The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

HS Sports Windber

September 20, 2012

Pair of unbeatens meet in Windber

JOHNSTOWN — 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.”

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Who do you think will win Friday's playoff match-up at Somerset Field: the Ramblers or the Cougars?

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