If Bishop McCort’s Ken Salem and Forest Hills’ Don Bailey both have senses of familiarity heading into tonight’s District 5-6 Class AA championship game at Mansion Park, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Tonight’s game will mark the fourth meeting between the schools in the past two seasons and the third time in five seasons that the teams have met with a district title on the line.

“If you look back, we’ve played quite often in the past five years,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of familiarity between the two of us. Right now, we’re operating with all that we had in Week 8. We’re healthy with a few bumps and bruises. But everyone has those at this point in the season.”

In their Week 8 meeting, the Rangers prevailed 26-14 after weathering a rally by the Crushers that temporarily gave Bishop McCort a 14-13 lead in the second half. In the game, Travis Rearick threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns for Forest Hills while Bishop McCort’s Scott Lewis tallied both Crusher touchdowns on the ground.

“That game doesn’t mean a whole lot. When we start (tonight), it’s still going to be 0-0 on the scoreboard,” Bailey said. “I think that we were very fortunate that we won against a team that I’ve said on many occasions was one of the best teams in the LHAC.

“We’ll have our hands full tonight.”

So far in the playoffs, the No. 2 seed Rangers topped No. 7 seed Westmont Hilltop 19-14 in the first round and followed that with a 40-6 thrashing of No. 6 Marion Center last week.

Bishop McCort edged Bedford 24-21 in the first round before knocking off top-seeded Tyrone 23-20 in overtime, winning both games in hostile environments.

“We’ve been playing for redemption,” Salem said. “When we lost (the Forest Hills) game, we put ourselves on the road in the playoffs. We played great teams at Bedford and at Tyrone and now we find ourselves back at Mansion Park.

“I have to give the kids credit for bouncing back and going into the postseason and picking up two wins against Bedford and Tyrone.”

The Rangers’ rushing attack is led by Will Lazration, who has 895 yards this year. Lazration has also scored 10 touchdowns. Rearick has passed for 1,804 yards and 21 touchdowns and Adam Trout has reeled in 48 passes for 904 yards and 13 touchdowns.

On defense, the Rangers have forced 20 turnovers. Trout’s two interceptions and two fumble recoveries lead the defense while Ross Carpenter paces the team with three picks. Like Trout, Josh Shope has recovered a pair of fumbles.

When the Crushers have the ball, a majority of the carries will be split between Lewis (81 for 604 yards) and Frank Rizzo (65 for 410). Quarterback Mike Sheridan has passed for 899 yards and 17 touchdowns with Matt Spangler pulling in 37 passes for 364 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Crushers have forced 26 turnovers this season with Brad Barbin, Matt Varga and Spangler each registering two picks. Zack Terchanik anchors the defense with 86 tackles and six sacks.

With each team playing its 12th game this year, both coaches are reporting excellent health.

“Our health is as good as it has been all season,” Salem said. “We have all four running backs and a full complement of receivers and tight ends. We’re the healthiest we’ve been all year. Now, we have to play four solid quarters against an outstanding opponent.”

Shawn B. Curtis can be reached at 532-5080 or scurtis@tribdem.com.

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