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Huntingdon finds ways to continue winning despite flags

After four weeks of Big 8 Conference play, one thing remains the same from the past two seasons: the Huntingdon Bearcats are undefeated and atop the league standings.
But while past Huntingdon teams have steamrolled through conference play on their way to a top seed in the post-season, this year’s Bearcats are getting it done with resiliency.
Somehow, the ‘Cats have found a way to overcome an enormous amount of penalties to win their first four games and sit on the threshold of the school’s 600th all-time win with 598 heading into tonight’s game against unbeaten Bishop Guilfoyle at War Vets Memorial Field.
In four games, Huntingdon has been flagged 29 times for 192 yards, an average of more than seven penalties per game for nearly 50 yards.
Part of the reason the ‘Cats have been so successful despite their miscues is that they rarely turn the ball over, averaging slightly more than one per game. The other is their all-everything quarterback Geoff Kozak, who seems to thrive in situations when his team is backed against a wall.
The ‘Cats have also been able to avoid costly turnovers in big-games. Against Tyrone in Week Two, the ‘Cats had just one first-quarter interception in a 23-20 overtime win. In last week’s 34-16 win over previously unbeaten Philipsburg-Osceola, Huntingdon fumbled twice in the slop provided by Hurrican Isabel, but they were miniscule glitches after Kozak ran for 82 yards and a touchdown and passed for 182 yards and another score.
Moment of Truth
The Bishop Guilfoyle football program should enter its new conference on a high note next season when the Big 8 expands into the Mountain Athletic Football Conference. The Marauders have won 13 consecutive regular season games and haven’t allowed a point in their last three games this season.
But the single-A Marauders will face their first true tests over the next two weeks when they visit Huntingdon and host Tyrone, the two dominant teams in the Big 8 over the last decade.
Behind running backs Matt Georgiana and Josh DeStefano, BG boasts one of the more potent rushing offenses in the region, but after playing an early-season schedule that included West Brnach and A-C Valley, it’s hard to believe they’ve seen a push from the defensive line like they’ll see over the next fortnight.
Waiting Game
While Indian Valley’s pre-conference slate didn’t shape up quite the way coach Gawen Stoker may have hoped – the Warriors went 1-2 – Valley still finds itself unbeaten in the Big 8 and tied at the top with Huntingdon as the season’s mid-point approaches.
Valley plays an interesting schedule that yearly has it playing three non-conference games before facing Bald Eagle Area in Week 4. That puts the Warriors in an enviable position: while teams like Tyrone, Huntingdon and Bellefonte vie for positioning and beat up on one another in the early-going, Valley is afforded the luxury of sitting back and eying the competition.
The Warriors topped BEA 44-17 Monday night, and won’t play conference favorites Huntingdon and Tyrone until Weeks Seven and Eight.
Top Performers
Tyrone junior Brice Mertiff led the Big 8 in rushing last week after gaining 169 yards and scoring twice on 19 carries in Tyrone’s 26-8 win over Bellefonte. It was Mertiff’s fourth consecutive 100-yard game of the season and his first time to lead the conference for a single week.
Indian Valley’s Derek Weaver was a close second with 143 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries in the Warriors’ win over Bald Eagle Area.
Kozak was the league’s top passer after completing nine of 13 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown in Huntingdon’s win at P-O.
Huntingdon junior Matt Young was the top receiver in the Big 8 with four catches for 88 yards.