Portage coach Gary Gouse isn’t always so sure about where Caleb Kephart is headed on the football field.
It’s a safe assumption that the end zone won’t be far away once Kephart gets his hands on the ball though.
“Nobody knows where Caleb’s going,” Gouse said of his star sophomore left halfback. “Honestly, I watched some of his runs, and he’s so explosive. When he gets the ball he just goes.
“He’s really gifted. He’s only in 10th grade and he sees the field so well with his eyes and he’s so quick. His brother (senior right halfback Cody Kephart) does a great job blocking for him and so do the other linemen and backs. It’s hard blocking for him downfield because you just don’t know where he’s going to go. He’s so hard to bring down. You think he’s down but he’s not.”
Caleb Kephart is closing in on 1,000 yards.
His 939 so far for the 7-1 Mustangs is even more impressive because Kephart has needed only 72 carries.
“I’ve coached for a long time and he’s one of the top-3 runners I’ve had as a sophomore,” said Gouse, who has 157 wins in 22 seasons.
Caleb Kephart began the season with three carries for 22 yards in a 13-10 victory over North Star, the coaches’ preseason pick to win the conference. Since then, he’s had 100 or more yards each week, with 414 yards and six touchdowns in the past two weeks against Windber (226 yards, three touchdowns in a 32-0 win) and Conemaugh Township (188 yards, three touchdowns in a 41-7 win).
“When he was in seventh grade and eighth grade my junior high coaches would say, ‘Coach you’ve got to see this guy run. He’s exceptional.’ He ran so many kickoffs back in junior high. It was ridiculous,” Gouse said. “I can see why now. He just goes. He’s a humble kid too. He’s quiet. he doesn’t say a lot. He likes playing and he’s having fun.”
Freshman fullback Luke Dividock has 536 rushing yards, and senior quarterback Evan Price has 382 rushing yards. Also in the mix are junior back Scott Giles (247 yards) and Cody Kephart (242 yards).
Last week the Mustangs nearly had three 100-yard rushers while collecting 445 yards on the ground.
“We’re doing some good things,” Gouse said. “The kids are believing in the system and themselves. We’ve come a long way. We’re very young.”
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Conference time: As the regular-season winds down, the area’s three conference titles are becoming clearer.
Richland (8-0) clinched its first-ever LHAC crown already.
In the WestPAC and Heritage, the front-runners control their destiny though upsets and stumbles still could shake up the situation.
The inter-conference schedule between the WestPAC and Heritage also requires some added calculation because only the conference games count in the standings as far as the championship is concerned.
Undefeated Berlin (8-0 overall, 7-0 conference) closes its WestPAC schedule as a heavy favorite at Rockwood, a one-win team. A Mountaineers victory would clinch the WestPAC.
Portage is 7-1 both overall and in the WestPAC, and the Mustangs play a non-conference game against Blairsville (5-3 overall and in the Heritage). Windber is 6-1 in the WestPAC (6-2 overall) heading into a home date against Conemaugh Valley.
The Heritage has an interesting scenario as the top-3 squads each are 6-1 in conference play.
Ligonier Valley (7-1 overall) visits Northern Cambria (6-2 overall) in the league’s marquee matchup.
Penns Manor (7-1 overall) will host Homer-Center (6-2 overall).
Penns Manor handed Ligonier its lone loss in Week 7, and Northern Cambria gave Penns Manor its only setback during the season opener. The Colts’ only conference loss was to Homer-Center, and they also fell to Berlin.
So, if Ligonier and Penns Manor each win their games this week, then Penns Manor would be champion.
Should Northern Cambria win, the Colts would earn the title. If Ligonier wins, and Homer-Center upsets Penns Manor, then Ligonier would take the conference title.
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Running game: Shade’s Brock Medva moved into the top position among area rushers again after last week’s games.
The senior has 1,293 rushing yards on 166 attempts. Richland junior Tanner Solarczyk, who had moved into the area lead after Week 7, now is second with 1,237 yards on 134 carries.
Medva initially moved into the top rushing spot after
Week 4 and stayed there for three weeks.
Blacklick’s Johnny Sheesley (now fourth at 1,073 yards) had been the area’s top rusher through the first two weeks of play, and Berlin’s Drew Glotfelty (now third at 1,155) held the top spot after Week 3.
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Play ball: Football and baseball will mix on Friday at Point Stadium.
Bishop McCort will honor the Crushers’ 2012 PIAA Class A champion baseball team during halftime of the game against Bishop Guilfoyle.
Coach Chris Pfeil’s Crushers made history in a 14-2 mercy-rule shortened victory over Montgomery in the state championship game at Penn State in June. McCort outscored opponents by a combined 47-11 in the state playoffs and finished 24-2 as the only baseball team in Cambria County to win a PIAA state title.
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Old School: Alumni football caught on in the area last season.
The latest series of games through Alumni Football USA (www.alumnifootballusa.com) is in full swing in the area.
United defeated Laurel Valley 27-6 on Saturday at Thomas Madill Athletic Field.
Northern Cambria alumni beat Purchase Line 20-12 on Aug. 25.
Conemaugh Valley is scheduled to play the Blacklick Valley alumni team on Sunday, Nov. 11 in Nanty Glo. This is the first year lights have been installed at the Nanty Glo Borough site. Ironically, both Conemaugh Valley and Blacklick Valley played Saturday afternoon home games when the alumni members of each squad were in high school.
Alumnifootballusa.com listed games featuring Penn Cambria and Portage at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 11; and Somerset and Ligonier Valley on at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22. No other details were listed on those two games.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.
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