Philipsburg-Osceola has gone two weeks without a victory. Penns Valley has gone twice that long.
A pair of 1-4 Centre County rivals with voracious appetites for a win will square off Friday as the Mounties face the Rams and a homecoming crowd in Spring Mills.
“Our kids have to be hungry to get a win,” said P-O coach Jeff Vroman. “It’s been a couple of weeks here and we’ve got to get back on the winning track. They know what lies ahead of them. They’ve just got to do it.”
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic slugfest, I really do,” added Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias, whose team hasn’t won since the season opener.
Last week, both teams had their chances.
Philipsburg-Osceola led Chestnut Ridge into the fourth quarter, but gave up three late touchdowns in a 24-7 loss.
“Last week, I was very pleased with the effort,” Vroman said. “Up until five minutes left in the football game, we were up 7-3. You can’t fault the kids for the effort. The intensity was there. I like the way we’re hitting people and flying to the football.
“Turnovers and simple penalties took us out of a lot of scoring opportunities. That’s something we have to correct and get better with in order to finish things off.”
For the second consecutive week, the Rams were in a slugfest. They fell behind early and could never quite catch up, falling 34-28 at Huntingdon.
Tobias was disappointed to see another big number on the scoreboard for an opponent. The Rams are averaging close to 26 points per game in their four losses, but they’re giving up nearly 47.
“When you’re giving up something like 40 points if you average it out, we’ve got to do a better job of tackling, get into position better and take on blocks better,” Tobias said. “I could go on and on. We just need to get better.”
Vroman is seeing better results from his defense. The Mounties held Chestnut Ridge to just eight first downs.
“I think we made the most strides last week defensively,” he said.
“Defensively, they really present a lot of challenges for us,” Tobias said.
Cameron Tobias should give the Mounties a test. The coach’s son has completed 66 of 109 passes for 934 yards. Cameron Tobias has eight touchdowns and just two interceptions.
“I think he’s doing a nice job,” Martin Tobias said. “I think a lot of the credit goes to his receivers for making some good catches. He’s distributing the ball, but the guys are catching it. That’s important. The guys up front, lots can be said for the way that they’ve handled the pressure and the things other teams have thrown at us.”
Vroman said his defensive backs are going to have to keep players like Taylor Collison (who rushed for three touchdowns and 109 yards last week) from getting deep. Collison has 19 catches for 318 yards and two scores.
“We’ve got to keep receivers in front of us and force him to complete footballs,” Vroman said of Cameron Tobias. “Make them pay for the catches they make and make them drive the length of the field and force them to work for everything they get.
“He has been very successful throwing the football. They have a lot of kids that can catch it.”
Martin Tobias said his defense is wary of P-O quarterback Curtis Matsko and his teammates. Matsko has passed for nearly 400 yards and run for 220 more. Dustin Shuey is averaging 8.8 yards on his 40 carries.
“Their quarterback is doing a real nice job of distributing the ball, whether it’s the pass or making reads on his pitches,” Tobias said. “He runs the ball hard and tough. He’s certainly a talent.”
Vroman is looking to eliminate mistakes on offense.
“We just need to sustain blocks and stay away from the penalties,” he said. “That’s what has really hurt us. Going into last week, we were averaging 300 yards a game. That’s where we want to be.”
“All it has to be is a five-yard penalty,” Vroman added. “ It takes you out of synch. There’s a certain rhythm to an offensive game that often has to happen. When you find yourself behind the sticks, that rhythm is gone.”