Five local football teams open their seasons Friday night.
Bellefonte, Philipsburg-Osceola and St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy will face opponents from their 2016 schedules. Penns Valley will host Punxsutawney. And Bald Eagle Area will travel to Troy.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups:
BEA at Troy
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Time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: BEA — Jesse Nagle (second season)
Players to watch: BEA — Gage McClenahan, RB/DB
The skinny: Bald Eagle Area will look to start the season strong like it did in 2016 — the Eagles won their opener as part of a 3-1 start to last season.
This year, they’ll take on Troy in their season opener. In last year’s first game, against St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, the Eagles cruised to a 54-0 win. Gage McClenahan hauled in five passes for 77 yards, and Matthew Reese made a touchdown catch in the dominant performance over the Wolves; both are expected to have productive sophomore seasons.
The Eagles will look to get the ball in their hands Friday night against Troy, which played a common opponent last season.
BEA and Troy both lost to Jersey Shore in 2016.
The Eagles challenged Jersey Shore in a 28-10 loss (BEA led 10-8 at halftime). Troy suffered a 52-7 loss to Jersey Shore.
Bellefonte at Jersey Shore
Time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Bel — Shanon Manning (fifth season); JS — Tom Gravish
Last meeting: Jersey Shore 33, Bellefonte 28, last season
Players to watch: Bel — Cade Fortney, WR/DB; JS — Elijah Shemory, QB
The skinny: Bellefonte and Jersey Shore opened the 2016 season with a wild game capped by a memorable finish. The Red Raiders trailed 27-0 at halftime and came back to take a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter before a penalty also erased a late go-ahead touchdown on a kickoff return by Bellefonte’s Cade Fortney in the loss.
Jersey Shore went on to win the District 4 championship last season, while Bellefonte finished the regular season with a 5-5 record and qualified for the District 6-9 playoffs.
Fortney is among Bellefonte’s top returning players after leading the team with 37 catches for 603 yards and five touchdowns in addition to grabbing four interceptions in 2016.
For Jersey Shore, quarterback Elijah Shemory returns after throwing for 2,630 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.
Punxsutawney at Penns Valley
Time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: P — Brad Wright; PV — Martin Tobias (22nd season)
Players to watch: P — Stone Smith, RB; PV — Ryan Ripka, RB
The skinny: Penns Valley heads into the season with new faces set to take over as starters.
Junior running back Ryan Ripka finished with 474 yards on 61 carries, good for second on the team behind starter Takoda Bubb, who graduated. Ripka showed his potential in the final game of the 2016 campaign as he piled up 210 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Cowanesque Valley.
The Rams finished with a 3-7 record last year, while Punxsutawney went 2-7.
Stone Smith, Punxsutawney’s top returning rusher, recorded his team’s lone 100-yard rushing performance last year.
P-O at West Branch
Coaches: P-O — Mike Mann (second season); WB — Kevin Hubler
Last meeting: West Branch 54, Philipsburg-Osceola 28, last season
Players to watch: P-O — Bubba Slogosky, QB; WB — Kyle Myers, QB
The skinny: Philipsburg-Osceola will look to start the season strong against West Branch with a new spread offense.
P-O’s Bubba Slogosky will lead the way at quarterback after throwing for 996 yards with six touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2016. He heads into the season with more confidence and with the team’s leading rusher and receiver Matt Johnson back at running back.
West Branch, meanwhile, lost its top playmakers after going 3-7 last season — the Warriors must replace top offensive players in Creighton Coble (643 yards rushing, eight touchdowns) and Justin Rothrock (559 yards receiving, six touchdowns).
Even during its losing campaigns the past three seasons, Philipsburg-Osceola has been relatively competitive against West Branch. The Mounties suffered a 30-28 loss in 2014, followed by a 21-10 loss in 2015. They trailed by nine points late in the first half in 2016, but couldn’t keep pace in a 54-28 loss to the Warriors.
Though P-O couldn’t keep pace last season, the Mounties trailed by nine points late in the first half.
Bucktail at St. Joseph’s (Memorial Field)
Time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: B — Bruce Ransom; SJCA — Murray Fetzer (first season)
Last meeting: St. Joseph’s 33, Bucktail 6, last season
Players to watch: SJCA — Brendan Robinson, QB
The skinny: St. Joseph’s suffered three straight blowout losses to open the 2016 season before earning a 33-6 win over Bucktail.
The Class A schools both draw from small male enrollments, with SJCA listed at 44 and Bucktail listed at 43 for the 2017 season, according to the PIAA. Wolves quarterback Brendan Robinson led his team to victory against Bucktail last season with three rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown. He also had an interception return for a touchdown.
Robinson will look to help the Wolves open coach Murray Fetzer’s first season with a win.
Bucktail went 0-10 last season.
St. Joseph’s and Bucktail are scheduled to play again Sept. 22.