Friday, September 28, 2012

Games of the Week

The exact science of schedule making may never be divulged, but one interesting oddity is good games seem to come in bunches.

Certain weeks it's a stretch to find a compelling, competitive game between a pair of decent, not even good, teams.

Other weeks, the schedule is loaded with intriguing matchups.

Week 5 is one of those weeks.

In the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, Forest Hills plays at Cambria Heights. The loser will sport a losing record. At Somerset, Greater Johnstown comes to town coming off a shutout loss to powerful Richland and the Golden Eagles are trying to prove their 3-0 start was no fluke, despite last week's loss to Westmont. In the WestPAC, surging Conemaugh Township plays at Blacklick Valley in a key game.

All three games are layered with conference and postseason implications.

Yet, none made the cut for Games of the Week.

And there were enough good games to add a fourth entry this week.

Penn Cambria (4-0) at Bishop Guilfoyle (3-1)
These two LHAC teams just might boast the best small-school defenses between the WPIAL and Harrisburg.
That was expected at Penn Cambria, where all-state caliber linebackers Mack Behe and Devin Lawhead have helped make the Panthers one intimidating group. Bishop Guilfoyle, however, is one of the surprises in a somewhat surprising LHAC season. And the Marauders are also getting it done defensively, as last week's shutout win at Forest Hills attests.
This game kicks off Saturday night, and, given the quality of defense, the impact penalties and turnovers will be amplified.

North Star (3-1) at Berlin (4-0)
The Cougars were the overwhelming preseason pick by WestPAC coaches to win the conference title. The Mountaineers finished second in the selection process.
North Star stumbled out of the gate as it lost to Portage at home. The Cougars have recovered nicely, which they should have considering their last three opponents have combined for one win. North Star has found ways to get Tony Strasiser the football. He's rushed for a team-high three touchdowns, passed for a team-high 263 yards and he's caught 14 passes for 142 yards despite facing constant double coverage.
Berlin relies on running back Drew Glotfelty and a small but aggressive front on both sides of the football. The Mountaineers have played a tougher schedule, and they won at Portage in Week 2.

Ligonier Valley (4-0) at Windber (4-0)
Normally, non-conference games are ignored at this stage of the season. Ligonier Valley at Windber is an exception.
The Rams are a Class AA school beating up teams in the Heritage Conference, which is made up of Class A programs. While enrollment numbers don't hurt Ligonier Valley, it's not the lone reason for success. (I've covered many games over the years when a strong Class A team manhandled a good Class AA team.) The Rams defense has allowed 15 points on the season.
That point total is likely to change against Windber, whose most impressive wins have come against Shade and Blacklick Valley. While Ligonier Valley tends to lean offensively on Ryan Torrance and with good reason, the Ramblers spread the wealth.

Bishop McCort (3-1) at Richland (4-0)
This rivalry is a strong one, particularly now that Richland has evolved into a strong program under the direction of Brandon Bailey.
The Crushers' defense will face their biggest challenge of the season as no team - not even Bishop Guilfoyle - has stopped Richland.
Of all the amazing stats compiled by the Rams, the most amazing one deals with the efficiency of quarterbacks Matt Shaffer and Nico Pecora. They've combined to complete 60 of 83 passes (72.3 percent) for 959 yards and 14 touchdowns. According to, Shaffer's QB rating is 146; Pecora's is 142.

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