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Bellwood-Antis must vanquish Southern Huntingdon on Saturday again to reach District 6-A championship

It isn’t easy to beat a team twice in the same year. That is very true at any level of competition, yet Bellwood-Antis is faced with that task on Saturday night. Making the task even harder, is the fact the game will be played on Southern Huntingdon’s home field.
“Certainly, Southern Huntingdon has a very spirited school/community support right now. Being at home makes it easier for them,” explained Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes.
Southern Huntingdon goes into this District 6-A semifinal playoff game with a chip on its shoulder-back in week five, the Blue Devils handed Southern Huntingdon their only loss of the season. Southern Huntingdon was 4-0 at the time with easy wins over Moshannon Valley 43-14, Northern Bedford 48-13, Juniata Valley 21-0 and Williamsburg 46-6. After Bellwood-Antis, the Rockets defense has been super, shutting out Mount Union 34-0, Everett 55-0, Claysburg-Kimmel 41-0 and Tussey Mountain 42-0 to finish the regular season 8-1. Then in the District 6-A quarterfinals last week, Southern continued by posting their fifth shut out in a row and sixth of the season, white-washing Laurel Valley 43-0.
Before we get any talk about an easy schedule, bear in mind that Northern Bedford, Juniata Valley and Tussey Mountain all qualified for their district playoffs. B-A opponents who qualified include Southern, Tyrone, Philipsburg-Osceola and Chestnut Ridge.
Southern Huntingdon is averaging 38.2 points, 232.2 yards passing and 78.9 yards passing per game. The Rockets’ defense has given up an average of 6 points, 88.2 yards rushing and 61 yards passing. Take out the Bellwood-Antis game and Southern is averaging 41.4 points a game and allowing their nine other opponents 3.7 points per contest.
Under second-year coach Ryan Garlock, the Rockets have an 18-3 record over the last two years-two regular season losses to Bellwood-Antis and a first round playoff loss in 2005, to Blairsville.
“Southern Huntingdon is very much the same on offense as they were in week five,” said Hayes. “They run the same offense-kind of a one back veer. I think, the big difference is that they have become a lot more confident They have become a little more diverse running and passing. Right now, they are throwing the ball well. Mansberger (Rockets senior quarterback Tyler Mansberger) is running the ball even more than he did earlier in the year. He’s a very dangerous explosive runner. You bunch up to stop that big strong fullback (senior 5-10, 205 pound Troy Hoover) and the next thing you know, Mansberger has the ball on a keep and he’s in the secondary and he runs extremely well. He’s a threat that way and is still a very good passer as he was in the first meeting.
“They have developed a confidence in the Crull kid (senior Josh Crull 6-1, 165) who has good speed and is a excellent receiver. Offensively they have really put some points on the board.”
Hoover leads the Rockets with 1,092 yards and 17 TDs on 178 carries, Mansberger has run 74 times for 557 yards and 10 TDs. Mansberger has scored five times on runs of 54 yards or more, including four from scrimmage plus a 54 yard punt return. Junior Nick Hall (5-9, 150) adds 354 yards and five scores on 53 carries. Mansberger is averaging 7.5 yards a carry, Hall 6.7 and Hoover 6.1.
Through the air, Mansberger has completed 56 of 88 passes for 789 yards, averaging 14 yards a completion. He has thrown for nine TDs and been intercepted just four times. Crull has been his favorite receiver with 25 catches for 437 yards and seven TDs. Hall has eight receptions for 80 yards, Junior Corey Knepper has seven catches for 115 yards and two TDs, senior tight end Jordan Yohn (6-1, 190) has seven for 62 and Hoover has five for 56, coming out of the backfield.
The Rockets have used two place-kickers this season. Matt Gaston, a freshman who transferred from nearby Fannett Metal, where they don’t have a football team has booted 35 of 40 PATs, and Brazilian foreign exchange student Pedro Almeida has kicked four of seven extra points.
“Defensively they have the same look,” said Hayes referring to the basic 4-4 three-deep secondary Southern had employed for some years, often shooting a stunting linebacker to create havoc in the backfield if not picked up. If you block the stunter, big plays can develop, if you don’t the defense busts the play. Hayes hoped in the first game to get more big plays than busts. The Blue Devils were successful in the first half of a 27-9 victory, but with the exception of a Josh Kleinfelter 62-yard gallop on the first play of the second half, couldn’t shake much loose in the third and fourth quarters. Thanks to a stiff defense that limited the Rockets to their season low output in total yardage and two opening-quarter touchdowns the Blue Devils didn’t have to do much on offense after halftime.
Bellwood-Antis has averaged 26.8 points, and rushed for 247 yards rushing and 58.6 yards passing per game, while the Blue Devil defense has allowed 7.6 points per game, along with 129.6 yards rushing and another 49.8 yards passing. Only three teams, all Double-A schools have totaled more than 200 yards of offense, only Tyrone (178) and Chestnut Ridge (171) have rushed for more then 154 yards against the B-A defense. Seven teams have passed for fewer than 57 yards against the Blue Devils.
The Bellwood-Antis “D” forced Mansberger into three of his four interceptions during week five.
Josh Kleinfelter has rushed 209 times for 1,663 yards and has scored 27 TD overall (26 rushing, one kick return). Jon Davila has 258 yards on 56 carries. Kleinfelter averages 7.95 yards per carry, Davila 4.6, and although they don’t have their numbers called often, Brandon Humphreys (153 yards) averages 6.4, Justin Manning (118) 7.4 and Devon Clapper (135) 5.0 all are dangerous when called on to tote the pigskin.
Evan Hughes has completed 46 of 98 passes for 586 yards with six TDs and nine interceptions. Clapper has 15 catches for 212 yards and two TDs, David Burns has six catches for 74 yards and one score, and Brandon Pruznak (5-96, 1 TD), Blaze Winterstein (5-51) and Manning (5-36) all have five receptions.
“Offensively Southern Huntingdon has scored a lot of points,” said Hayes. “And they have gained a high level of confidence in their defense as well. Since our game, they haven’t given up any points, so it will be a real challenge for us.
“ We are not doing anything different. We are kind of comfortable with the way we are playing. Our defense is playing well. We are trying to familiarize them with Southern’s special things, make sure our kids are comfortable covering their different sets. You just have to go out and play. This is the second time we have played. Each one of us is probably trying to look at some little wrinkle to get an edge. We are trying to eliminate mistakes and develop a sense of focus and intensity. Unlike the regular season, there is no tomorrow. It has a little more added pressure, added excitement. You play your best game and if you don’t you go home.”
History is on the Blue Devils side. Bellwood-Antis has gone undefeated in district semifinals, posting a perfect 10-0 record in semifinals. In 1997, Bellwood-Antis handed the Rockets their only loss during the regular season, then met them in the district semifinals. Bellwood-Antis won both games, 26-16 during the season and 28-10 in the semis. Both of those games were at Southern Huntingdon.