By Shawn Curtis and Cory Isenberg
Thomas Yewcic Field is about to stay up later than normal.
Thanks to portable lighting being rented out for the night, Conemaugh Valley High School trades in the Saturday sun for Friday’s lights when the Blue Jays host Shade at 7 p.m. tonight.
The night game was initially supposed to happen when the Blue Jays’ hosted Rockwood in Week 7. When the Rockets cancelled their 2013 season due to low roster numbers, Conemaugh Valley scrambled to adjust the date to tonight with the Panthers serving as the guests.
“I was at the first home game in 1975 against North Star, that was our first home game ever,” Conemaugh Valley coach Tom Marshall said. “It’s a historical event for the school and the community. I’ve never seen so much excitement over one football game - aside from playoff games.”
Having the honor of playing the first night game at Conemaugh Valley isn’t lost on the man standing across the field from Marshall.
“It seemed like a fun idea like four weeks ago,” Shade coach Don Fyfe said. “But before the game it may not have been the wisest decision. I have a real interesting feeling that we’re going to walk into a hornet’s nest.”
Fyfe, along with his Panthers, is also savoring the opportunity.
You don’t get that atmosphere in most high school games,” Fyfe said. “It should be fun. It’ll probably be the biggest crowd they’ve played in front of, even bigger than last year’s playoff game.”
The adjustments made to make tonight the date for Conemaugh Valley’s first night game took a lot of effort beyond just the athletic department.
“We had to get Shade to agree to come over Friday instead of Saturday,” Marshall explained. “The alumni association had to get the company to supply the lights to come (two weeks early). It took a whole lot of scrambling with the parade, dances and bonfire. The alumni association, football boosters, administration, student council ... Everyone put out the best effort and got it done.”
The Blue Jays are part of a dying breed of schools which play home games on Saturday afternoons. Since 2006, United, Marion Center and Blacklick Valley have made the transition to night games with the Vikings jumping to the lights last year.
Westmont Hilltop and Ferndale, which cancelled its game with Meyersdale this week and will approach future contests on a week-to-week basis, still play afternoon games. Rockwood was also slated to play its home games during the day.
Given the immediate images of high school football associated with the phrase “Friday night lights,” tonight isn’t just an ordinary night at Conemaugh Valley.
“I told the boys, outside the actual playoff atmosphere that this is the biggest game they’ll play,” Marshall said.
The Panthers (2-2) are coming off of a 26-0 win over Ferndale, which ended at halftime when the Yellow Jackets sideline numbers fell to just 11 players while the Blue Jays (1-3) lost at powerhouse Berlin Brothersvalley.
Senior Nash Walker was leading the Panthers in rushing yardage before being injured against Portage in Week 3. Senior fullback Tyler Kline has 41 carries for 206 yards while Logan Glessner has 21 for 173 for Shade.
“Our line has done a nice job up front,” Fyfe said. “We’ve been blessed with pretty good team speed. We like to get outside and that opens up the inside for us.”
Sophomore Brandon Galasso is the Jays top ground gainer with 83 carries for 375 yards while Anthony Hutzell has 243 yards on 47 carries.
“That’s our way, we have two real good backs,” Marshall said. “We have a young line learning how to block for them. If we can get those two guys out in the open, we can move the ball.”
Shade was a 26-0 winner last season.
Berlin Brothersvalley at North Star
A key WestPAC clash, with heavy implications on the District 5 Class A playoff picture finds its way to Boswell when the Cougars (3-1) host the Mountaineers (4-0).
Berlin Brothersvalley, which thumped Conemaugh Valley 48-7 last week, is home to the area’s leading rusher in Braden Fochtman. Fochtman has 733 yards on 59 rushes with nine scores in four games. Fochtman is one of 15 Mountaineers to carry the ball this season with Berlin Brothersvalley holding blowout wins over the past two weeks.
As the Cougars (3-1) go, so does Thomas Miller. The North Star senior has rushed for 644 yards and eight touchdowns with his squad winning three straight since a Week 1 loss to Portage. Last week, North Star tallied a 28-14 road win at Saltsburg.
Berlin Brothersvalley topped North Star 28-19 in last year’s regular-season meeting then handed the Cougars a 14-6 loss in the District 5-A championship.
Blacklick Valley at Conemaugh Township
Both the Vikings (0-3) and the Indians (0-4) will be anxious to notch that first win. Blacklick is coming off a 47-0 shutout to Windber while the Indians over two-hour sojourn to Houston ended in a 31-16 loss to the WPIAL’s Chartiers-Houston.
Last week’s points against the Buccaneers was the most this season for the Indians. Blacklick Valley lost seven fumbles against the Ramblers.
The Vikings went to overtime to beat the Indians last season, 31-28.
Richland at Bishop McCort
The Rams (4-0) don’t seem to be suffering any sort of letdown as the season progresses and the Crimson Crushers (0-4) are still working to get their first victory as the two city schools clash at the Point.
Richland, which is coming off a big win over Greater Johnstown, is averaging 48 points a game and has given up just under eight points to opposing offenses. Struggling McCort, which was shut out at Bedford, is averaging just five points a game while yielding 24.75 points.
The Rams have a plethora of weapons at their disposal led by senior quarterback Matt Shaffer who has passed for 602 yards going 37 of 55. Kyle Flick tops the team with 11 catches for 251 yards but there are 10 other receivers with at least two receptions.
On the ground, Tanner Solarczyk has 316 yards on 25 carries with Shaffer adding 260 on 17.
Marc Smith has 252 yards rushing on 59 carries for the Crushers while sophomore quarterback Blake Wade is 26 of 66 passing for 226 yards.
The Rams, who last lost to the Crushers 16-14 in 2010, edged McCort 17-10 last year.
Somerset at Greater Johnstown
The Golden Eagles (4-0) downed the Trojans 35-24 last season and will be looking to make it two straight wins.
Somerset, which avenged last season’s loss to the Hilltoppers with a big win last Friday, had sophomore Dylan Barnes at quarterback in place of senior Tanner Stull, who was injured. Barnes rushed for two touchdowns and threw to Zach Baker for the other against the Hilltoppers.
Johnstown (2-2), which evened its record after a loss to Richland last week, is averaging 149.3 yards rushing per game with Terrell Jones carrying 42 times for 253 yards.
Cambria Heights at Forest Hills
Both squads are coming off tough losses in Week 4. The Highlanders (1-3) were nipped 10-7 at Central Cambria while the Rangers (2-2) fell 40-14 to Bishop Guilfoyle on Saturday.
Only in one game thus far - Heights only win - have the Highlanders scored in double figures. Josh Fees leads the team’s rushing attack with 353 yards on 71 carries.
The Rangers (2-2) have been more successful through the air than on the ground. Quarterback Joe Donoughe has already thrown for 558 yards, going 42 of 95 passing.
The Highlanders knocked off the Rangers 24-6 last season.
Bishop Guilfoyle at Penn Cambria
The Marauders (2-2) had a rough start to the season with two straight losses but have now evened their record after last week’s win over Forest Hills while the Panthers (0-4) have scored just 22 points, an average of just over five a game, and were shut out by Bishop Carroll last week.
Guilfoyle is averaging almost 200 yards rushing per game and is led by junior Sam McCloskey, who has 242 yards on 43 carries.
The Panthers’ rushing attack has only gained 364 yards in four games with Tyler Strasser’s 151 yards on 48 carries leading the way. Defensively, the Panthers have accrued 37 tackles for loss with Peyton Behe’s 16 stops behind the line leading Penn Cambria in that category.
Bishop Guilfoyle won 14-8 last year.
Northern Cambria at Purchase Line
Both squads are 1-3 heading into tonight’s clash. Northern Cambria, which fell 24-19 at Blairsville last week, averages over 250 yards per game on the ground with quarterback Dartagnan Suchar’s 360 yards leading the way. Suchar, who also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with seven, has also passed for 105 yards and two scores.
Nolan Paronish has been the Colts’ second-leading rusher throughout the season, averaging 11.36 yards per carry on his way to 318 yards and two scores. Paronish is also the team’s leading tackler with 37.
The Red Dragons fell 37-14 to unbeaten Homer-Center last week.
The Colts shut out the Red Dragons 28-0 last season.
Saltsburg at United
The Trojans (0-4) have been able to put points on the scoreboard but have struggled to keep the other team out of the end zone while the Lions (0-4) have scored just 17 points in the first four games.
Saltsburg fell to North Star last week while United was shut out at Penns Manor.
Freshman quarterback Frankie Plowman stepped up against North Star when senior Tyler Frassenei went down with what appeared to be a head injury. He threw for 205 yards and both touchdowns in the loss.
United was limited to minus-3 yards rushing against the Comets. Senior Tyler Mack, who leads the Lions with 189 yards on 41 carries, had 10 yards on three carries in last week’s game.
Saltsburg won 28-0 last season.
Chestnut Ridge at Philipsburg-Osceola
The Lions evened their record at 2-2 with a 23-10 victory over previously unbeaten Bald Eagle Area last week. Chestnut Ridge faces another Mountain League team in the 1-3 Mounties this week.
Philipsburg-Osceola, which fell 57-21 to Tyrone last week, is led in rushing by Dustin Shuey. The senior has rushed for 288 yards on 30 carries while senior quarterback Curtis Matsko has 207 yards on 36 carries. Sophomore Jake Anderson was 8 of 12 passing filling in against the Golden Eagles.
Matsko, who was injured early in the first quarter of the Tyrone game, has passed for 343 yards going 30 of 49 with Aaron Mason making 14 catches for 160 yards while Shuey has 11 for 89.
For Chestnut Ridge, Matt Wiley (359 yards) and Beau Bosch (277 yards) pace the rushing offense with eight of the team’s nine offensive touchdowns coming on the ground.
The Lions were 34-7 winners last season.
Windber at Ligonier Valley
One of the most intriguing matchups of Week 5, the Rams remain unbeaten after last week’s 29-8 victory over Marion Center while the Ramblers improved to 3-1 with a 47-0 shutout over Blacklick Valley.
Windber quarterback Devon Tomlinson was 36 of 61 passing for 511 yards before being injured. Jake Podrasky filled in against the Vikings.
Matt Barkley has 25 catches for 405 yards. Dustin Blough has rushed for 277 yards on 43 carries while Dan Tomlinson has 179 yards on 20 carries.
Ligonier signalcaller Scott Fennell is 31 of 58 passing for 504 yards. Alex Bloom has 19 catches for 305 yards. The Rams top rusher is freshman Collin Smith with 32 carries for 222 yards.
Windber has scored 19 touchdowns while Ligonier has 18.
On defense, both teams are averaging 80-plus tackles a game but the Rams have six sacks and eight interceptions compared to two sacks and two picks for the Ramblers.
Dustin Blough and Jared Maurizio are Windber’s top tacklers with 45 each while Dereck Croyle leads Ligonier with 49.
The Rams were 43-18 winners last season.