If comparative scores were reliable indicators, North Star would be a shoe-in to extend its unbeaten streak at Conemaugh Township on Friday.

The Cougars ran up a 50-26 margin last week at Windber, and defeated Blacklick Valley 34-20 earlier in the year. Conemaugh Township opened the season with a 17-6 win at Blacklick Valley, and left Windber on top of a 14-0 decision.

North Star also owns wins over Shade (52-6), Berlin (33-13), Rockwood (56-7) and Meyersdale (22-7). The Indians defeated Conemaugh Valley (35-6) and Ferndale (56-0), but lost back-to-back road games to Chestnut Ridge (28-13) and Portage (47-7).

And, North Star defeated the Indians 29-21 last year.

“We’ve been playing pretty good ball the past few weeks,” Cougars coach Stacy Schmitt conceded. “It should be a good game down there.”

Schmitt is expecting a challenge because he has seen past the scores to a familiar theme.

“It’s not like we’re playing one of the weaker teams, where you can go and almost expect to win,” he said. “Looking at them on film, it looks like they do a lot of things we try to do offensively and defensively. I think it’s going to come down to the individual battles on the line.”

Although North Star holds a statistical edge, the team numbers bear some striking similarities.

According to figures posted on the MaxPreps Web site, North Star has carried the ball 179 times for 1,544 yards, a 257.3 yards-per-game average. The Indians have carried 225 times for 1,376 yards, averaging 229.3 yards a game.

Cougars receivers have 28 catches for 463 yards, averaging 77.2 yards a game, while their Conemaugh Township counterparts have caught 28 passes for 377 yards, an average of 62.8 yards.

A pair of North Star quarterbacks have combined to complete 25 of 52 passes for 447 yards, an average of 74.3 yards , while the Indians’ three quarterbacks have connected on 28 of 53 aerials for 286 yards, a 47.7-yard average.

The main difference between the teams lies in individual performances, where the numbers point to a decided big-play potential for the Cougars.

“The fact that they can be a high-powered offense any time they want to be is a concern, in both the running and the passing phase of the game,” Indians coach Sam Zambanini said. “They have a couple of big-play receivers, and, certainly, a quarterback that can get it done. They protect him well, and they’ve got some running backs that are putting up some pretty good numbers. It’s not like you can stack the line of scrimmage on them.”

The Cougars’ running attack is led by Josh Kuncher, who averages 79.7 yards a game; Mike Knisely with 71 yards a game; and Richie Meehleib with 59 yards a game.

“Look at their running backs,” Zambanini said. “They have more than one guy doing it. They’re not one-dimensional. The Kuncher boy and Mike Knisely are as good as anybody in the league, and Meehleib does a nice job for them at fullback.”

By comparison, the Indians are led by Seth Zaman’s 114.8 yards a game, Jarod Nanna’s 59.8-yard average and Jordan Shroyer’s 44 yards per outing.

North Star’s top receiver is Lucas Zellem with 18 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns, while Kyle Zambanini tops Township receivers with nine catches for 138 yards, one more reception than teammate Matt Jones, who has 100 yards.

The Cougars’ Cory Kaltenbaugh has completed 24 of 50 passes for 419 yards and a touchdown. Indians starter Matt Duray is 25-of-49 for 238 yards.

Zambanini feels the Indians can win if they play with tenacity.

“Some teams seem to be able to have some success against them on offense,” he said. “Even in the Windber game, Windber was able to rack up some yards on them. They had a couple of running backs over 100 yards, but they just couldn’t put it in the end zone often enough. We think there are some things on offense we can do against them, but we’re going to have to finish those drives. We’d like to hold onto the ball as long as possible, but holding onto it is not enough. We’re going to have to finish off drives by getting into the end zone.”

Schmitt is depending on an error-free effort.

“I think it’s going to come down to the play of both lines and whoever plays mistake-free football,” he said. “Turnovers and stuff like that will affect the outcome tremendously.”

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