High school football on tap this weekend
Two-a-days are over, scrimmages are in the books, and high school football season is about to get underway.
The 2014 season opens Friday night with two Warren County teams in action. Youngsville travels to Lakeview High School and Eisenhower hosts Mercer in non-region Class A matchups. On Saturday, Sheffield welcomes Ridgway to The Mountain and Warren makes the trip to Erie to take on Central Tech.
Here’s a look at how all four county teams match up in Week 1:
Mercer (0-0) at Eisenhower (0-0), Eisenhower High School, 7 p.m., Friday
The Eisenhower Knights have been a force in Region 2 the past two seasons, compiling a record of 14-0 en route to a pair of league titles. As good as they’ve been, teams from Region 1 have been a thorn in Ike’s side. The Knights are a combined 0-6 against southern Class A schools over the same stretch, including two losses to Mercer.
Breaking that streak will require finding a way to stop Mustang quarterback Logan Clarke, who returns after throwing for 2,487 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior in 2013. Clarke was also the team’s leading rusher with 644 yards and four touchdowns on 127 carries. Mercer also returns its leading receivers Brayton Edwards and T.J. Peters. Edwards was an all-region pick after hauling in 49 passes for 700 yards and six touchdowns while Peters caught 32 passes for 682 yards and 10 scores.
Eisenhower coach Jim Penley will hand the keys to the offense over to junior Louie Head, who is making the jump from wide receiver to quarterback in an effort to replace Rob Wilston. Head has a more-than-capable supporting cast that includes unanimous first-team all-star Jarrett Johnson at receiver and first-team offensive linemen Chris Sanders and Jake Spetz.
Handling the task of replacing 2013 Co-Region 2 Player of the Year Alex Johnson at running back will be seniors Logan Bellardo and Drew Myer with sophomores Bryon Braswell and Adam Pascuzzi also expected to see carries out of the backfield.
Youngsville (0-0) at Lakeview (0-0), Lakeview High School, 7 p.m., Friday
The schedule makers didn’t show Youngsville any sympathy after last year’s 0-9 season. The Eagles open on the road Friday night against defending District 10 Class A Champion Lakeview out of Region 1. Lakeview is tasked with filling the shoes of D-10’s single-season rushing leader Blake Reddick, who racked up 2,974 yards and 33 touchdowns on 263 carries last year. Reddick was only part of a talented senior class for the Sailors that included first team all-region selections Sam Breese on the offensive and defensive line, Zach Van Dusen at recever and kicker, and Matt Sterling on the defensive line.
Marquis Spence is Lakeview’s most experienced returner after rushing for 728 yards and 16 touchdowns along with racking up a team-leading 122 tackles on defense.
The Eagles, on the other hand, return nearly all of last year’s team. Jake Lauffenburger is back to lead the offense from behind center and man the safety position on defense. Lauffenburger scored eight total touchdowns while throwing for 473 yards and rushing for 306. Catching passes will be receiver Sam Bubbenmoyer and tight end Jon Uplinger while Solomon Clark is expected to step in at running back. Jacob Sperry, Noah Carlson, Joe Frazier, Austin Slocum, William Dudenhoeffer, Jeff Pfoutz, and Mason Benjamin will be in the mix for playing time on the line.
Warren (0-0) at Central Tech (0-0), Erie Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m., Saturday
Warren will have a chance to make an impact in a new region this year, but first, the Dragons visit Central Tech Saturday night at Erie’s Veterans Stadium. The Falcons were 3-7 in 2013, but play in a tough league that includes Cathedral Prep, McDowell, Strong Vincent, and General McLane. Central has an abundance of speed with Dmitri Allison, Malik Allison, and Kevin Leggett making up part of a 4-by-100 relay team that qualified for the PIAA State Track and Field Championships last Spring. Eric Mitchell also returns after rushing for 564 yards and three scores on 67 carries.
The Dragons return starting quarterback D.J. Fehlman and running back Kyle Kulka from last year’s 7-4 team. Fehlman completed 109-of-191 passes for 2,078 yards and 30 touchdowns while Kulka was the team’s leading rusher with 612 yards on 83 carries.
With Luke Wortman gone to graduation and Tanner Stanz not out for the team, Warren will need new playmakers to step up on both sides of the ball. Senior wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Shattuck has big play ability and returns after catching 29 passes for 668 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Juniors Devin Nowacki, Evan Suppa, and Ryan Gorgacz could also find themselves in a more prominent role on offense. Mitch Labesky, Alex Streich, and Eric Cecco are back to anchor a line looking to replace graduated seniors Geoff Stewart and Aaron Borger.
Ridgway/Johnsonburg (0-0) at Sheffield (0-0), Sheffield High School, 1:30 p.m., Saturday
The Wolverines had a taste of success last season, and it’s left them hungry for more in 2014. First up is a home meeting with the co-op of Ridgway and Johnsonburg, which posted a record of 5-6 in its first season. The Elkers return dual-threat quarterback Ben MacDonald after a junior season in which he threw for 1,216 yards, rushed for 751, and scored a total of 17 touchdowns. He and fellow senior Cole Myers were the leaders on the defensive side of the ball with 128 and 83 tackles, respectively.
Sheffield’s co-op with Abraxas always makes it a tough team to gauge early in the season. 1,000-yard rusher Jareke Jackson is gone after one season in the black and orange as is last year’s fullback Tommy Reeves. The Wolverines also lost leading receiver Noah Heeter to graduation and to make matters worse, Jimmy Vile and Jake Johnson were injured early in training camp.
The Wolverines do have stability at quarterback in senior Adam Higby. Higby shared duties with Shequan Wright in 2012 before taking over the job full time last season, completing 91-of-184 passes for 1,096 yards. His primary targets at receiver look to be juniors Logan Connelly, Nick Kipp, Marquis Clark, and Quadir Lindsay while Ja’Sani Marlow and Jamir Brown should see the bulk of the carries out of the backfield.