Both the Bellefonte and Penns Valley football teams come into tonight’s fracas with identical 2-4 records, but they seem more like two teams riding in separate elevators that just happened to stop on the same floor. One is on the way up while the other is trying to keep from going down.
Penns Valley catapults in behind the momentum of a two-game winning streak after beginning the season with four-straight losses, while Bellefonte limps in after a 49-14 licking by Clearfield, the Red Raiders' third consecutive loss.
“No question that it’s a big game for both teams,” said Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias. “For us, it’s continue to build on the momentum that we’ve built the past two weeks.”
Last week, a key fumble recovery and subsequent scoring drive just before halftime gave the Mounties the boost they needed to seize control en route to a 27-7 victory over Philipsburg-Osceola. “It was in my opinion the turning point of the game because they were driving down the field and we only had a six-point lead at that point,” Tobias said. “Getting the fumble in itself was huge, then to get the scoreit certainly gave us a big boost and it certainly turned the momentum around in our direction.”
Bellefonte won’t come in with momentum, but the Raiders do have reasons for optimism.
“I just think we have to play somewhat like we did against Central Mountain, and how we started against Tyrone,” said Red Raiders’ head coach Duffy Besch.
In Week 4, the Red Raiders trailed Central Mountain just 17-14 at halftime but a second half collapse resulted in a 50-14 loss. In Week 5 against Tyrone, Bellefonte took a 10-6 lead into intermission before another second half swoon saw them succumb 48-10.
“We’ve proven we can do it; it’s just a matter of doing it for 48 minutes,” Besch said. “We have to come out and set a tone on the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to come out and be able to play on their side of the ball. Not every play is gonna hit for 8 to 12 yards. We’ll take those four yards. We want to take it one play at a time, one series at a time, and we can compete that way for 48 minutes.”
With Nunu Buey and Brian White, Bellefonte can be a formidable foe on the ground. Penns Valley gave up more than 200 yards on the ground last week to P-O.
“Bellefonte runs a different kind of running game and they’ve got kids that can take it the distance on any play,” Tobias said. “I don’t think we can stop it, we have to wrap and tackle and contain it.”
Tobias won’t let his team take the Red Raiders lightly even though Bellefonte has been outscored 147-38 over the last three weeks.
“You can throw the records out the window on this one because both teams will give it all they've got,” Tobias said. “It’s gonna be a real good test for us. They’ve got dynamic weapons, their receiving core is dynamic, and they’ve got backs with breakaway speed.”
Penns Valley has its own offensive threats. Quarterback Cameron Tobias is coming off back-to-back efficient passing games, going 33-for-45 during the current two-game winning streak. And last week, running back Taylor Collison rushed nine times for 98 yards.
“Throughout the season it’s been a matter of opportunity running or throwing -- taking what we’re given,” Tobias said. “Trying to get the ball in the hands of the person who has the opportunity to be successful. It just happened to be (Collison) last week, but every week we try to go in as balanced as possible.”
Both teams are battling to reach the .500 mark.
“I think for both of us it’s sort of a turning (point) game," Besch said. "For them it’s about keeping their momentum going whereas we want to get that momentum back. That’s what makes these games fun. ... It's kind of a backyard rivalry, not quite as big as the Bellefonte and (Bald Eagle Area) rivalry but it’s big. ... I think that’s what makes this game exciting.”