State championship dreams remain alive for four Centre County high school football teams. After receiving a bye last week, the State College Little Lions will play in the first round of the Class 6A PIAA Championships on Friday, while Bellefonte, Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley are still in district play. Bellefonte and BEA will play in the District 6 championship game for Class 4A and 3A, respectively, while the Penns Valley Rams will try their luck in the Class 2A semifinals.
Let’s take a look at all four games set to take place this weekend.
Penns Valley (10-1) at Richland (11-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Marty Tobias (PV), Brandon Bailey (R)
Last meeting: Richland 59-7 in 2018
Players to watch: TE Logan Snyder (PV), WR Caleb Burke (R)
The Skinny: Penns Valley is in for a difficult matchup in the District 6 Class 2A semifinals Friday night when it takes on the Richland Rams. The Centre County representative in the Class 2A playoffs will be in search of another postseason victory after taking down the Marion Center Stingers last week, 48-12.
Richland is led offensively by senior wide receiver Caleb Burke. Burke has 47 catches for 905 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. Burke has also contributed as a rusher at times with 12 carries for 115 yards and two rushing touchdowns, and as a passer with two completions on five attempts for 87 yards and a touchdown. Burke is the team’s leading receiver and a crucial part of an offense that is averaging 42.7 points per game and a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 14 points all season. Burke and Richland are the No. 1 seed for a reason and will be a difficult task to handle for Penns Valley.
Senior quarterback Aaron Tobias is going to be the focal point Friday night for Penns Valley, in part because he’s one passing touchdown shy of tying the state’s single season passing touchdown record of 52. Averaging 5.1 passing TDs per game, Tobias has the opportunity to tie and break the record Friday night. Even though even though all eyes will be on Tobias, his teammate Logan Snyder might be the most pivotal during the game.
Snyder is Tobias’ top target with 67 receptions for 1,019 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions, according to MaxPreps. Snyder caught three passes for 55 yards in last week’s win over the Stingers, but left the game early due to injury. It’s unknown if Snyder will be available for Friday’s matchup, but if he’s not, Tobias will have to find a new favorite target if he wants to lead Penns Valley to victory.
The winner of the battle of the Rams will advance to the District 6 Class 2A finals next week where they’ll take on the winner of this weekend’s Bellwood-Antis-Ligonier Valley matchup.
Clearfield (9-2) vs. Bellefonte (8-2)
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium
Coaches: Tim Janocko (C), Shanon Manning (B)
Last meeting: Bellefonte 28-19 in Week 6
Players to watch: RB Brett Zattoni (C), RB C.J. Funk (B)
The Skinny: Bellefonte will be back in action this week after receiving a bye in the first round of the District 6-9 Class 4A playoffs. The Red Raiders are set to take on the Clearfield Bison in a rematch from earlier this season.
The Bison fell to the Red Raiders the last time the two teams met, and this time they’ll be without one of their best players in the rematch. The Bison will be without star junior wide receiver Jake Lezzer, who suffered an injury in Week 7 and hasn’t played since. Senior running back Brett Zattoni has been the focal point of the Bison offense with Lezzer sidelined and that will likely be the case this Friday. Zattoni has 49 carries for 351 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns in the three full games since Lezzer’s injury, according to MaxPreps. He’ll need to step up against a tough Bellefonte defense Friday night.
Bellefonte will look to lead back C.J. Funk to carry the offense to a district title Friday night. Funk, the school’s all-time leading rusher, has been the star of the Red Raider offense all season long and has dictated wins and losses for Bellefonte. The Red Raiders are 8-0 when Funk rushes for at least 100 yards this season, and 0-2 when he doesn’t. Bellefonte will be in an excellent position to secure a district title if Funk can get his rushing yardage into triple digits Friday night.
The winner of the matchup will take on the winner of Friday’s game between Cathedral Prep and University Prep next week.
McDowell (9-1) vs. State College (9-1)
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Erie Veteran’s Memorial Stadium
Coaches: Bo Orlando (M), Matt Lintal (SC)
Last meeting: State College 55-20 in 2018
Players to watch: RB Elijah Lopez (M), RB Dresyn Green (SC)
The Skinny: State College opens its 2019 playoff run in the second week of the postseason after winning the District 6 Class 6A title by default after 3-7 Mifflin County declined to participate in the playoffs. They’ll take on the McDowell Trojans Friday night in Erie.
The Trojans will be led on offense by junior running back Elijah Lopez. Lopez missed time due to injury but has been electric in the nine games he’s played. The junior running back has 1,132 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns on 135 carries this season and is the team’s leading rusher. He is at the center of the McDowell offense and will have to be at his best Friday night against State College.
The Little Lions will also feature an electric junior running back on offense Friday night. Dresyn Green is the team’s leading rusher and a threat to break a big gain every time he touches the ball. His quickness and shiftiness allow him to find openings in the defense and his speed allows him to break away once he finds a gap. Green has 941 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 147 carries, according to MaxPreps. His big-play ability will be important in a game that features two explosive junior running backs.
Whichever team comes out on top will play the winner of this weekend’s game between Delaware Valley and Wilkes-Barre next week.
Westmont Hilltop (8-3) vs. Bald Eagle Area (8-3)
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Altoona’s Mansion Park
Coaches: Pat Barron (WH), Jesse Nagle (BEA)
Players to watch: RB Hudson Holbay (WH), RB Gage McClenahan (BEA)
The Skinny: Bald Eagle Area will try to lock up the District 6 Class 3A title this week when it takes on the Westmont Hilltop Hilltoppers. The lone Saturday matchup featuring a Centre County team showcases the top two seeds in District 6 Class 3A facing off.
The Hilltoppers, the district’s No. 2 seed, are a run-heavy team that features three players with at least 800 rushing yards. The leader among the trio is junior running back Hudson Holbay, who has 878 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns on 156 carries, according to MaxPreps. There isn’t much of a gap between Holbay and the other two rushers with at least 800 yards, senior backs Zane Blackburn and Mason Muto. Blackburn has 843 yards and six touchdowns and Muto has 856 yards and 15 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. That trio fuels the Westmont Hilltop offense and getting them going will be key to the Hilltoppers’ success.
The Eagles feature a much more balanced offensive attack. With that being said, senior running back Gage McClenahan is heavily involved whether the team is moving the ball through the air or on the ground. McClenahan hasn’t put up prolific numbers this year but is a valuable offensive weapon for the Eagles. He can make opponents pay as a runner or as a receiver and is at his best when he’s in the open field. He has 178 rushing yards on 25 carries and 323 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 32 receptions, according to MaxPreps. The Eagles will look to get the ball in the hands of their offensive playmaker and put him in position to make an impact.
The winner of this District 6 Class 3A title game will take on the winner of this weekend’s game between Bedford and Westinghouse next week.