Leader Times Week 5 H.S. football breakdown
A breakdown of Week 5 of the high school football season:
BURRELL (3-1, 2-0) AT APOLLO-RIDGE (1-3, 1-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
The rundown: Burrell knocked off Freeport, 33-25, last week and is tied with Summit Academy (2-2, 2-0) for first place in the Class AA Allegheny Conference. Apollo-Ridge notched its first victory under first-year coach John Skiba by shocking Deer Lakes, 34-0, last week. Last season, Burrell reserve quarterback James Liput rallied the Bucs for a 26-21 win over Apollo-Ridge.
The X-factor: Apollo-Ridge started running the Wildcat formation last week. Will the Vikings try more of the same• Or does Skiba have something else up his sleeve• Burrell also has displayed versatility and could unveil another surprise or two this week.
Keys to victory: B: The Bucs need to stay on their toes and be ready to adapt to anything Apollo-Ridge throws at them. AR: The Vikings must be unpredictable and use their playmakers, including running back Brad Campbell and wide receiver Anthony Bozzarelli, to their best advantage.
FORD CITY (2-2, 1-1) AT FREEPORT (2-2, 1-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
The rundown: Although four conference games remain after this week, this rivalry matchup figures to play a big role in WPIAL playoff positioning. Two conference losses probably will mean a road game to start the postseason. Ford City has won six of the past seven meetings and blanked Freeport, 20-0, en route to the Class AA Allegheny Conference championship last year. Freeport ended up in third place.
The X-factor: Both offenses had substantial rebuilding to do this season, and Freeport appears to be finding its groove more quickly. The Yellowjackets are averaging 19.5 points per game, compared to Ford City's 10.0.
Keys to victory: FC: To spring their running backs, the Sabers need an outstanding effort from their linemen against Freeport, which will own the size advantage. FR: The Yellowjackets have moved the ball well on the ground but must get receivers to stretch the field and make some big plays.
SHADY SIDE ACADEMY (2-2, 1-1) AT WEST SHAMOKIN (0-4, 0-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday
The rundown: Shady Side Academy pulled away from Ford City during a 28-6 win last week with long touchdown runs by Reggie Mitchell (23-yard run), Dennis Briggs (78-yard run) and Jarred Brevard (58-yard run). West Shamokin scored a season-high 14 points on two touchdown runs by Zac Horner during a loss at Summit Academy.
The X-factor: West Shamokin freshman running back Zac Horner rushed for more than 100 yards the past two weeks. His ability to grind out first downs and keep Shady Side Academy's offense off the field will help the Wolves, who are a loss away from tying the all-time record of 39, set by Geibel from 1996-2000.
Keys to victory: SSA: Make the game a series of one-on-one matchups. Allow the Indians' explosive ball carriers to get in space and shake off tacklers. WS: Avoid the big letdown. In a 56-0 loss to Shady Side Academy last year, the Wolves began to struggle after a botched snap during a field goal attempt, and last week, the heartbreaker was a 55-yard fumble return by Summit Academy.
LEECHBURG (0-4, 0-3) AT OLSH (1-3, 1-3)
7:30 p.m. Friday
The rundown: Leechburg defeated Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 36-9, last year. OLSH joined the WPIAL last season and plays its home games at Robert Morris University's Joe Walton Stadium. The Chargers, who finished 1-8 last year, recorded their first Class A Eastern Conference win by beating Wilkinsburg, 37-12, this past Saturday.
The X-factor: Although OLSH has won only two games since joining the WPIAL, junior running back Isiah Neely has gained a reputation as one of the top running backs in Class A. Neely rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns in last week's victory over Wilkinsburg.
Keys to victory: L: The Blue Devils have to contain Neely. If he runs well, OLSH will pile up points, and the Blue Devils aren't built for a high-scoring affair. O: The Chargers' linemen and linebackers must play physical defense to counter Leechburg's double-wing offense.
KEYSTONE SHORTWAY ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
LARGE SCHOOL DIVISION
KARNS CITY (2-2, 0-1) AT PUNXSUTAWNEY (2-2, 0-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The rundown: Karns City almost doubled its previous season-high in points with a 50-0 win over KSAC Small School opponent Keystone last week. The Gremlins previously played a Large School opponent in Week 1, when they fell to Moniteau, 26-24. Punxsutawney thumped the Small School division's Clarion-Limestone, 28-0, last week. The Chucks lost, 34-12, to their only Large School opponent, St. Marys, in Week 3.
The X-factor: Before last week, Karns City had allowed at least 14 points each game. Will its defense deliver another stellar performance against Punxsutawney, which averages 15.25 per game?
Keys to victory: KC: Continue to get running back Glenn Toy the ball. Toy averages 7.98 yards per carry and 21.6 yards per catch, both bests among the Gremlins. P: Test Karns City's secondary with wideout Luke Janocha (6-foot-2, 175 pounds), who has 13 catches for 250 yards.
SMALL SCHOOL DIVISION
REDBANK VALLEY (2-2, 2-0) AT CLARION (2-2, 2-0)
7 p.m. Friday
The rundown: These teams again find themselves fighting for the Small School division crown; Clarion won, 21-19, last year and later claimed the division title. Last week, Redbank Valley fell to Large School division member Moniteau, 50-28, and Clarion lost to the Large School's St. Marys, 20-16.
The X-factor: Which team's strength will prevail• Redbank Valley averages 26.5 points per game and has scored at least 14 in every game. Clarion allows an average of 13 points per game and has not surrendered more than 20.
Keys to victory: RBV: Seize opportunities on special teams. Keaton Delp returned a kick 70 yards last week; a play such as that might make the difference on Friday. C: Win the turnover battle. Through three games, Clarion forced six interceptions and recovered three fumbles.
Week 5 Q&A
Apollo-Ridge RB/LB Brad Campbell
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns to lead Apollo-Ridge (1-3, 1-1) past Deer Lakes, 34-0, last week.
Q: How did it feel to get the first win of the season under new head coach John Skiba?
A: It definitely felt good. We had to do it for him. He's put so much time into it. And we had to do it for us especially, after working so hard in the offseason.
Q: Your team started running the Wildcat formation last week. Was it easy or difficult to learn in practice?
A: It was definitely a challenge, but we had the work ethic and kept trying at it. It felt comfortable during the game. I think that was the biggest change from that week and the previous weeks.
Q: How tough was it to get over the loss of starting quarterback Josh Zelonka to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1?
A: That kid's got the most heart. As one of his best friends, when he went down, we knew we had to do it for him.
Q: Do you, a team captain, have any pregame rituals to get you ready?
A: I go around and shake everyone's hand on the team and tell them to get their heads in the right place.
Q: Who's your favorite NFL player and why?
A: (Steelers linebacker) James Harrison just because of the way he plays. He's very hard-nosed and never lets up.
Q: Do you plan to play football in college?
A: I'm just kind of winging it right now. I definitely want to go to college, but I'm not sure if I'm going to play. That's a big commitment.
Q: Communication technology, such as Twitter and Facebook, seems to becoming a bigger part of our lives every day. Do you like to keep in touch with people that way?
A: The only thing I have is Facebook, and I only do it about once a week. I don't really get caught up in that. It doesn't really concern me. Technology is always changing.