High School Sports

Who will win the Mountain League football title? 4 local teams are locked in a battle

The final seconds ticked off the clock of Friday night’s PIAA high school football game between the Bellefonte Red Raiders and the Penns Valley Rams, as the Rams earned the hard-fought 14-6 victory on the road. With the win, the Rams put themselves in a strong position in the Mountain League, alongside three other league foes, including the opponent they’d just beaten.

At 4-1 in conference play, Penns Valley is now tied atop the Mountain League football standings with the Red Raiders, the Bald Eagle Area Bald Eagles, and the Clearfield Bison. Each team has played at least one of the opposing teams they are tied with, and three of the four have at least one more game against the other three. Penns Valley is the lone team that has finished its slate against the top of the league, going 2-1 with their only loss coming on a last-second touchdown to the Bison in a 56-49 shootout.

Let’s take a look at where the top four stands as we head into the final three weeks of the regular season.

Editor’s note: While Bishop Carroll plays a Mountain League schedule, it won’t officially be a Mountain League team until 2020. Therefore, results against Bishop Carroll do not yet count toward the Mountain League standings.

Bald Eagle Area Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagles are the team with the most games against top-four opponents left this season. They’ve only played one game against the other three, a 42-7 loss to Penns Valley in Week 3. In that game, the Eagles lost star quarterback Jaden Jones to a shoulder injury and played without star offensive player Gage McClenahan for a good portion of the game. Even with that loss, the Eagles still maintain quite a bit of control of their own destiny. They’ll take on the Bison this Friday night in a game that could eliminate the loser from contention for the Mountain League title. If the Eagles get a win in that game, they can narrow down the field of teams to themselves, the Rams, and their biggest rival, the Red Raiders.

The Eagles will take on the Red Raiders in both teams’ final regular season game of the year in a Curtin Bowl matchup that could have Mountain League title implications. If both teams can make it to that game without another loss, the winner would only need another Penns Valley loss in the final three weeks to secure a Mountain League championship.

Bald Eagle Area’s Kaden Bittinger runs past Central defenders with the ball during the game on Friday, Spet. 20, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Bellefonte Red Raiders

The Red Raiders are coming off a loss against one of their top four opponents with one game left against those top four. Fortunately for them, they already have a win over one of the other three schools. Bellefonte defeated Clearfield 28-19 in Week 6 of the regular season. That win put them in control of their own destiny before they lost it in their loss to the Rams. Now, the Red Raiders will need some help to guarantee a Mountain League title. They’ll need Penns Valley to lose another game in the final three weeks of the season to have a clear path to an outright regular season title.

The best the Red Raiders can do is ensure they finish the season with one Mountain League loss. That means taking care of business in their final two league games against Central and Bald Eagle Area in weeks eight and 10, respectively. If they do that, a Mountain League loss from Penns Valley will put them in position to take the regular season crown.

Penns Valley’s Zach Royer stops Bellefonte’s Nick Capparelle short of the goal line during the game on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Clearfield Bison

The Bison are the only non-Centre County team vying for the Mountain League title as the season comes to a close. They’re also one of the two teams in the best position to win the title. The Bison have one regular season loss, a Mountain League loss to the Red Raiders by a score of 28-19 in Week 6. They have a 56-49 early-season win over Penns Valley and will get their shot against Bald Eagle Area this Friday at home. If they can take down the Eagles, the Bison will be in position to finish the regular season with only one league loss and a head-to-head win over the conference’s only other potential 9-1 team that has a single league loss. A loss to the Eagles would almost guarantee the Bison would be eliminated from contention for the Mountain League title.

Penns Valley’s Aaron Tobias runs with the ball during the game against Bellefonte on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Penns Valley Rams

The Rams have zero games left against the other teams in the top and are in a prime position to win the rest of its games in the regular season. With that being said, they’ll still need some help to win the Mountain League. The Rams went 2-1 against Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, and Clearfield, with their only loss coming against the Bison in Week 2 on a last-second touchdown in a game that ended 56-49. They have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, with only two league games left. They’ll take on Tyrone in Week 9, and Philipsburg-Osceola in the regular-season finale. Those two teams have one league win between them, and that win was when Tyrone took down P-O in a close 22-16 game.

With a Bald Eagle win over Clearfield this Friday, the Rams will be in excellent position to win the Mountain League. They’ll just need to win the rest of their games to claim the title. With a Clearfield win, things get messy for the Rams, and the rest of the Mountain League, with deep tiebreakers coming into play. The outcome of that game will go a long way into deciding which teams have a real chance to win the Mountain League title.

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Jon Sauber earned his B.A. in digital and print journalism from Penn State and his M.A. in sports journalism from IUPUI. His previous stops include jobs at The Indianapolis Star, the NCAA, and Rivals.