The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 12, 2013

Teams find tall task in stopping Bloom

Mike Mastovich

— Alec Bloom won’t be able to avoid the spotlight this season in the Heritage Conference.

Ligonier Valley’s 6-foot-7, 245-pound senior tight end is difficult to miss under any circumstances.

The fact that Bloom is a Division I recruit who already verbally committed to UConn only adds to the glare.

Fortunately for the 2-0 Rams, Bloom handles the expectations and any related hype with the same workmanlike approach he has on the football field.

“At 6-7, 245-pounds, he is an outstanding athlete,” veteran Ligonier coach Roger Beitel said. “He’s got the speed of a small back. He’s got the soft hands of a wide receiver and he’s got the size and strength to be a fullback.”

Quite an impressive combination.

“He’s got a lot of weapons,” Beitel added. “The biggest thing in terms of his being a receiver is he has just tremendously soft hands. He can also run the ball. He’s got great speed. Because we’ve had him from the time he was a little pup in the kennel to where he is now, sometimes we need to stop and reflect how special it is to have someone like that in the program.”

Last week Bloom had nine receptions for 138 yards in a 42-7 win over United. He caught all but one pass in the first half, when he collected all but two of his receiving yards, scored a touchdown and nearly had a second TD on an acrobatic attempt.

“Alec did all of that damage in the first half of the football game,” Beitel said. “He only had one catch in the second half and that was by design. We had a big lead and wanted to run the ball.”

Bloom leads the area with 12 receptions for 203 receiving yards heading into Ligonier’s key Heritage Conference game at unbeaten Blairsville on Friday. He has one more reception and 12 more receiving yards than Westmont Hilltop’s Collin Barron (11-191). Windber’s Dan Tomlinson (12-168), Richland’s Kyle Flick (5-162) and Windber’s Matt Barkley (12-155) round out the top-five in receiving statistics provided through two weeks.

“Alec is such a nightmare to match up with,” Beitel said. “Obviously he’s a Division I talent. There’s not a whole lot of people that have an answer for that.”

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Sophomore sensation: Berlin’s Braden Fochtman is halfway to a 1,000-yard rushing season – through two weeks.

The Mountaineers sophomore ran for 352 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in last week’s big WestPAC victory over visiting Portage.

Overall, Fochtman has 506 rushing yards on 43 attempts, an 11.8 average per run.

He has 223 more yards than the next closest rusher, North Star’s Thomas Miller (24-283).

Three other backs have more than 200 rushing yards through two dates: Conemaugh Valley’s Brandon Galasso (41-247), Richland’s Tanner Solarczyk (24-234) and Central Cambria’s Scott Bauer (22-206).

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Passing lane: Multiple area quarterbacks got out to solid starts with 300-plus passing yards, led by Richland’s Matt Shaffer, who completed 21 of 31 passes for 374 yards.

Windber’s Devon Tomlinson is 26 of 43 for 360 yards. Forest Hills’ Joe Donoughe is 22 of 42 for 340 yards. Donoughe and Fochtman tied for the area lead with 30 points scored.

Westmont’s Liam Moran (23 of 35, 315 yards) and Johnstown’s Jeremy Updyke (21-46, 310) also have thrown for more than 300 yards. Moran and Updyke’s teams will meet on Saturday afternoon at Price Field.

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Defense first: Richland linebacker Jacob Urban tops the area with 27 tackles, including two solo stops.

Conemaugh Township’s Austin Myers made 20 solo stops among his 26 tackles. Forest Hills’ Dustin Ohler made 26 tackles.

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Substitutes: Windber will host WPIAL opponent Brentwood Friday as a replacement for Rockwood, which abruptly cancelled its season less than a week before the opener.

Last week, Blacklick Valley took a bye in the spot on the schedule previously occupied by Rockwood.

“We were fortunate because around the same time Rockwood dropped football, Imani Christian dropped football,” Windber coach Matt Grohal said of the Pittsburgh-area program. “We kind of just crossed over schedules with Brentwood. It just worked out well for both of us.”

Conemaugh Township will travel to WPIAL Chartiers Houston on Sept. 20, a game that will replace the original Sept. 21 afternoon game at Rockwood.

“It’s a pretty good haul,” Conemaugh Township coach Sam Zambanini said. “It was a tough situation but that section of the WPIAL is in the same boat. We’d rather play than sit and watch. We were supposed to be away. They were supposed to be home. They have a brand new facility and didn’t want to lose a home game.”

Conemaugh Valley had been scheduled to play the first night game in Thomas Yewcic Stadium history under portable lights on Oct. 11 against Rockwood.

Blue Jays Athletic Director Paula McCleester said it appears Valley won’t replace Rockwood on the schedule after multiple attempts fell through. But she said tentative plans to move homecoming to Sept. 27 against Shade might be finalized at a school board meeting tonight.

McCleester said Shade has agreed to play on that Friday night under the portable lights.

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at