Unbeaten West Shamokin football readies for No. 6 Avonworth

Matt Grubba
| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 1:31 a.m.

Three teams remain unbeaten in Class A's Eastern Conference. That number will drop Friday.

Undefeated teams will meet when Class A No. 6 Avonworth (3-0, 2-0) makes the long road trip to Rural Valley, where West Shamokin (3-0, 3-0) will try to continue its best start in school history.

The game is without question the biggest in the 13-year history of West Shamokin, which is on a path to claim its first WPIAL playoff berth and finish with the first winning record in the program's history. Avonworth, on the other hand, has been in the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, a streak that includes conference titles in 2008 and 2010.

But even though the spotlight is shining brighter than ever on the Wolves, they feel prepared for the challenge.

“We're not used to having a game like this, so there's definitely more hype,” junior running back Zac Horner said. “People are expecting us to do well now, and I think we're motivated to come out and face a team that's our caliber.”

“We've discussed that it is a big game, but it's still early in the season and it's not a make-or-break game for us,” West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said. “It's probably going to be a packed house and it's something we're not used to, but I think our kids will be fine and respond.”

The Antelopes will challenge West Shamokin with a balanced offensive attack and plenty of size and depth along its offensive line. Running back Moses Giles leads Avonworth with 298 rushing yards, while quarterback Matt Donovan has thrown for 348 yards and run for another 116.

“We've been fortunate to stay healthy and we have six or seven guys we can cycle through on the offensive and defensive lines,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said. “We have some good skill guys and we like to spread the ball around. We're not a one-man show.”

The same can be said about West Shamokin's attack, which had four backs run for at least 59 yards last week against Riverview.

Andrew Wingard and Horner are the two featured backs with 282 and 266 rushing yards, respectively, but the holes have been there for the Wolves no matter whose number gets called.

“The offensive line has been great for us,” Horner said. “Against Northgate, we had three different guys play quarterback, including myself, and it didn't matter. We could've put another lineman back there and gave him the ball, and he would've gotten yardage with how well our line is blocking.”

The Wolves also have done a good job of avoiding penalties and turnovers, which has helped their offense stay on the field. Johncour said his Antelopes need to match that efficiency to pick up a road win.

“They're a well-coached team. They're not 3-0 for no reason,” Johncour said. “They do a lot of good things on offense and defense, and we need to make sure we're just as sound when we go up and play them.”

The Antelopes are the biggest team, in terms of size and number of players, that West Shamokin has played this season. But with a chance to go 4-0, McCullough expects his team to perform in front of a home crowd.

“Avonworth is going to come straight at you,” McCullough said. “We have to match that style of play and not back down.

“I already told our guys, Avonworth is a good team. But we're a good team, too.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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