The Leader: Season winding down for Armstrong County teams
As the playoff field thins out, so do the number of games The Leader gets to set his sights on.
Only Apollo-Ridge remains to represent Armstrong County in the WPIAL playoffs with Kittanning's loss last week — the first time your local prognosticator missed on a Wildcats game all season.
West Shamokin's setback was expected, but while many were forecasting a blowout in Monessen, yours truly missed the final score by a mere eight total points. Don't sleep on those Wolves anymore — and that's going to apply to next year, too.
The Leader even feels a bit let down by the fact Redbank Valley cancelled its game last week against Smethport. Sure, Bulldogs running back Mark Strothers will get to break 1,000 yards in their game this week, but The Leader will never get back that extra win Redbank was going to give him by downing the Hubbers.
Speaking of Redbank Valley, the start of the District 9 playoffs means it's do-or-die time for the Bulldogs and their Class AA cohorts in Karns City, so this week's three-game slate could be thinned even further come next week.
The Leader expects to have at least a couple teams remaining to keep his eye on next week, but which ones? Funny you should ask:
Apollo-Ridge vs. Sto-Rox at Deer Lakes
The Leader called last week's game against Beth-Center the Hyphen Bowl, so instead of calling this Hyphen Bowl II, he'll call this battle between Viking hordes the Norse War. Not-that-clever names aside, this game should be an up-and-down shootout with the potential to rival Kittanning/Yough for highest scoring game this postseason. There's no doubt Apollo-Ridge can score, but the experience of reaching Heinz Field the last two seasons is an advantage that could end up being the difference for Sto-Rox. Sto-Rox, 42-28
Ridgway at Redbank Valley
The Bulldogs are back in the postseason after missing out last year, and the aforementioned Strothers needs two rushing yards to hit the 1,000-yard barrier in his final season. The visiting Elkers are in the postseason for the first time since 2006, and clearly they have benefitted from the addition of their co-op agreement with former rival Johnsonburg. Redbank Valley just seems to have more offensive weapons, and if The Leader is going with experience by picking Sto-Rox, he's sticking with it and the Bulldogs' seniors, some of whom played in the 2011 playoffs. Redbank Valley, 31-20
St. Marys at Karns City
Experience has been The Leader's top factor in his other picks, and the Gremlins have more of it than any other area team. This game doesn't require even that much analysis, as Karns City has had the number of the Flying Dutch in their past three meetings, including a 42-0 win to open this season. No two games are alike, but this one will be close enough to the last for the Gremlins to feel comfortable. Karns City, 48-13