The football revival at Somerset has produced plenty of memorable plays from offensive standouts such as Tanner Stull and Dylan Barnes.
It’s hard to miss those quarterbacks as they make cuts and crafty moves downfield, or big, bruising back Matt Boyer plowing through the opposition.
But the Golden Eagles’ rock-solid defense has been just as important to Somerset’s winning six of its first seven games.
“We’re very lucky to have good football players right now,” Somerset coach Bob Landis said of his defense. “All the kids are weight room guys. The strength and conditioning really has done a lot for us.”
Somerset has outscored opponents 202-98.
Fifty-five of the 98 points allowed came in the past two weeks against Bedford (a 35-27 win) and undefeated Richland (28-24 loss).
But consider that the Eagles are the only team to hold Richland under 43 points this season, and that Bedford had a combined 151 points in its three games prior to meeting Somerset.
Junior middle linebacker Logan Eller ranks third in the area with 90 tackles, including 50 solo stops.
“He really has turned into a true Mike linebacker this year,” Landis said. “He really committed himself in the weight room this year and came back bigger, faster and stronger.”
Junior defensive end Bryce Mostoller leads the area with eight sacks and has 62 tackles.
“It’s his motor that makes him special,” Landis said of Mostoller, a two-year starter. “He’s always out there going. He’s always moving.”
Senior nose guard Boyer is an anchor, while senior end Stephen Sujansky and junior tackle Colton Slayback also are up front. The outside linebacker tandem of senior Doug Berkebile and junior Michael VanLenten complete the 4-3 set.
“Our front seven are very, very good,” said Landis, whose team hosts Forest Hills (4-3) on Friday. “We fly to the ball.”
“Getting Stull back at corner helps,” Landis said, “and Jordan Beistel and Zach Baker, our safeties, nobody talks about because we don’t have big interception numbers and the tackles are down because the guys are making the stops at the line. Justin Wilkow is solid at cornerback.”
Sophomore cornerback Jake Heiple stepped in when Stull was out with an injury and performed well.
“There are not many holes there, and these guys play very well as a unit,” Landis said.
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The Replacements: This week, both North Star and Berlin found replacements for their scheduled games against Rockwood in Weeks 8 and 9, respectively. Five of Rockwood’s first nine opponents have played or will play alternative teams in place of the Rockets.
Shade was scheduled to play Rockwood in Week 10. The Panthers are exploring two options, both on the road, according to Shade Athletic Director Mike Pribish.
“If Ferndale wouldn’t play Glendale in Week 10, we could play Glendale,” Pribish said. “Another possibility is AC Valley in District 9. They’re supposed to play a WPIAL team, but if that team wins Friday, they’d be in the playoffs and AC Valley would have an open date.”
Both Glendale (1-6) and Allegheny-Clarion Valley (0-7) have senior night events scheduled in Week 10. Allegheny-Clarion Valley is located in Foxburg, Clarion County.
North Star (4-3) will play at WPIAL West Greene (1-6) in Waynesburg on Friday.
Berlin (7-0) will host Pittsburgh City League team Westinghouse (1-6) during Week 9.
Other replacement games included United’s Week 1 loss to visiting Bishop Canevin (31-3); Windber’s dramatic win over WPIAL Brentwood in Week 3 (35-20); and Conemaugh Township’s loss to WPIAL Chartiers Houston in Week 4 (31-16).
Blacklick (Week 2), Portage (Week 5), Ferndale (Week 6) and Conemaugh Valley (Week 7) did not play on dates when Rockwood was originally on the schedule.
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Twitter universe: Among the notable items on Twitter this week was a MaxPreps Tweet about a state-record, 60-yard field goal booted by 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore Tyler Pack of Johnson Central High, Paintsville, Ky.
Kicking a 60-yard field goal is impressive enough. So is breaking a state record. But Pack set the mark in an unusual manner.
The article posted on MaxPreps said Johnson Central implemented a “rarely-used field goal tactic” and “capitalized on a rule that allows a team that has just made a fair catch to attempt a free kick from the spot of the catch.”
Local fans might remember Ferndale using the obscure rule to successfully kick a field goal during a 1994 game against Windber at The Hive. The Yellow Jackets made the kick immediately following a first-half fair catch. Those three points loomed large in Ferndale’s 16-14 Week 8 win over the Ramblers. That was Windber’s lone regular-season loss in a
9-2-1 season. Ferndale finished 8-1 and missed the playoffs.
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Scoring margins: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Varsity Xtra Tweeted earlier this week Aliquippa’s margin of victory in each of the returning state runner-up Quips’ seven victories – 31, 31, 49, 43, 48, 42 and 56. That’s a 43.1 average margin of victory.
Aliquippa ended Richland’s 14-1 season in the PIAA Class AA semifinals last year, though Richland put up a great fight while perhaps surprising those expecting a mismatch against the WPIAL power.
Like the Quips, the Rams have rolled through much of their 7-0 season. A last-minute win over visiting Somerset, 28-24, in Week 6 was the closest call.
Richland’s margin of victory in seven wins – 41, 29, 50, 41, 49, 4, 49. The Rams have outscored opponents by a combined 353-90, a 37.6 average margin of victory.
Could the Rams and Quips be headed for another postseason meeting?
One game at a time, right?
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.