Windber has been involved in its share of marquee matchups over the years.
Just not that often against Blacklick Valley.
That is until Friday, when the undefeated Ramblers and Vikings play at Windber Stadium in a key WestPAC game.
“Hats off to those guys for where they are,” said second-year Ramblers head coach Matt Grohal. “We knew Blacklick was going to be tough this year. It’s going to be a great atmosphere at Windber Stadium.”
Blacklick (3-0) will try to beat Windber for the first time since 2004 when the Vikings opened the season with a 20-13 victory at Windber Stadium. In fact, the Ramblers are 15-2 against the Vikings since 1993 and hold a combined 548-131 scoring advantage.
The Vikings are in their best position in years to reverse that trend, but coach Bill Zamboni is wary of the Ramblers’ single-wing rushing attack that now is complemented by a solid passing game.
“They’re like a triple threat (on the ground),” Zamboni said. “But what even scares me more is they pass the ball better than they have in the past. They have put points on the board with long passes.
“They set you up with all the running and then all of a sudden, like against Rockwood (in a 42-7 win on Saturday), they have three big pass plays.”
Windber (3-0) has rushed for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns on 116 carries, an average of 254 yards a game. Trevor Neri (17 carries, 173 yards), Dustin Blough (18-167), Devon Tomlinson (33-158) and Dan Tomlinson (23-136) have gained large chunks of yardage.
“We’ve been ground and pound for a couple years now,” Grohal said. “We have four guys who have around 200 yards rushing. We’re trying to spread the ball around more this year.”
Quarterback Dakota Gipe has completed 21 of 41 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns. Matt Barkley has 12 catches for 176 yards and Dan Tomlinson has 134 receiving yards on three catches.
“Windber is very good, surprisingly good after losing 18 seniors last year,” Zamboni said. “Matt does such a great job. We have our hands full and, hopefully, they’ll have their hands full.”
Blacklick has 906 rushing yards on 125 attempts – 302 yards a game. Senior Johnny Sheesley ranks second in the area with 530 rushing yards – an average of 9.1 per run and 178 a game.
Sheesley has six touchdowns. Matt Worthington has scored five TDs and has 184 rushing yards. Grant Reigel has 173 yards and three touchdowns.
“They have three guys that are really solid ball carriers too,” Grohal said. “Sheesley does everything well. He’s a fantastic player. He reminds me a lot of (Windber 2,352-yard rusher) Colin (Bryan). His footwork in the hole, if you don’t gang tackle him early, he’s going to go.”
With three straight wins, Blacklick has its best start since 2004, when the Vikings followed the win at Windber with four more victories to open 5-0. Blacklick finished 6-3 that year.
Prior to that, the Vikings were 11-0 in 1983.
Windber had a 49-game regular-season winning streak from 1997 to 2003. Last season, Windber opened 3-0, so the Ramblers know a thing or two about getting out to a great start.
“We have a great following. Windber has a great following,” Zamboni said. “The team that makes the least mistakes is going to win the ball game. I’ve been telling our kids all week long you have to play a perfect game to beat them.”
500 and counting: Berlin’s Drew Glotfelty moved into the area rushing lead after he gained 210 yards in a 55-8 win over visiting Ferndale.
The 6-foot-1 senior has 539 yards on 50 carries.
Blacklick’s Sheesley is second with 530 yards on 58 carries.
Shade senior Brock Medva has 525 rushing yards on 71 carries.
Two area passers have thrown for 500-plus yards through three weeks. Forest Hills sophomore quarterback Joe Donoughe has an area-high 545 passing yards, while Richland junior Matt Shaffer has 537 passing yards.
Richland junior receiver Kyle Flick has an area-best 417 receiving yards on 20 catches.
Ligonier senior Ryan Torrance leads the area with 60 points and 10 touchdowns. The Rams’ Maddy Grimm is first in kick scoring with 17 points on 20 extra-point attempts.
Defense first: Portage senior linebacker Cody Kephart ranks first with 51 tackles, two more than Bedford senior linebacker Jacob Wirick.
Ligonier senior defensive tackle Stuart Urch leads the area with eight sacks.
Anti-bullying: Undefeated Richland will host 2-1 Johnstown in one of the week’s more intriguing LHAC matchups.
The on-field action will be important. But the message off the field also carries some weight.
Both schools have teamed to encourage their fans to wear white. The “White Out” night is part of “a stand against bullying.”
Marathon game: A lot can happen during the course of a football game.
But Conemaugh Valley and Ferndale inadvertently took that concept to the extreme. The Jays and Jackets’ season-opener began on Sept. 1 at Thomas Yewcic Stadium and concluded Tuesday evening – 18 days for one game.
Lightning delays and the threat of a storm postponed the game with Valley leading 40-18 in the third quarter on Sept. 1. The Jays won 47-24 after the game finally resumed and concluded early Tuesday evening.
Put into perspective, some of the local events that occurred in between the opening kickoff and final buzzer:
* The Cambria County Fair was held.
* Vice President Joe Biden visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville.
* Both Penn State and Pitt started 0-2 before each finally picked up their first victory last weekend.
* The St. Francis football team won two games amid its best start in years.
* The Pirates bungled their way through what was supposed to be a playoff push.
* The Last Blast ‘O Summer and Wang Dang Doodle celebrations capped summer activities last weekend.
* The Quaker Steak and Lube grand opening build up.
The Jays will take a 1-2 record into their game against visiting Berlin on Saturday. Ferndale will host Shade on Saturday.
Windber has been involved in its share of marquee matchups over the years.
- HS Sports Windber
Annual Santa Fund Soccer Classic will return
The third annual Santa Fund Soccer Classic, featuring all-star seniors from Cambria and Somerset Counties, will be held as a boys and girls doubleheader on Nov. 23 at Greater Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium.
Indians claim 5-AA golf title
Last year, Conemaugh Township won the District 5 Class AA golf title in dramatic fashion, surprising Bedford with a one-stroke victory.
The Indians took all of the guesswork away on Tuesday at Down River Golf Course in Everett finishing with a 318, 26 strokes ahead of the runner-up Bisons, to claim their second straight crown. Chestnut Ridge was third with 347.
Conemaugh Township shuts out Windber in boys soccer
The Conemaugh Township boys’ soccer team got two goals from Ben Wilson and rolled to a 3-0 shutout over Windber on Monday afternoon.
The contest was a rematch of last year’s District 5-A title game won by the Ramblers.
Portage voted most likely to succeed in WestPAC
In the WestPAC this season there are two new coaches – at Rockwood and Ferndale – and two others returning to the top spot at Conemaugh Valley and Shade.
But it was the schools that have been the perennial powers in the league that received the most votes from fellow coaches as teams to watch during Monday’s WestPAC media day held at Portage Stadium.
Shanksville player gets 2,000th point in loss to Windber
Kayla Stockenus netted her 2,000th point in double-grand fashion on Tuesday night. The Shanksville senior guard grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court with multiple Windber defenders chasing her.
Shade rolls past Windber
Shade’s Wade Walker was unhappy with the way he played on Monday so the senior forward elevated his game on Tuesday.
Walker finished with a game-high 38 points - as many as the entire Windber squad scored – and 20 rebounds, as the Panthers raised their record to 16-1, defeating the host Ramblers
64-38 in a WestPAC non-section game.
Teamwork carries Conemaugh Twp. past Windber girls
Instead of having to depend on one player, the Conemaugh Township girls are blessed with an offensive arsenal from which to choose.
On Wednesday night at Windber, the Indians had seven players score at least three points led by 25 from Megan Boyer, as Township defeated the Ramblers 65-38 in the WestPAC North contest.
Berlin trounces Windber in District 5-A
Newspaper clippings from Berlin’s 28-20 loss at Windber three weeks ago have been on full display inside the Mountaineers’ locker room recently.
They served as a daily reminder that Ramblers players called themselves the better football team.
Conemaugh Twp. girls, Windber boys capture titles
The Conemaugh Township Indians won their third straight District 5-A girls soccer championship at Somerset Area High School in the first game of doubleheader with a 3-0 victory over North Star.
In the nightcap, Windber captured its first district crown with a 1-0 shootout win over Conemaugh Township in the 5-A boys title match.
Windber-Conemaugh Township highlights soccer slate
The Windber boys soccer team is no stranger to playing Conemaugh Township. After all, the Ramblers ran into the Indians twice during the regular season and came away with one victory and one draw.
What’s different about today’s game is the stakes.
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