Shanon Manning felt some stress as he watched Philipsburg-Osceola play St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy on Saturday afternoon.
The Bellefonte football coach knew his team’s postseason hopes rested on the Mounties getting a win in their final game of the regular season. Philipsburg-Osceola helped ease some of Manning’s nerves by taking control early on its way to a 34-14 win.
Manning soon got confirmation that his team had edged Somerset for the final spot in the District 6 Class AAAA playoffs and sent out a mass text to his players: “Welcome to the playoffs.”
The fourth-seeded Red Raiders (5-5) travels to Clearfield to take on the No. 1 seed Bison (9-1) in the district semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
Bellefonte is making its first postseason appearance since 2010 against a traditional power. Clearfield has won nine straight games — a streak that includes a 28-0 victory over the Red Raiders on Sept. 30.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Manning said. “This isn’t mission impossible, though.”
Manning said he thinks Clearfield has improved since the first meeting between the teams.
Bison quarterback Isaac Rumery has developed into a more consistent threat, completing 56.7 percent of his passes while throwing nine touchdowns and three interceptions in the last four games. Rumery is also a threat to run, but the ground game is powered by Seth Caldwell, who has rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Caldwell rushed for 118 yards on 27 carries in the regular-season matchup with the Red Raiders. He scored the first touchdown of that game to help Clearfield build a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Manning said his team wasn’t ready for Clearfield at that point in the season, and he knows his team will have to play at a high level to pull off the upset Friday.
“They’re 9-1 for a reason,” Manning said. “It didn’t just accidentally happen, and they weren’t handed those wins, so we would need to play close to the maximum of our potential.”
Manning is focusing his efforts on what’s worked for the Red Raiders this season.
Offensively, they’ve been at their best with a productive running game.
Running back Dexter Gallishaw is getting closer to full strength after suffering an injury against Central three weeks ago. He rushed for 27 yards on 12 carries against Bald Eagle Area last week.
Quarterback Tyler Kreger has helped bolster Bellefonte’s rushing attack and led the team with 68 yards on 12 carries in last week’s win.
“We haven’t done it consistently, but when we can get the ball going on the ground, there’s times we can run the ball well,” Manning said. “When we’re able to run the ball, it opens up our play-action pass game and that’s something that Tyler’s done a pretty good job with over the last couple weeks.
“It’s not been any type of mystery that we’ve made a large part of our living off of play-action passes.”
The Red Raiders have been in nearly every game this season, overcoming a handful of deficits to set up dramatic finishes.
Manning is hoping his team can find a way to make Friday’s game interesting going into the fourth quarter.
“At that point, with this team, the way they’ve battled, anything’s possible,” Manning said.