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The Leader braces for cold temps

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

It's almost time for The Leader to bundle up.

The warm nights that mark the start to the football season are in the rear-view mirror, the leaves are beginning to change color and the brisk weather of fall is officially here.

The crispness to the air signals that it's the time when the stakes rise in so many football games. Some teams will battle for a conference title, others to improve playoff seeding and more that will be fighting just to get one more win or to send their seniors out in triumph.

These late-season games always tend to be some of the most memorable, which means The Leader will be extra focused on his picks before heading out to catch as many of them as possible — that is, as soon as he can find where he stored all his sweaters and hoodies. He has to stay healthy for the playoffs, after all.

Valley at Kittanning

A win gets the Wildcats a home playoff game and a chance to win the Allegheny Conference outright next week. Valley might be the best team Kittanning has faced, but home field, the revenge-game factor from last year and the injury to Vikings' quarterback Ty Matthews give the ‘Cats the edge. Kittanning, 27-20

Leechburg at West Shamokin

Having faith in the Blue Devils' turnaround paid off for The Leader last week, but the Wolves are in a different class than Riverview. West Shamokin gets win No. 6 and clinches its spot in the postseason. West Shamokin, 34-21

Deer Lakes at Ford City

The Sabers are out of the playoff hunt and facing a Deer Lakes team desperate to get its first win. There's a lot of pride in the Ford City program, however, and the Sabers won't finish dead last in the conference. Ford City, 21-14

Apollo-Ridge at Riverview

The Vikings have said all season they want to improve on their 2012 performance. A win Saturday would tie their total of six wins and set up a finale with West Shamokin that could be the difference in four- or five- seed lines on the Class A playoff bracket. Apollo-Ridge, 49-7

Freeport at Washington

The Allegheny Conference has already won its season series against the Interstate Conference, 5-2. Unfortunately for Freeport, those other wins won't help against a team that barely has slowed since the loss of Division-I running back prospect Shai McKenzie. Washington, 40-14

Redbank Valley at St. Mary's

Both teams have injured star running backs, which makes this game a bit unpredictable. The Bulldogs have spread the ball around more during the year than the Flying Dutch — a great mascot — and that will come in handy this week. Redbank Valley, 28-22

Karns City at Oil City

Two 6-1 teams with potent offenses meet in a game that, from a standings perspective, means nothing. The Oilers got the road win last year, but The Leader has a hunch that this year's Gremlins are a bit more seasoned and ready for the matchup. Karns City, 48-42

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