The first week of playoffs are here and both local high schools are involved!
The weather hasn’t been very cooperative for the last month of Friday and Saturday nights. Let’s hope for the sake of the athletes on the field, the best of conditions enables them to prove themselves without interference from Mother Nature. She always gets her way, but doesn’t belong on the football field when young men get an opportunity that may never come again all their lives.
Thanks to our guest picker for last week, Harry Sickler. Harry outfoxed us all to win the weekly poll for Week 9. Harry’s only miss was the Penn State-Ohio State game where he went with PSU.
Bob Miller, John Harlow, and Chris Lash were 8-2 and Kerry Naylor went from first to last picking seven of 10 this week. For the season, the guests lead with a 72-18 record followed by Bob Miller with 69-21, Kerry Naylor and Chris Lash are tied at 66-24 and John Harlow (I’m getting ready to make a big move) is 61-29.
Our guest picker this week is Tyrone grad Merle “Bud” Noel. Bud was a senior left halfback and leading scorer on the Eagles 1940 squad that finished the regular season 12-0 and played the memorable 0-0 tie in the ice and mud with Shenandoah to share the mythical state championship. Good luck Bud.
Ligonier Valley at Tyrone: First round Class AA Playoff game. Tyrone and coach John Franco are back in the playoffs and have to be taken very seriously if weather and field conditions allow the Golden Eagles to use all their weapons. Ligonier Valley can not be expected to roll over. The Mounties lost their first two games of the year to always tough Laurel Valley and undefeated Blairsville then ran the table to win their last seven games going into the playoffs. Ligonier Valley handed Tyrone a loss in 1985, in the first District playoff game the Eagles ever played in. The gates at Gray Veterans Memorial Field will open at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday for the 7 p.m. game
The Picks: Miller Tyrone 26-12, John Harlow Tyrone 35-20, Kerry Naylor Tyrone 35-7, Chris Lash Tyrone 28-14, Bud Noel Tyrone 20-13.
Bellwood-Antis at Windber: First round Class A Playoff game. Two schools with a ton of recent success meet at Windber on Saturday night. The Ramblers have won 38 straight regular season games, a steak that carries back to the eighth game of the 1998 season for their last loss during the regular season. Bellwood-Antis, going back to the third game of the 1999 season has gone 33-1 during the regular season. These two small school powerhouses met in the semifinal round of the 1999 playoffs, the last time Bellwood-Antis was in Class A. The Blue Devils walked off the field at Windber Stadium that day with a 36-20 victory. B-A must perform on all cylinders for all four quarters if they want to advance and get a possible rematch with Bishop Guilfoyle in the semifinals next week.
The Picks: Miller Bellwood-Antis 27-21, John Harlow Bellwood-Antis 17-10, Kerry Naylor 28-14, Chris Lash Bellwood-Antis 17-14, Bud Noel Windber 24-20.
Moshannon Valley at Blairsville: First round Class A Playoff game. Moshannon Valley ran through the first eight dates on their schedule undefeated before getting bumped off by Bellwood-Antis 21-16 last week. Blairsville was undefeated (9-0) in the Heritage Conference. Whether Blairsville is for real or just the most recent Heritage Conference lightweight will be determined on Friday night at Blairsville.
The Picks: Miller Blairsville, John Harlow Moshannon Valley, Kerry Naylor Blairsville, Chris Lash Blairsville, Bud Noel Blairsville.
Hollidaysburg at Central Mountain: With just a total of four Class AAAA schools in District Six, the big schools have another week of the regular season to play before starting their playoffs. Hollidaysburg is fresh from their triumph over archrival Huntingdon last week. Central Mountain has played some tough schools along the way to a 3-6 record.
The Picks: Miller Hollidaysburg, John Harlow Hollidaysburg, Kerry Naylor Central Mountain, Chris Lash Hollidaysburg, Bud Noel Hollidaysburg.
Johnstown at Indian Valley: First round Class AAA playoff game. Johnstown is back in the District Six picture after many years as part of the WPIAL and then had falling enrollment and weak teams before re-emerging in 2002 as the No. Three Seed in Class AAA. Indian Valley finished as the No. Two Seed, but must regroup after losing two of the their final three games (Huntingdon and Tyrone) Saturday at Huntingdon’s War Vets Field.
The Picks: Miller Indian Valley, John Harlow Indian Valley, Kerry Naylor Indian Valley, Chris Lash Indian Valley, Bud Noel Indian Valley.
Northern Bedford at Bishop Guilfoyle: First round Class A playoff game. BG has rambled over nine straight opponents for the Marauders’ best start since 1987 and have secured home field advantage for as long as they keep winning. Northern Bedford was undefeated for the first six weeks of the season before getting edged by then undefeated Mo Valley 12-6 and upset the next week by Claysburg-Kimmel 26-21. The top seed in Class AA, BG would usually get the prime time Friday night outing, but Altoona is booked into Mansion Park on Friday, so the BG-Northern Bedford game will be played on Saturday night.
The Picks: Miller Bishop Guilfoyle, John Harlow Bishop Guilfoyle, Kerry Naylor Bishop Guilfoyle, Chris Lash Bishop Guilfoyle, Bud Noel Bishop Guilfoyle.
Bishop Carroll at Portage: First round Class A Playoff game. Third seed BC still has nine seniors back, including quarterback Nate Crookshank from last years District champion who advanced to the Western Regional title game. Portage, the sixth seed, has lost just two regular season games in the last two years and both those defeats came at the hands of Windber. This is a Saturday night game that will be played at Penn Cambria’s field in Cresson.
The Picks: Miller Bishop Carroll, John Harlow Bishop Carroll, Kerry Naylor Bishop Carroll, Chris Lash Portage, Bud Noel Bishop Carroll.
Pitt at Virginia Tech: The Hokies (what is a Hokie?) have two big running backs, arguably the nation’s best running back tandem, that nobody really has been able to stop. Pitt has been effective against the run, but hasn’t faced anyone with the ability of Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones. In addition, Pitt is 0-4 in games at Blacksburg and will face the top run defense in the nation that has allowed just 40 yards per game through eight games. Rod Rutherford and the Panthers receiving corps will have to stand tall and open up the Tech defense.
The Picks: Miller Virginia Tech 28-17, John Harlow Pitt 17-10, Kerry Naylor Virginia Tech 31-20, Chris Lash Virginia Tech 24-17, Bud Noel Virginia Tech 27-20.
Illinois at Penn State: Penn State and Joe Paterno has turned the program around after two straight losing campaigns into a team that with decent officiating and one or two breaks could easily be undefeated. The defense has performed above and beyond the call of duty. The offense has been very closely tied to the pluses and minuses of sophomore quarterback Zach Mills. Mills has sputtered at times and shined at others. Larry Johnson is an important cog, but when Mills sputters, so does the entire offense.
The Picks: Miller Penn State 35-20, John Harlow Illinois 27-20, Kerry Naylor Penn State 42-0, Chris Lash Penn State 30-10, Bud Noel Penn State 34-10.
Steelers at Cleveland: Pittsburgh has been on a roll behind the efforts of quarterback Tommy Maddox and a re-envigorated defense. Steeler-Cleveland games are always a good excuse for a fight or at least several skirmishes, and that’s just in the stands. The Steelers (4-3) own just a half-game lead over the Browns (4-4) in the AFC North Division so this game could go a long way toward determining the champion, even though the season is still less than half over. It would give the Steelers two wins over Cleveland, the first one a 16-13 OT win was the game whern Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart and has never relinquished the job whle Pittsburgh has gone 4-1.
The Picks: Miller Steelers 31-27, John Harlow Steelers 30-17, Kerry Naylor Steelers 25-17, Chris Lash Steelers 28-21, Bud Noel Steelers 27-19.
AREA SPORTS NOTES: The Bellwood-Antis eighth grade football team finished the season undefeated (8-0) for the first time in school history.
The Tyrone Girls volleyball team will play Ligonier Valley at Richland High School at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
The first week of playoffs are here and both local high schools are involved!