Bellefonte and Penns Valley are taking the same approach to this week’s matchup.
The Mountain League foes and county rivals are treating it like another game, focusing on what they have to do to win instead of getting caught up in the chance to earn county bragging rights.
The Red Raiders can move closer to achieving a preseason goal of beating all three county rivals as they did last season. Bellefonte rolled past winless Philipsburg-Osceola in Week 3 and takes on Bald Eagle Area in its regular season finale in November.
The Rams (2-4) can clinch the county sweep and surpass their 2014 win total with a win when they visit Bellefonte (1-5) at 7 p.m. Friday. Penns Valley, which went 2-8 last year, beat Bald Eagle Area in Week 3 and topped Philipsburg-Osceola a week ago.
“It’s a big game,” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. “We’re going to try to build on the momentum that we established by getting the win last week. It’s going to be a tough contest.”
Tobias said his team hasn’t even talked about going for the county sweep this week.
Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning and his players talked about it before the season as their first goal in a season they hoped would continue into the playoffs.
Now, they’re trying to refocus and take the season one game at a time.
Manning said the Red Raiders became consumed by their goal of reaching the postseason, something they felt was within reach with an experienced group returning after going 3-7 in 2014.
Manning knows it sounds cliché, but he said his team lost sight of that one-game-at-a-time mentality the last two weeks, which included a 42-0 loss to Tyrone and a 42-7 loss to Clearfield.
“I don’t just mean that from a cliché standpoint, (and) not trying to take anything from a rivalry,” Manning said. “But at the same time making sure that the kids understand that every week has the same type of importance and the same level of importance and requires the same type of preparation.”
So this week, Bellefonte is preparing to beat Penns Valley.
“I would say this has been our best week of practice this year,” Manning said. “It’s been very consistent. … The morale’s been real good again. I think it’s back to focusing on just the game at hand, not looking down the road, not looking in the rearview mirror, just where are we right now, what can we control.”
Tobias knows Bellefonte will try to control the game with its rushing attack, led by Austin Jackson. The Red Raiders leading rusher has been held under the 100-yard mark in his last two full games, running for 75 yards on 13 carries against Tyrone and 69 yards on 11 carries against Clearfield.
The Rams, meanwhile, used a balanced attack to take care of Philipsburg-Osceola last week. Running back Chase Collison rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, and quarterback Andrew Tobias finished 10 of 20 for 167 yards passing.
Martin Tobias said Collison has been a leader on both sides of the ball, making the calls on defense and serving as a reliable running back.
“He’s been a real steadying force on the offensive side, real consistent,” Tobias said. “I think the biggest difference is that the guys up front have been getting more comfortable and more confident, which has enabled him to run the ball better.”
The coach said Andrew Tobias has made “great strides” since the beginning of the year. The junior quarterback, a first-year varsity starter, has been playing with more confidence and making the right reads.
Tobias has seen that type of growth throughout his team.
“We were a very young team as far as experience goes coming into the season and we’re watching these players grow up right before us,” Tobias said. “They’re playing with more confidence as each week goes by. They’re getting more comfortable within the system of what we’re doing.”
But the Rams still have plenty of room to grow.
“We’ve got to play good, sound football,” Tobias said. “And we haven’t done that as consistently as we would like.”