Leader Times Week 4 H.S. football breakdown
A breakdown of Week 4 of the high school football season:
HIGHLANDS (2-1, 0-1) AT KITTANNING (0-3, 0-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The rundown: Highlands' three games have been decided by a total of six points. The Golden Rams were nipped by Indiana, 13-12, in last week's conference opener. Highlands leads the all-time series, 9-5, after slipping by Kittanning, 20-14, last year. Kittanning is the only squad in the nine-team conference that hasn't played a conference game yet.
The X-factor: If this game comes down to a kick, Highlands appears to have the edge. Junior kicker Mike Masarik booted field goals of 43, 40, 30 and 20 yards and accounted for all of Highlands' points last week.
Keys to victory: H: The Golden Rams moved the ball well but failed to finish drives with touchdowns last week. They need to punch the ball into the end zone. K: The Wildcats must contain Highlands senior quarterback Gage Clark, who passed for 197 yards and rushed for 62 yards last week.
APOLLO-RIDGE (0-3, 0-1) AT DEER LAKES (0-3, 0-1)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The rundown: This matchup features teams that are hungry for their first win of the season. Deer Lakes has come the closest to a victory. Last week, the Lancers showed improvement in a 14-7 defeat at Ford City. Apollo-Ridge has lost its first three games by 30, 31 and 32 points, in that order. Deer Lakes has a 16-12-1 advantage in the all-time series with Apollo-Ridge.
The X-factor: Last week, Deer Lakes senior running back/inside linebacker Cody Fleming played for the first time this year, and the Lancers looked much better. On the other hand, Apollo-Ridge has lost senior quarterback Josh Zelonka to a season-ending knee injury.
Keys to victory: DL: The Lancers notched a 40-21 win at Apollo-Ridge in 2010 but can't afford overconfidence. The Lancers have almost an entirely new starting lineup on both sides of the ball this year. AR: Senior Zack Long's development at quarterback will play a big part in the Vikings' performance.
FREEPORT (2-1, 1-0) AT BURRELL (2-1, 1-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The rundown: One week after a critical, 21-14 win over Shady Side Academy in its conference-opener, Freeport is set to square off with another possible title contender. Burrell cruised to a 38-6 win over West Shamokin last week and brings a core of playmakers that includes quarterback Zach Middleby and do-it-all ball carrier Cole Bush.
The X-factor: Freeport senior two-way lineman Jon Turner, a 2010 all-conference selection, might create some mayhem in Burrell's backfield and contain Middleby, an effective scrambler. Turner, among the team leaders in tackles, had two sacks in the season opener and another in Week 2.
Keys to victory: F: Slow down Burrell's offense, which is averaging a conference-best 29.7 points per game. B: Play defense for four quarters. Burrell almost allowed Valley to come back during an overtime win in Week 1 and unraveled late during a 52-28 loss to Keystone Oaks.
West Shamokin (0-3, 0-1) at Summit Academy (1-2, 0-1)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
The rundown: Summit Academy removed itself from the group of winless WPIAL teams with a 52-20 victory at Apollo-Ridge last week. The Knights had just one touchdown prior to Week 3, but a five-touchdown day for running back Chris Highsmith changed Summit Academy's points-per-game average for the better. West Shamokin avoided a shutout for a third straight week but remains winless.
The X-factor: Senior Chris Highsmith scored on runs of 56, 1 and 2 yards last week and also caught touchdown passes of 26 and 43 yards. He finished with 153 yards rushing. That kind of playmaking makes Summit Academy dangerous even if the Knights trail early.
Keys to victory: WS: Dominate time of possession. The Wolves will want to give Summit Academy as few opportunities as possible to make game-changing plays. SA: Go with what worked last week. Even half of last week's point total might be enough to earn a win.
(10-A) AVONWORTH (2-1, 2-1) AT LEECHBURG (0-3, 0-2)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The rundown: Since a season-opening loss to Bishop Canevin, Avonworth has collected wins over Springdale and Wilkinsburg. Last week, Avonworth senior running back Ricky Lawniczak rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 win over Wilkinsburg. Last year, the Antelopes sprinted past Leechburg, 54-0.
The X-factor: Both teams are guided by first-year head coaches. Leechburg's Mark George is looking for his first win after taking over the Blue Devils and revamping their offense and defense. Derek Johncour, an assistant at Avonworth for 11 years, didn't plan to make many changes when he assumed leadership.
Keys to victory: A: Hand the ball to Lawniczak and watch him go. If that doesn't work, the Antelopes also can give the green light to an experienced passer in senior Brian Vales. L: The Blue Devils must stop the run first to keep the game close.
Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference
Keystone (1-2) at Karns City (1-2)
Friday, 7 p.m.
The rundown: Keystone beat KSAC Small School rival Clarion-Limestone, 9-6, by holding on to a 3-point edge for the whole second half. But Keystone lost its season-opener, 35-0, to Clarion and didn't fair much better (36-6) against Brookville. Karns City unraveled late in a 41-12 nonconference loss to District 10's Wilmington, but the Gremlins seem poised to contend for a KSAC crown.
The X-factor: Karns City hasn't lost to Keystone in more than a decade. Even during the Gremlins' disappointing season in 2010, they still won, 40-20, at Keystone.
Keys to victory: Key: Establish an early lead, as it did against Clarion-Limestone, and hope Karns City falls into a funk. KC: Keep momentum on its side. Last week, the Gremlins cut the deficit to 21-12 but then allowed a kick return for a touchdown one play later.
Moniteau (3-0) at Redbank Valley (2-1)
Friday, 7 p.m.
The rundown: After a close call against Karns City in Week 1, Moniteau went on to thump its next two opponents, Clarion and Brookville, by at least 14 points. In a 43-21 win over Brookville, Moniteau senior Kyle Armagost threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, both career highs. One week after a 28-14 loss to Karns City, Redbank Valley rebounded with a 44-14 blowout of Allegheny-Clarion Valley.
The X-factor: Armagost went wild during Moniteau's 46-32 win over Redbank Valley last season, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns while running for 143 yards. The senior suffered a leg injury two weeks ago, but the Bulldogs know better than to underestimate Armagost as a dual-threat.
Keys to victory: M: Use its Class AA-level depth to wear down Redbank Valley's offensive line, which is already thin due to early-season injuries. RBV: Force someone other than Armagost to make plays for Moniteau, which averages 29.7 points per game.
Week 4 Q&A
Apollo-Ridge WR/LB Anthony Bozzarelli, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior, has 11 catches for 329 yards — a 29.9 yard average — and three touchdowns.
Q: Coach John Skiba says you have an easy-going personality. Is it tough to be that way in football?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. At practices I'm laid-back and more myself but in game situations, I get really serious. On bus rides home, I'm usually quiet, but it's more because I'm tired.
Q: You have three TD catches of 80, 43, and 30 yards. How do you explain your knack for big plays?
A: Last year, we had a lot of trouble moving the ball. This year, I'm playing a lot more, and I'm definitely getting the ball more, so I have more opportunities to make plays. I do like to try and make big yardage every time I touch the ball.
Q: You're already the team's long snapper and back-up kicker and punter. Would you like to play even more positions?
A: I think I'm used in the right way now, because I definitely need some breaks. I was on kick return the first couple weeks but they took me off. I've been getting some reps at quarterback. I'm always up for trying anything.
Q: You can dead-lift 435 pounds but still don't weight train. Have you been criticized for this?
A: I used to lift a lot with my dad, and in junior high, I stopped. There was a month or two I started back up in ninth and 10th grade, but I lost interest. I'm not real bulky, but I'm not scrawny. Everybody tells me, 'Your calves are huge and you don't even lift'. I know I really should. I know one person who gets really mad at me, but I don't want to say his name. He tells me, 'You could be so much better if you'd lift.'