FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Homecoming games for Warren, Sheffield this week

Don’t let the temperature fool you, we really are over the halfway point in the 2013 high school football season.

Last week saw county teams go a collective 2-2, and don’t expect things to get easier in Week 6, as Friday’s and Saturday’s match-ups carry strong postseason implications for three of the four teams.

Warren and Sheffield are hoping for a pair of Homecoming wins against league opponents in Slippery Rock and Otto-Eldred, respectively, while, in Region 2 action, someone will get their first loss and someone their first win when Eisenhower travels to Cambridge Springs and Youngsville visits Union City.

Eisenhower (4-1) at Cambridge Springs (5-0), Cambridge Springs High School, 7 p.m., Friday

Don’t tell Eisenhower and Cambridge Springs it’s lonely at the top. Both teams are undefeated in Region 2 heading into Friday’s game at Cambridge Springs, where the winner will become the favorite to earn an automatic bid into the District 10 playoffs. The Blue Devils have put up 235 points in five games this year, and their closest margin of victory was a 36-14 win over Iroquois in Week 4. Senior running back Colton Noble is fast approaching the 1,000-yard mark while averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.

“Cambridge is very physical and technically very sound,” said Eisenhower coach Jim Penley. “They run the veer option masterfully. They don’t make mistakes. The front line on both sides is the best we have seen from a technical standpoint, and they play with leverage very well.”

For the Knights, senior running back Alex Johnson has rushed for 564 yards and six touchdowns, while quarterback Rob Wilston has completed 30 passes for 584 yards and six touchdowns. Jarrett Johnson and Alex Johnson are the leading receivers, both with nearly 200 yards on eight and seven catches, respectively.

“We don’t have any misconceptions that we are doing anything else but playing the best team in the region,” added Penley. “We know we have to show up, or they will pound us, and we have to play a great game.”

Last year’s meeting: Eisenhower 48, Cambridge Springs 13

Slippery Rock (5-0) at Warren (4-1), War Memorial Field, 7 p.m., Friday

The Dragons are looking to bounce back from last week’s loss against Oil City – their first of the season – while Slippery Rock is trying to remain undefeated and spoil Warren’s Homecoming. The Rockets are outscoring opponents 242-47 so far this year, and with the Warren loss and Oil City’s forfeit to Bradford, Slippery Rock has sole possession of the Region 5 lead. The Rockets’ game plan is no secret as they have racked up 1,997 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground this year. Quarterback Jake Whitmer is the team’s leading rusher with 389 yards and eight touchdowns, and has not attempted more than three passes in a game so far.

“Slippery Rock has a very talented team. We must stop what they do best and control their running game,” said Warren coach Greg Latimer. “Our team learned a lot about believing in themselves and their ability to play as a team in last week’s loss. Their desire and determination to win has never been in doubt, we need to work on execution and reduce mental mistakes. These errors are the difference between a victory or a loss when two evenly matched teams play each other.”

D.J. Fehlman has completed 51-of-80 passes for 927 yards and 15 touchdowns in five games to lead the Warren offense. Tanner Stanz, Ryan Shattuck, and Luke Wortman all have over 200 receiving yards for the Dragons, and Kyle Kulka is the leading rusher with 384 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries.

Last year’s meeting: Slippery Rock 42, Warren 20

Youngsville (0-5) at Union City (0-5), Union City High School, 7 p.m., Friday

The going’s been tough for Youngsville and Union City so far, but the outlook will be a little brighter for one of the two teams after Friday’s match-up. If the Eagles are going to get their first win, they’ll need to stop Bears’ quarterback Brody Mangel and running back Shane Russell, who have accounted for most of their team’s offense this season.

“(Mangel) is smart and athletic. If we can stop him or get him out of his comfort zone we would increase our chances of winning,” said Eagles’ coach John Victor. “We have yet to lose focus this year. The players understand that they are a work in progress and continue to work towards getting better at playing the game of football.”

Youngsville will rely on junior quarterback Jake Lauffenburger, who is 26-of-67 for 222 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and has 158 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Last year’s meeting: Union City 38, Youngsville 14

Otto-Eldred (1-4) at Sheffield (3-2), Sheffield High School, 1:30 p.m., Saturday

While the Wolverines don’t mind being considered the underdog, this week they’ll be playing an unfamiliar role as the favorites against Otto-Eldred. Back-to-back wins over Cameron County and Coudersport have Sheffield in a tie with Smethport for first place in the AML North Division, while the Terrors have struggled against quality opponents, starting the season 0-4 before earning a win last week against Port Allegany. Otto’s Sam Colebert has carried the ball 112 times for 672 yards and seven touchdowns, and quarterback Dakota Vaughn is 23-of-49 for 345 yards and four scores.

“They have a very good team with a powerful running game and are probably one of the best 1-4 teams around,” said Sheffield coach Dave Fitch. “We have positioned ourselves that every game we have between now and the end of the year will be a big meaningful game. Because of that, we are taking it one week at a time and that is our only focus.”

The Terrors won’t be the only team on Wolverine Mountain with a strong running game, as the Sheffield trio of Jereek Jackson, Brandon Kipp, and Dustin Holden have all done their share of damage to opposing defenses. Quarterback Adam Higby is 42-of-83 for 436 yards to lead the passing attack.

“These kids understand the position they have worked to get into and know they have their AML North and playoff destiny in their own hands,” added Fitch. “The key is the kids now believe in themselves and that is very big moving into the second half of the season with even bigger games on the line.”

Last year’s meeting: Otto-Eldred 52, Sheffield 38