The first time Berlin Brothersvalley traveled to Meyersdale this football season, a crowd estimated at 4,000 watched a WestPAC battle of unbeatens.

The host Red Raiders won that one 28-14 on Oct. 4, thanks to some big special teams play and a stout defense. 

Much more is at stake as the teams meet for a rematch in the semifinal round of the District 5 Class AA playoffs on Friday night. 

“It’s going to be a dogfight to the very end,” Meyersdale coach Ryan Donaldson said. “That’s what we expect any time Meyersdale and Berlin get together for a football game.”

Third-seeded Berlin Brothersvalley (9-1) once again will visit second-seeded Meyersdale (9-1) at 7 p.m., with the winner moving on to face 5-AA top-seeded Chestnut Ridge (8-2) in the district title game on Nov. 8.

“It’s going to be a battle again,” Berlin coach Doug Paul said. “We have to limit our mistakes. They’re a senior-oriented team and this is a year they’ve waited for.

“In big games like that we always tell our guys the team that makes the least mistakes wins,” Paul said of the first encounter. 

“You’re never going to win a football game when you have four turnovers. The fact that we were still in it in the fourth quarter was a testament to the way our kids battled.”

The game was tied at 14-all at halftime. 

Meyersdale’s Tyler Fisher returned the second-half kickoff 82 yards for a TD, and after a Berlin three-and-out possession, the Red Raiders’ Drake Gindlesperger scored on a 1-yard run to give his team a two-touchdown advantage. 

The Raiders defense didn’t allow a second-half point, even though Berlin Brothersvalley advanced to the Meyersdale 1-yard line before a bad exchange in the backfield resulted in a turnover.

“Our defense, we want to be able to force turnovers,” Donaldson said. “When you do that, you’ve got to be able to capitalize. 

“With our game plan and our defense, we expect to do that each week. We’re looking forward to playing solid defense and to be balanced on offense.”

Raiders senior Mahlon Reese has passed for 679 yards. Senior Devin Kretchman has carried 166 times for 1,005 yards and 22 rushing TDs. Junior John Harvey has 13 catches for 287 yards and three scores. Gindlesperger has 89 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions.

“This group of seniors for them have been tough the whole way up through youth football,” Paul said. “They start nine seniors on both sides of the ball. We start one senior on each side of the ball. We’ve just got to battle.”

Berlin junior Will Spochart has rushed for 899 yards, 11 touchdowns, and he’s passed for 519 yards and six scores. On defense Spochart has five interceptions. Junior Abe Countryman has passed for 487 yards. Senior Cole Blubaugh has 760 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and 383 receiving yards and four scores. Junior Tuck Hillegass has 78 tackles.

“I think each team is probably going to have a couple new wrinkles here and there,” Donaldson said. “That’s basically any week, any opponent you play.

“There is a lot more at stake,” he added. “Just go at it. Not to take anything away from the first time when we were able to beat them, but we know the winner moves on to play for the District 5 title. The loser, unfortunately, it’s the end of their season.”


District 5 Playoffs

Class A Semifinal

4-Shade (5-5) at 1-Tussey Mountain (9-1), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Tussey Mountain 41, Shade 8 in 2013 District 5-A playoffs.

Last week: Homer-Center 16, Shade 15; Tussey Mountain 55, Moshannon Valley 13.

About the Panthers: Defending 5-A champion Shade takes to the road looking to snap a two-game losing streak. The Panthers are led by dual threats Vince Fyock (757 receiving yards, seven TDs; 568 rushing yards, eight TDs) and Tyler Valine (470 rushing yards, 424 receiving yards, 14 TDs). Quarterback Braden Adams has passed for 1,589 yards and 15 TDs but missed last week’s crossover game due to an injury.

About the Titans: Tussey Mountain has rushed for 3,432 yards, an average of 7.3 a carry and 343.2 a game. Kaden Lucko (1,321, 11 TDs), Tyler Rhodes (875, nine TDs) and Jarred Sipes (769, 13 TDs) have combined for 33 rushing touchdowns. The Titans’ lone loss was 20-0 to undefeated 6-AA playoff team Bellwood-Antis in Week 9.


District 5-8-9 Subregional Semifinal

4-Somerset (3-7) at 1-Bedford (8-2), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Bedford 48, Somerset 16 in Week 6.

Last week: Somerset 21, Central Cambria 7; Bedford 61, Greater Johnstown 7.

About the Golden Eagles: Somerset finished strong with two wins in its past three games to claim a spot in the postseason. The Golden Eagles will try for their first playoff win since 2015 against University Prep.

About the Bisons: Defending subregional champion Bedford scored 95 points in its past two games – wins over Greater Johnstown and Cambria Heights – to bounce back from a two-game losing streak against rival Chestnut Ridge and 6-AA top-seeded Richland. Bisons quarterback Mercury Swaim has 1,402 total offensive yards, with 672 rushing and 646 passing among the total.


District 6 Playoffs

Class A First Round

11-Northern Cambria (4-6) at 6-Homer-Center (6-4), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Homer-Center 34, Northern Cambria 6 in Week 6.

Last week: Northern Cambria 40, Ferndale 6; Homer-Center 16, Shade 15.

About the Colts: Northern Cambria overcame a five-game losing streak with a pair of victories to close the regular season and move into the playoffs. Colts back Adam Kopera is second in the area with 1,579 rushing yards, and Mike Hoover is among the area leaders with 1,157 passing yards. The Colts outscored Penns Manor (42-19) and Ferndale (40-6) by a combined 82-25 to close the regular season.

About the Wildcats: Homer-Center is accustomed to close games. After beating the Colts in Week 6, the Wildcats went on a three-game slide, losing tight contests to Saltsburg (27-26) and Blairsville (22-21) as well as an 18-point setback to West Shamokin (33-15) before closing with a one-point win over Shade (16-15) in the crossover series.


Class AA Quarterfinal

7-West Shamokin (5-5) at 2-Ligonier Valley (10-0), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Ligonier Valley 54, West Shamokin 7 in Week 5.

Last week:  West Shamokin 58, Conemaugh Township 15; Ligonier Valley 58, Portage 6.

About the Wolves: West Shamokin needed to close with a pair of wins to reach the postseason. The Wolves outscored Homer-Center (33-15) and Conemaugh Township (58-15) by a 91-30 count. Quarterback Bo Swartz has thrown for 933 yards, including going 13 of 26 for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Ligonier Valley in Week 5. Jaiden Haswell leads the Wolves with 779 rushing yards but was limited to 7 yards on 5 carries against the Rams this season.

About the Rams: Ligonier Valley has gone 40-0 during the past four regular seasons with four straight Heritage Conference crowns, four consecutive Appalachian Bowl victories and 37 straight conference wins. The Rams also have been in each of the past three 6-AA title games, winning in 2016 and 2017 while finishing as runner-up last year. Ligonier Valley has outscored opponents 479-53.



District 5 Playoffs

Class A Semifinal

3-Windber (6-4) at 2-Northern Bedford (7-3), 6 p.m.

Last meeting: Northern Bedford 17, Windber 14 in 2013 District 5-A playoffs.

Last week: Saltsburg 29, Windber 12; Northern Bedford 48, Glendale 13.

About the Ramblers: Windber had a three-game winning streak snapped by Saltsburg in the crossover series last week. Evan Custer leads the Ramblers with 79 tackles and four interceptions, and John Shuster has a team-high 1,357 rushing yards and 18 rushing TDs on offense and 4.5 sacks on defense.

About the Black Panthers: Northern Bedford has won four in a row. The Black Panthers have outscored opponents 350-159. Thad Leidy has 1,261 passing yards, and Dalton Smith has 1,208 rushing yards and 19 TDs.


District 6 Playoffs

Class A First Round

9-Glendale (5-5) at 8-Bishop McCort (5-5), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Have not played.

Last week: Northern Bedford 48, Glendale 13; Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 22, Bishop McCort Catholic 7.

About the Vikings: Glendale entered the playoffs on a three-game losing streak against district playoff teams that went a combined 24-6 (Northern Bedford, Juniata Valley, Tussey Mountain). The Vikings have been outscored 203-177. 

About the Crimson Crushers: Bishop McCort Catholic finished by winning four of its final six games, with the setbacks to tough Chestnut Ridge and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic teams. Quarterback Will Miller has 715 rushing yards and eight TDs and 493 passing yards and four scores. Jake Ardary has a team-high 98 tackles, and Brendon Bair has 79 stops with 3.5 sacks.


Class AA Quarterfinals

6-Cambria Heights (5-5) at 3-Bellwood-Antis (10-0), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Have not played.

Last week: Westmont Hilltop 24, Cambria Heights 14; Bellwood-Antis 46, Southern Huntingdon 7.

About the Highlanders: Cambria Heights has rushed for 2,760 yards, a 5.5 average per carry and 276 a game. The Highlanders have 36 rushing TDs. Tyler Trybus ranks third in the area with 1,413 rushing yards and has 21 rushing TDs.

About the Blue Devils: Undefeated Bellwood-Antis has outscored opponents 376-94 with four shutouts this season. Trevor Miller has passed for 1,024 yards and 12 TDs. Backs Zach Mallon (1,018, 14) and Nick Plank (904, 13) have teamed for 1,922 rushing yards and 27 TDs.


Class AAA Semifinal

3-Huntingdon (5-5) at 2-Westmont Hilltop (7-3), 1 p.m.

Last meeting: Have not played.

Last week: Huntingdon 30, Tyrone 13; Westmont Hilltop 24, Cambria Heights 14.

About the Bearcats: Huntingdon rebounded from a 1-4 start to finish .500 in the regular season. The Bearcats have won three straight. Senior quarterback Nick Troha has passed for 1,318 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

About the Hilltoppers: Westmont Hilltop will make its fifth consecutive playoff appearance and hopes to reach the eight-win mark for the first time since the 2000 team went 10-1. The HIlltoppers’ ground game has produced 3,251 yards and 40 touchdowns. Westmont averages 6.5 yards a carry and 325.1 a game. 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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