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BEA and Bellefonte go for district titles, and more: HS football playoff previews

Quarterback Jaden Jones has 2,468 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns this season and will key Bald Eagle’s district title hopes.
Quarterback Jaden Jones has 2,468 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns this season and will key Bald Eagle’s district title hopes.

We’re into week two of local high school playoff action as all four area teams won their playoff opener. It will be much tougher sledding this week for the locals.

Bald Eagle heads to Altoona to take on Forest Hills, Bellefonte will travel to DuBois to battle the undefeated Clearfield Bison, State College heads to St. Francis University to play McDowell, and Penns Valley takes on Richland in a true road game. All four games are slated to kickoff at seven on Friday. First up, a clash of 9-2 teams.

Forest Hills (9-2) vs. Bald Eagle (9-2)

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Altoona

Coaches: FH – Don Bailey; BEA – Jesse Nagle (third season)

Players to watch: FH – Adam Cecere, Sr., QB; BEA – Jaden Jones, Jr., QB

The skinny: Forest Hills travels to the district finals after a 30-22 victory over Westmont Hilltop in the semifinals. The Rangers haven’t lost since September 7 when they were defeated by Richland, 56-27. Bald Eagle enters the district finals after a dominant 47-27 victory over Huntingdon. The Eagles put up 496 yards of total offense in the game.

Forest Hills’ offense is heavily reliant on star senior quarterback Adam Cecere, who has been a menace through the air and on the ground for the Rangers. He has thrown for 2,276 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, while throwing just four interceptions. On the ground, Cecere has gained 671 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Bald Eagle has to key on Cecere to slow down the Ranger offense; if he can get rolling, the Eagles will be in trouble.

Bald Eagle has a threat of its own at quarterback in junior Jaden Jones. Jones has been slinging the rock all year for the Eagles and has done so consistently. He has 2,468 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns on the season. In the Eagles’ first matchup of the playoffs, Jones was efficient and was able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, averaging 26.4 yards per completion on eight of 13 passing. Jones will be at the center of Forest Hills’ game plan if they hope to upset the Eagles on Friday night.

Bellefonte (9-2) vs. Clearfield (11-0)

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: DuBois Coaches: B – Shanon Manning (sixth season); C – Tim Janocko

Last meeting: Clearfield 49-21, September 28

Players to watch: B – Kyle Myers, Sr., QB; C – Isaac Rumery, Sr., QB

The skinny: Bellefonte cruised to victory in its playoff opener, dominating Bradford, 58-18. The victory came after the Red Raiders fell behind 12-0 early in the game. Clearfield has dominated all season and that continued last week when it defeated DuBois, 45- 14. The Bison scored 35 first-half points to put away the Red Raiders in their matchup earlier this season.

Bellefonte has relied on its rushing attack to keep its offense moving and that is unlikely to change this week. While junior running back C.J. Funk has been the focal point of the offense, senior quarterback Kyle Myers will be the difference-maker this week for the Red Raiders.

Myers is Bellefonte’s second-leading rusher and has 639 rushing yards, and though the Red Raiders rarely throw the ball, when they do in this game, they’ll need Myers to be on target to keep the Bison off balance. If Myers can do that, Bellefonte will have a shot to knock the Bison out in an upset.

Clearfield senior quarterback Isaac Rumery has also been a dual threat at quarterback, but is much more effective through the air. While the Penn State preferred walk-on commit has rushed for 505 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, he’s been dominant through the air. Rumery has completed 69.7 percent of his 152 passing attempts, while throwing 25 touchdowns and just three interceptions all season.

Rumery is going to air it out early to try and get the Bison a big lead, and if they do, it should put the game on ice by halftime.

State College (10-1) vs. McDowell (7-4)

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: St. Francis University

Coaches: SC – Matt Lintal (fifth season); M – Bo Orlando

Players to watch: SC – Dresyn Green, So., RB; M – Elijah Lopez, So., RB

The skinny: State College is coming off a win in the District 6 finals last week, having defeated Mifflin County, 42-7. McDowell travels to St. Francis University on a three-game winning streak, with their most recent victory being over Taylor Allderdice in their playoff opener, 49-14.

The Little Lions have been dominant on the ground since their lone loss of the season to Harrisburg on October 6. Since then, sophomore running back Dresyn Green has run roughshod over defenses. That culminated last week with a dominant performance when he rushed 14 times for 210 yards.

Prior to October 12, Green only had 19 carries for 136 yards on the season. Since the loss, he has 59 carries for 640 rushing yards and five of his eight touchdowns. Green should be the center of attention again this Friday night.

McDowell features an offense that is dependent on the run game. They average 129 passing yards and 212.1 rushing yards per game and have three players with at least 450 rushing yards. Sophomore running back Elijah Lopez has been the head of that attack in recent weeks, with 58 carries in the last three weeks for 442 yards and all seven of his touchdowns this season. He was electric in their playoff opener, carrying the ball 17 times for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Lopez will have to keep up his recent work if McDowell wants to defeat the Little Lions.

Penns Valley (8-3) at Richland (11-0)

Time: 7 p.m.

Coaches: PV – Martin Tobias (23 rd season); R – Brandon Bailey

Players to watch: PV – Ryan Ripka, Sr, RB; R – Caleb Burke, Jr., WR

The skinny: Penns Valley will try to extend its winning streak to six when it takes on Richland this Friday. The Rams defeated Southern Huntingdon County 42 -27 in their last game. Richland hosts Penns Valley with the intent of continuing its undefeated season and advancing to the district finals. The team flattened West Branch in the quarterfinals, 61-7.

Penns Valley has a tall task ahead this Friday night. For the Rams to pull off the upset, they’ll need senior running back Ryan Ripka to be a threat as a runner and a receiver to keep Richland on its toes. Ripka has 196 carries for 1,118 yards and 16 touchdowns, and as a receiver, he has 44 catches for 550 yards and seven touchdowns.

For Penns Valley to upset Richland, he’ll have to repeat his performance against Bellefonte this year when he had 16 carries for 80 yards, and six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. If he can do that, Penns Valley will have a chance.

For Richland, balance is the name of the game. The team average 226.2 passing yards per game and 230 rushing yards per game. Junior wide receiver Caleb Burke plays a big role; he has 1,078 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns on the year. He also averages 18.6 yards per reception and is prolific as a big-play threat. If Burke can find space in the Penns Valley defense and get open, the Rams will be in for a long night.