At this stage of the game, things are a little bit new for a Meyersdale football program that hadn’t won a postseason game since 1991 until it beat Berlin last Saturday.

At this stage of the game, things aren’t new for Windber. The Ramblers have been here before. Many times.

It’s that pairing of opposites that makes Friday’s 7 p.m. District 5 Class A second-round playoff game at Windber so intriguing.

The Red Raiders (6-4) are enjoying one of their best seasons in years, coming off a winless campaign last year.

And with a convincing victory over the archrival Mount-aineers in their back pocket, Ramblers coach Phil DeMarco is keenly aware of this Red Raiders squad.

“I know that they are very confident,” DeMarco said. “They have played well during the last half of the season and they are on a roll and we have to be ready.

“You have to be mentally and physically ready to go. The first weekend (of the playoffs) proved that on any given night, anyone can beat anyone else. That’s our main concern, to be mentally ready to go. You can’t take anyone lightly.”

Meyersdale coach Andy Stahl is hoping that his players don’t get too swept up in the hoopla surrounding the team this year. With many different activities scheduled to support the squad this week, minds could wander. Especially when talk is sure to bubble over about Meyersdale’s 9-7 defeat of Windber two seasons ago, ending the Ramblers’ 49-game regular-season winning streak.

“We have to maintain the focus and we can’t get swept away by the festivities,” the fourth-year coach said. “It’s enough of a festivity to run onto the field at Windber.

“We feel that among the teams that Windber has played, we feel that we were able to play them pretty solidly and we have that in the back of our minds. We didn’t take advantage of our chances during our first game, and you have to be able to take advantage in the playoffs.”

The Ramblers downed the Red Raiders 22-7 in Week 7 this season, the lone blemish on Meyersdale’s record during the past six weeks. In that game, the teams played fairly even football, but Windber scored first and never trailed.

DeMarco shrugs off the final result of that meeting. He wants his players cognizant of the task at hand, and be ready after receiving a bye during the opening week of the playoffs.

“I’m not so sure what the bye week will do for us,” DeMarco said. “We hopefully had a chance to heal a little bit of the bumps, bruises and nicks from the season. We’ve had some good practices this week and I’m more concerned with us being ready from the bye week than anything. Of course, it’s the playoffs, so our kids should be ready to go.”

Windber (8-1) suffered its lone defeat of the season in Week 9, 22-21 to Portage in overtime.

This year’s Ramblers have been led by a stingy defense that has posted four shutouts and allowed more than seven points only twice.

Josh Kotula leads the group with 81 tackles this season. Jake Lehman and Nick Berkey each have more than 40 stops.

“They are very good offensively,” DeMarco said. “They have tremendous weapons. Their passing attack is in gear and they run the ball really well, so we have to be ready.

“Hopefully we get some three-and-punts. We don’t want them driving the length of the field. That’s usually the tell-tale indicator, if you can get the defense to get them to punt early on and not drive the ball down our throats.”

Meyersdale used a big play offense to defeat Berlin, scoring three of its touchdowns on drives of four or fewer plays, including a 64-yard strike from quarterback Matt Stahl to wide receiver Jeff Miller.

But the ability to make those plays starts up front, according to Coach Stahl.

“The real key for us offensively is our offensive line,” he said. “Last year, because of health and other reasons, we didn’t start the same offensive line. I think our offensive line staying relatively healthy this year, and being healthy now, has really helped our offense.”



Matt Jordan can be reached at 532-5080 or mjordan@tribdem.com.

Recommended for you