that game, West Greene had four shutout losses and two games in which the Pioneers tallied only six points.
North Star’s Thomas Miller is among the area’s top rushers with more than 800 yards. Levi Albright is averaging double-digit tackles per game.