The playoff season is here for single-A schools with the opening round this week, and will begin for everybody else next week.
We nearly got a perfect score for Week 9, Christine Pryor (and Kris) missed on only the Ohio State win over our Nittany Lions to go 9-1 and pick up two games on the leaders. That moves Pryor into a second place tie with Sports Editor Miller at 66-24, just two games behind overall leader Jim Cushion, who along with Miller and Kerry Naylor all went 7-3 for the week. Cushion (Ohio State) and Webster (Mo Valley) had the only Lone Ranger picks with Cushion nailing his correctly. Kerry Webster added the Bellwood-Antis win over Moshannon Valley to his miss in the PSU loss to go 8-2 and is now just one game back of second place with an overall mark of 65-25. Kellie Goodman was just 4-6 as our guest picker, but we take this opportunity to thank Kellie and to wish her the best of luck in her new job with the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau at the beginning of the new year.
This week, our guest picker is Mike Blaska, Tyrone sports enthusiast and General Mills Sales Representative. Blaska has missed only three picks in two years as guest panelist. Good luck Mike!
Juniata Valley at Bellwood-Antis: This is a matchup that seems to be an every season occurrence somewhere in the playoffs. A District 6-A first round game, the Blue Devils (5-4) and Hornets (5-4) have met the past three years, including the district championship game, in 2006. Juniata Valley, the No. 10 seed, will be attempting to break B-A’s stranglehold over them, after absorbing three straight losses to end the last three seasons. B-A, the No. 7 seed has everybody healthy and is coming off a 369-yard rushing game against No. 6 seed Moshannon Valley. Each team lost an overtime game to Penns Valley on the road in the last two weeks and weather and mud contributed to the result of both games. Both teams have played two OT games this year and both are 1-1. The winner of this Saturday night contest will play at No. 2 seed Ligonier Valley next week on Friday night.
The picks: Miller Bellwood-Antis 26-20, Kerry Webster Juniata Valley 15-12, Kerry Naylor Bellwood-Antis 27-21, Christina Pryor Bellwood-Antis 27-13, Jim Cushion Bellwood-Antis 21-14, Mike Blaska Bellwood-Antis 21-19.
Homer Center at Laurel Valley: Both of these teams are members of the Heritage Conference, and this District 6-A game is a rematch of the last week of Sept. when Laurel Valley (7-2) edged Homer Center 27-19. Laurel Valley, the No. 5 seed, lost their first two games to Ligonier Valley 41-0 and to Purchase Line 35-76, then won their final seven games. Homer Center (4-5), the No. 12 seed travels to Laurel Valley on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m..
The picks: Miller Laurel Valley, Kerry Webster Laurel Valley, Kerry Naylor Laurel Valley, Christina Pryor Laurel Valley, Jim Cushion Laurel Valley, Mike Blaska Laurel Valley.
Bishop Guilfoyle at Moshannon Valley: No. 11 seed Bishop Guilfoyle is enjoying their first year in the Laurel Highlands Conference. BG is only 4-5 overall, but is 4-1 in their Section, section champs by virtue of a 14-7 win over Central Cambria, who also finished 4-1. Moshannon Valley is having a huge success at 6-3 in Tyrone grad Murray Fetzer’s second season as head coach, but will the Black Knights rebound from last week’s 35-7 thumping at the hands of Bellwood-Antis.? Despite the loss, Mo Valley finished one spot ahead of the Blue Devils with the sixth seed. This is a Saturday night contest.
The picks: Miller Bishop Guilfoyle, Kerry Webster Moshannon Valley, Kerry Naylor Bishop Guilfoyle, Christina Pryor Bishop Guilfoyle, Jim Cushion Bishop Guilfoyle, Mike Blaska Moshannon Valley.
Glendale at Purchase Line: After their first district appearance and first playoff win ever, Glendale is back in 2007 as the No. 13 seed, the lowest of the District Tournament. Purchase Line, the No. 4 seed handed Laurel Valley one of their two losses, but was handed their hats by Ligonier Valley 41-0. Their second loss was to Blairsville 35-13, a team that finished 4-5 and choose not to enter the playoffs, despite having the required four victories. This District 6-A game is Friday night.
The picks: Miller Purchase Line, Kerry Webster Purchase Line, Kerry Naylor Glendale, Christina Pryor Purchase Line, Jim Cushion Purchase Line, Mike Blaska Purchase Line.
Clearfield at Penns Valley: Our only high school pick that is not a Single-A playoff, both these Double-A schools are members of the Mountain Athletic Football Conference. Clearfield is in the Seven Mountains Division, while Penns Valley (8-1) with their only loss 10-3 to Tyrone, is in the Nittany Division. This is a battle of lots of offense (Clearfield) against lots of defense (Penns Valley). The biggest trouble for Clearfield is they score a lot, but give up a lot as well.
The picks: Miller Clearfield, Kerry Webster Penns Valley, Kerry Naylor Clearfield, Christina Pryor Clearfield, Jim Cushion Clearfield, Mike Blaska Penns Valley.
Conemaugh Township at Tussey Mountain: This is a first round District 5-A playoff game. Conemaugh Township (6-3 overall, 3-2 in the WestPAC Conference, Section I), the No. 5 seed has section losses to No. 1 D-6 seed Portage (9-0) and Windber (7-2). Tussey Mountain (6-3 overall, 2-2 in the ICC Southern Division) lost to Northern Bedford, but defeated No. 3 seed Southern Huntingdon 36-14.
The winner of this game will play District 5 top seed Northern Bedford.
The picks: Miller Tussey Mountain, Kerry Webster Tussey Mountain, Kerry Naylor Tussey Mountain, Christina Pryor Tussey Mountain, Jim Cushion Tussey Mountain, Mike Blaska Tussey Mountain.
Rutgers at Connecticut: UConn is ranked for the first time ever at the No. 16 spot, following their 22-15 upset over No. 11 South Florida last week. Connecticut has sole possession of the Big East lead. Rutgers has Ray Rice, but West Virginia used a deuce, Pat White and Steve Slaton and a strong defensive effort to knock off Rutgers and knock them out of the top 25. Believe it or not – UConn is a football power, not just basketball.
The picks: Miller Connecticut, Kerry Webster Connecticut, Kerry Naylor Connecticut, Christina Pryor Connecticut, Jim Cushion Rutgers, Mike Blaska Connecticut.
Syracuse at Pitt: Pitt (3-5) has began to look like it has an offense with LaSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling eating up yards to give some much needed help to freshman QB Pat Bostick. The Panthers downed Louisville 24-17 last week. Syracuse (2-6) has beaten only Louisville in a shootout (38-35) and Buffalo (20-12).
The picks: Miller Pitt 27-19, Kerry Webster Syracuse 20-14, Kerry Naylor Pitt 33-13, Christina Pryor Pitt 34-17, Jim Cushion Pitt 30-25, Mike Blaska Pitt 20-14.
Purdue at Penn State: Nittany Lions have added excitement of Senior Day, the last home game for PSU seniors, who want to make a strong statement in the final three regular season games and secure a Jan. 1 Bowl Game. Anthony Morelli will have to do better than last week, and the Lions secondary has been toasted the last two weeks. Purdue (7-2) has its seven wins against teams with a combined 26-36 mark, while losses have been to Michigan (48-21) and Ohio State (23-7) in back-to-back weeks. QB Curtis Painter completes 63 percent of his passes with 24 TDs and only 6 Int. Darrien Bryant leads the Big 10 with 64 catches. Junior Jaycen Taylor has rushed for 224 yards in last two games, coming back from an injury.
The picks: Miller Penn State 27-24, Kerry Webster Penn State 28-12, Kerry Naylor Penn State 24-17, Christina Pryor Penn State 31-24, Jim Cushion Penn State 35-33, Mike Blaska Penn State 24-17.
Baltimore at Steelers: Steelers got humbled twice by Ravens last year. A Monday night game this time, the last time Pittsburgh beat Baltimore was also on a Monday night in 2005. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy again, something he wasn’t in 2006, definitely more mobile. This time it’s the Ravens who trail the Steelers in the division and a win here is big for either team. This however, is not the same Steelers team as 2006, or Ravens either for that matter.
The picks: Miller Steelers 26-20, Kerry Webster Steelers 24-9, Kerry Naylor Steelers 27-13, Christina Pryor Steelers 30-9, Jim Cushion Steelers 24-14, Mike Blaska Steelers 17-10.