The latest chapter in the city rivalry won’t have a share of first place in the LHAC on the line.
And each team is fighting for a district playoff spot rather than resting at their more traditional spots near the top.
Still, when Johnstown (3-3) visits Bishop McCort (4-2) tonight at Point Stadium, a lot will be at stake.
“The rivalry means so much. Logistically we’re so close,” said Johnstown coach Tony Penna Jr. “This is our biggest rival. Everything is amped up. If we were playing checkers against them it would be the same way.
“The kids live in the same neighborhoods. They all know each other. That makes for some personal stuff that carries over to the football field. You don’ want that guy to say he got the best of you. It’s just a field thing. It doesn’t carry over off the field. I have a ton of respect for their program. They play football the right way.”
While Johnstown continues to juggle its lineup to contend with injuries and lost personnel, the Crushers are getting healthy according to coach Kevin Sheridan.
McCort rolled past Westmont Hilltop 35-0 on Saturday. Two weeks ago McCort gave undefeated Richland its toughest test of the season. The Rams won 17-14 on a last-second score. That same Richland team routed Johnstown 42-0 in Week 4.
“I hope we’re on the rise,” Sheridan said. “We’ve worked hard this week. We’re getting healthier by the day and we’re still looking to put forth our best four quarters.”
Sheridan knows that even with multiple key injuries dogging the Trojans over the past month, Johnstown will be at its best against the Crushers.
“Johnstown is a big-play team,” Sheridan said. “It’s impossible to simulate their speed in practice. But playing sound defensive football, maintaining gap responsibility and leverage on the football is what can limit a big-play offense like Johnstown.”
Since the graduation of two-year starter Gervon Simon, the Trojans have used five different quarterbacks.
A trio of underclassmen has shown promise with junior Wuanyai Mayo stepping up in recent weeks. Junior scrambler Deion Moore ignited Johnstown in Week 3 but has been injured. Freshman Jeremy Updyke is another player with a big future who has contended with injuries.
Moore’s 425 rushing yards and four touchdowns lead Johnstown and his presence will be missed.
“We’re a team in transition,” Penna said. “We’ve got some key injuries in some key places. Friday night is going to be another deviation from what everyone is accustomed to seeing. The kids are embracing it. They haven’t flinched one time. I couldn’t be prouder. This game and what it means speaks for itself. We’ll be ready to go Friday night.”
Two-way lineman Gap Barbin has led McCort. Quarterback Zaine Tomkowski moved atop the area passing statistics this week as he nears 1,000 yards. Jordan Spangler is a big-play receiver with 31 catches and 420 yards. He also is among the area’s top kickers.
“Zaine is growing in his understanding of how to manage a football game,” Sheridan said. “When he sets his feet and gets comfortable, he delivers the football accurately and on time.
“Jordan Spangler is an experienced receiver and he’s played a lot of football along side Zaine Tomkowski. Those two have a chemistry. Beyond that we’ve spread the ball around pretty well as of late. We have a couple tight ends helping us receiving, a few fullbacks and tailbacks. The ball is being spread around.”
Johnstown won the past two games in the series, including 41-20 last year. Prior to that, McCort had won six in a row from 2004 through 2009.
“Friday night is our homecoming,” Sheridan said. “We’re coming home against another city team, a familiar foe and a program that’s gotten the better of us the last two years. That makes for an exciting atmosphere in what should be a good match up.”
Penn Cambria at Forest Hills
This game will be big in the LHAC but even more significant as far as each team’s hopes in District 6-AA.
Penn Cambria (4-2), currently in the eighth and final spot in 6-AA with 450 points, will try to halt a two-game slide after opening the season as one of the team’s to beat in the district. The Rangers (3-3) are an uncharacteristic .500 through six dates and are ninth in 6-AA with 300 points.
The Rangers bounced back with a 28-14 win at Central Cambria last week, ending a two-game skid with losses to Cambria Heights (24-6) and Bishop Guilfoyle (14-0).
Forest Hills quarterback Joe Donoughe had passed for 612 yards but went out with an injury during the Guilfoyle game. Since then, versatile back Jared Shope has stepped in and thrown for 317 yards, including 194 last week. Shope also has 253 receiving yards. Shawn Dell leads the ground game with 567 rushing yards.
Penn Cambria opened 4-0 before falling to Heights (27-20) last week and at Bishop Guilfoyle (14-8).
Penn Cambria has used a stable of backs to accumulate 1,122 rushing yards, an average of 187 a game and 5.2 a carry. Brendan Eckenrode has passed for 418 yards, with 6-foot-6 receiver Nathan Keagy hauling in 10 receptions for 294 yards and five touchdowns.
Last season Forest Hills won 24-0 during the regular season, but Penn Cambria won 14-12 in the 5/6-AA playoffs a month later. The Rangers are 17-3-1 in the series since 1990.
Westmont at Richland
Undefeated Richland (6-0) is rolling through the LHAC and 6-AA after routing then once-beaten Somerset 47-0 last week.
The Rams have been in one close game, a 17-14 last-second win over visiting Bishop McCort in Week 5, and have outscored opponents 241-56. The Rams put up 62 points against Bedford and rolled over Johnstown 42-0 while moving to the top of the District 6-AA rankings with 810 rating points.
A week ago junior Tanner Solarczyk ran for five touchdowns. He had the only two Rams TDs against McCort, giving him seven scores in two weeks and 791 yards this season. The Rams can pass too. Quarterback Matt Shaffer is second in the area with 844 passing yards and Kyle Flick is the area’s leading receiver with 483 yards despite missing most of two games with an injury.
McCort shut out Westmont 35-0 last week at the Hilltoppers’ field. Westmont dropped a 26-21 game in Week 5 in a game that came a week after Hilltop stunned previously undefeated Somerset 17-14. The Hilltoppers also were close at Johnstown, falling 20-17.
Sam Curry leds Hilltop with 511 rushing yards. Quarterback Liam Moran has thrown for 323 yards, with Lukas Kleinmeyer making 26 catches for 183 yards.
Richland won 41-8 last season and the Rams have won three straight in a series Westmont had dominated with 11 consecutive wins from 1991 through 2001 and 16 wins in 18 years through 2008.
Somerset at Bedford
Somerset (4-2) must recover from a 47-0 shutout loss to visiting Richland a week ago. The Golden Eagles are tied for second in the 6-AAA rankings with 380 points, 10 in front of Punxsutawney in the fourth and final spot.
The Eagles’ quarterback Tanner Stull is a playmaker with 742 passing yards and 443 rushing yards. But last week he left with an injury. Zach Baker has 12 receptions for 251 yards, and Doug Berkebile has nine catches for 161 yards.
Bedford (1-5) fell 20-7 at Johnstown last week after posting its first victory over Westmont in Week 5.
Playmaker Luke Campbell returned to the team and has 12 catches, 222 receiving yards and three touchdowns in three games. Quarterback Aaron Henry has thrown for 425 yards.
Bedford edged Somerset 12-7 last season.
Bishop Carroll at Cambria Heights
The Highlanders (4-2) produced back-to-back signature victories with last week’s 27-20 battle at Penn Cambria and a 24-6 win against Forest Hills in Week 5.
Heights will be the favorite against a winless Bishop Carroll (0-6) squad. The Highlanders can’t afford to look past the Huskies. Heights is tied for fourth in the District 6-AA rankings with Bald Eagle Area (490 points).
The Highlanders Tyler Crawford has rushed for 538 yards and seven touchdowns on 100 carries. Quarterback Nathan Bearer completed 26 of 55 passes for 460 yards and seven touchdowns. Andrew Brawley caught 13 passes for 293 yards and five scores.
Marty Lessard leads Carroll with 216 rushing yards on 54 carries.
Last season Cambria Heights won 40-20.
Ligonier at Penns Manor
This marquee conference match up pairs undefeated Ligonier and once-beaten Penns Manor (5-1), a team on a five-game winning streak since a stunning season-opening upset loss to Northern Cambria.
Plenty of stars will be on the field as well as two stifling defenses.
Ligonier (6-0) has outscored opponents by a combined 299-33 with four shutouts, including a 56-0 rout over Saltsburg last week. Ryan Torrance has gained 898 yards on 92 carries to rank second in the area. Torrance averages 149.7 rushing yards a game and 9.8 yards a carry. The senior leads the area with 112 points on 18 touchdowns.
Rams junior quarterback Scott Fennell has thrown for 441 yards (22 of 44) with six touchdowns and only one interception.
Penns Manor has outscored opponents 257-84 and the Comets have collected 42 or more points in each of their past five games, the most recent a 42-28 win over Blairsville.
Quarterback Danny Ferens has lived up to expectations, gaining 1,102 yards on the ground and throwing for 370 yards, five touchdowns and one interceptions. The senior rushed for 262 yards in a win over United and had 191 yards against Marion Center and 199 yards against Blairsville. He led the Comets to last year’s Class A state semifinals.
Ligonier won last year’s game 28-0 ending a string of three straight Penns Manor victories from 2008-10.
Since the teams began playing regularly in 2000, Ligonier Valley leads the series 8-4.
Purchase Line at United
One of these teams will earn its first victory this week. United (0-6) fell 36-6 at Homer-Center last week but the Lions did score their first points since Week 1.
Opponents have outscored United 250-13.
Purchase Line (0-6) has found the end zone more frequently. The Dragons fell 12-6 to Marion Center last week but have been shut out only twice.
Purchase Line produced double-digit points in losses to Blairsville (36-20) and Blacklick Valley (27-13).
Last year, United won 40-0.
Portage at Windber
Each team is 5-1 entering a key conference matchup. The Mustangs have won four consecutive games, including a 12-0 shutout over Blacklick in a marquee game last week.
The Mustangs have held opponents to 19 or fewer points in those four wins, outscoring the opposition 143-47 in that span. Portage’s lone loss was to unbeaten Berlin in Week 2, and the Mustangs opened with an upset shocker over preseason favorite North Star.
Caleb Kephart has rushed for 525 yards on 47 carries.
Windber beat Conemaugh Township 19-6 last week to shake off the effects of a one-sided non-conference loss to Ligonier Valley in Week 5 (43-18).
The Ramblers’ Blough has rushed for 467 yards. Barkley has 301 receiving yards, and Dakota Gipe has passed for 664 yards.
Portage has won five of the past seven meetings in the series. The Ramblers had won seven straight from 1998 to 2004.
Last year Windber won 35-7.
Ferndale at Blacklick Valley
Ferndale (1-6) snapped a 24-game on-field losing streak with a dramatic overtime win against Rockwood last week. The Yellow Jackets, led by quarterback Chad Eisenhuth’s 808 passing yards (third-best in the area), hope to use that momentum on the road.
Blacklick Valley (4-2) gave up a pair of second-half touchdowns and couldn’t crack the Mustangs defense in a 12-0 loss at Portage.
The Vikings’ Johnny Sheesley ranks fifth in the area with 766 rushing yard and is third with 62 points scored despite being the focal point of each opponent’s defensive game plan every weekend.
Blacklick defeated Shade 26-6 in 2011.
North Star at Meyersdale
The Cougars (4-2) booted their way to a narrow 3-0 victory over visiting Shade last week. The preseason favorite in the WestPAC needed a 27-yard Brantley Rice field goal in the first quarter to beat the Panthers.
Senior receiver Tony Strasiser has more than 200 receiving yards and has been versatile on the ground and under center.
Meyersdale (1-5) fell 13-8 at Conemaugh Valley after leading by a point at halftime. The Red Raiders were limited to eight points one week after scoring 55 against Ferndale.
North Star beat Meyersdale 46-14 last year.
Berlin at Shade
Shade (3-3) has played much better than a .500 squad. The Panthers limited North Star to three points, but couldn’t find the end zone in the shutout loss last week.
Shade had a modest two-game winning streak snapped after after scoring a combined 61 points in victories over Conemaugh Valley and Ferndale.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier with undefeated Berlin (6-0) coming to Cairnbrook.
Drew Glotfelty leads the Mountaineers with 864 rushing yards, third-best in the area. Quarterback Blake Miller has passed for 450 yards.
Berlin has won nine of 11 games in the series since 2000. Shade’s most recent win was 16-0 in 2007.
Berlin won 32-19 in 2011.
Conemaugh Township at Homer-Center
The teams meet for the first time in 20 years.
Homer-Center (5-1) bounced back from its first loss of the season and overcame several injuries to beat United 36-6 last week.
Five Wildcats found the end zone despite the absence of injured back Mike Newhouse, who had been the team’s leading rusher with 302 yards until John Grozanick moved in front with 306 after last week’s game. Homer-center has blanked opponents in the second half in four of six contests. Aaron Berezansky has thrown for 514 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 23 of 45 passes.
Township (2-4)l dropped a pair of close games, last week against Windber (19-6) and two weeks ago at Blacklick Valley (31-28 in overtime).
Bruno Rosa completed 50 of 91 passes for 596 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Tanner Cahill leads the Indians ground game with 443 rushing yards on 85 carries. He averages 110. 8 a game and has three touchdowns. Senior Ken Domonkos has 24 catches for 272 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Jeff Fisher (eight catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) and Ryan Shifflett (13-180, one) also are receiving threats.
Homer-Center won the last meeting of the teams 27-0 in 1992.
Chestnut Ridge at Kutztown
As an independent, Chestnut Ridge (3-3) has faced a challenging schedule against teams throughout Pennsylvania and even Maryland. This week the Lions are on the road against Kutztown (1-5), a team whose lone victory came via a forfeit over Calvary Christian Academy in Week 1.
Kutztown lost 70-13 last week to Wyomissing. The Cougars have been outscored 234-70. Junior Nate Onorofsky and sophomore Bryce Galczynski have combined to rush for more than 500 yards.
Ridge is led by dual-threat quarterback Beau Bosch. The 6-foot-5 junior has passed for 451 yards and rushed for 441 yards. Senior Jacob Mock has gained 494 yards and rushed for seven touchdowns.
Northern Cambria at Marion Center
Northern Cambria (4-2) dropped a tight 21-19 game at undefeated Berlin last week, snapping the Colts’ three-game winning streak.
Northern Cambria quarterback Jeff Hogan has passed for 732 yards, completing 44 of 83 passes and throwing for 10 touchdowns. Nate Zachesky has a team-best 389 rushing yards and has run for 100 or more yards in three of his four games. Dartagnan Suchar has 345 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Marion Center (2-4) had dropped three straight games before beating Purchase Line 12-6 last week.
Brodey Thompson leads the Stingers with 377 rushing yards on 73 carries. Noah Hoover has seven catches for 136 receiving yards, and he rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns.