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
PIAA wrestling notebook: Murin not pleased with fifth place
Max Murin won the first 36 matches of his varsity career.
But the Central Cambria freshman was disappointed after he dropped two consecutive bouts on Friday night at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Area wrestlers search for gold
Conner Buttry and Aaron Burkett will make their debuts in the PIAA Wrestling Championships this morning, but they are quite familiar with a state tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Each has been a fixture on the Chestnut Ridge squad that has made back-to-back appearances in the state dual-meet tournament. That familiarity could help them, along with returning state medalist Austin Buttry, when the three Lions hit the mats in Hershey this morning.
Windber ousts Chestnut Ridge boys
Windber held off a late Chestnut Ridge rally and advanced to the District 5 Class AA boys’ basketball semifinals with a 58-52 victory over the visiting Lions on Wednesday night.
The fourth-seeded Ramblers (19-4) built a double-digit second-quarter advantage and held a 47-39 edge heading into the fourth, but the fifth-seeded Lions (13-9) battled back to pull within one with just over a minute remaining. Windber answered with a key defensive play and also hit five of six free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.
- High school basketball in brief | Feb. 12, 2014
LHAC, WestPAC titles up for grabs
The winter weather has played havoc on the area athletic schedules and athletic directors have been challenged to reschedule events in a smaller and ever-narrowing time frame.
With that in mind, several teams still have to nail down their berths in Saturday’s WestPAC and Laurel Highlands Conference basketball championship games.
- High school basketball in brief | Feb. 11, 2014
- High school basketball in brief | Jan. 23, 2014
- High school basketball in brief | Jan. 16, 2014
- High school basketball in brief | Jan. 15, 2014
- High school basketball in brief | Jan. 9, 2014
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- PIAA wrestling notebook: Murin not pleased with fifth place