High school football conference preview: District 6 Heritage
Ligonier Valley (14-1 overall, 9-0 Heritage in 2016)
After breezing through the Heritage Conference in 2016, is Ligonier Valley poised for a repeat performance? "You betcha," according to coach Roger Beitel. The Rams mercy-ruled 12 consecutive opponents and posted seven shutouts. Beitel feels his 2017 defense might be better than last year. Beitel expects big things from RB/LB Aaron Sheeder, LB Joe Dubics, WR/DB Jackson Daugherty and WR Aaron Tutino. Tutino and Jackson combined to catch 99 passes for 1,926 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Homer-Center (11-2, 8-1)
Homer-Center returns its entire backfield after a runner-up finish in the Heritage Conference last season. The Wildcats averaged 30.8 points before falling to Bishop Guilfoyle, 52-6, in the playoffs. Back are senior QB/S Jesse Beacker, junior FB/LB Jesse Lee and junior RB/LB Matt Miles. Senior OT/NG Gabe Manzanilla (6-0, 295) and senior DT Matt Warr (5-8, 190) were all-conference selections.
Blairsville (7-5, 6-3)
The Bobcats started 6-0 last year before losing to United and forfeiting to Ligonier Valley. They have a smaller roster this season and will miss all-conference kicker Andrew Stipcak and lineman Zach Sleasman. Back is leading rusher, senior Orahnde Askew (105-461, 5 TDs).
Northern Cambria (8-4, 6-3)
Junior QB/DB Mark Marino returns after leading Northern Cambria to the postseason. He threw for 541 yards and 11 scores. Two-way linemen Jacob Sodmont, Nicholas Sifford, Joe Wagner and Joe Rezek also return.
West Shamokin (5-6, 4-5)
The Wolves enter their second season in the Heritage Conference after finishing fifth a year ago. They will rely on three returning starters on the offensive line — senior Curt Slagle, junior Tyler Sweeney and sophomore Brandon Faber.
United (5-6, 4-5)
Sophomore QB/DB Kyle Silk (24-54, 422 yards, 4 TDs) is back as one of six returning starters on offense for the Lions. Senior TE/DE Nate Fabrizio (23-364) also is back.
Purchase Line (3-7, 3-6)
Purchase Line has nearly its entire starting lineup returning, led by dual-threat senior QB Shamar Campbell, who also shines at safety and in the punting game. Senior all-conference RB/CB Melvin Sanchez had 1,200 all-purpose yards. The defense will be anchored by senior LB Lucas Syster (107 tackles, 4 sacks) and sophomore LB Cullen Goncher, who had two interceptions.
Penns Manor (5-7, 3-6)
The Comets return senior QB Adam Dumm, who ran for 590 yards and six scores and threw for 637 and six, and senior RB Zac Horwat (87-519, 6 TDs).
Saltsburg (3-7, 2-7)
Six starters return on both sides of the ball for second-year Saltsburg coach Mike Leasure. The group includes sophomore lineman Alex Lassick and sophomore QB/S Josh Gibbons, who threw for 500 yards as a freshman.
Marion Center (1-9, 0-9)
Marion Center will look to build on a victory over North Star to end last season. The Stingers return lineman Garrick Shellhammer.
Players to watch
Purchase Line, sr., QB/S/P
Campbell (6-2, 185) ran for 1,885 yards last season to earn all-conference honors.
Ligonier Valley, sr., WR/DB
Daugherty caught 44 passes for 743 yards and nine scores even after missing the first six games with an injury.
Ligonier Valley, jr., WR/DB
An all-conference selection, Tutino had 55 catches for 1,183 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Games to watch
9.29 Blairsville at Penns Manor
Blairsville earned a key edge in the standings with a 15-9 win last season.
10.20 Ligonier Valley at Purchase Line
Purchase Line was the lone conference team to score more than a TD against Ligonier Valley last season, falling 41-12.
• Ligonier Valley outscored conference opponents 426-30 last season.
• Mike Falisec is in his first season as head coach at Purchase Line after coaching the linemen from 2003-12.