Another week, another battle of unbeatens for the Portage High School football team.
This time, the Mustangs will travel to rival Berlin Brothersvalley in a WestPAC contest that will have significant implications not only in the conference but also in the District 6 and District 5 rankings.
“Definitely a big game after a big emotional game at home,” said Portage coach Gary Gouse, whose 3-0 Mustangs beat then undefeated Windber 35-7 in Week 3. “Berlin is a very tough environment to play in. It’s like playing in Portage.
“Two big-crazy football towns. I told our kids it’s another championship game.
“You have to win them all if you want to be champs.”
Portage has outscored three opponents by a combined 148-21 while mixing the run and the pass behind versatile quarterback Connor Price and relying on a stifling defense.
“Conner Price is the heart and soul of the team,” Berlin Brothersvalley coach Doug Paul said. “He’s not the only player they have, but he’s the key cog in the wheel.
“He’s a special player with his throwing the ball and his feet.
“He took over the game against Windber with his running and throwing. He’s not a one-man show though. It’s a typical solid Portage team that Gary’s put together.”
The same might be said about Berlin.
The Mountaineers have outscored opponents 139-27, including last week’s 35-0 shutout at Ferndale.
The dual quarterback system featuring Will Spochart and Abe Countryman has been productive, and big-play back Cole Blubaugh has 204 rushing yards.
“They’re coached really well,” Gouse said of the Mountaineers. “There are going to be a lot of adjustments during the game. A lot of things they don’t show until they get to us. We learned that in the past. We’re going to prepare our kids the best you can but there are going to be a lot of adjustments during the game.
“Kids are going to have to communicate to us where they’re playing and what they’re doing.”
Berlin is 6-2 against Portage since 2012, including one postseason meeting.
The Mustangs haven’t won a game at Berlin since a 54-0 victory in 2009. The Mountaineers are 4-0 at home against Portage since then.
“There is something special about playing in Berlin,” Paul said. “Our kids take a lot of pride in it. This is what high school football is about. I’m expecting a crowd of 2,500 on Friday night. Portage travels well. Our fans will have our backs. It will be a great football atmosphere on Friday.”
North Star (1-2) at Windber (2-1)
Last meeting: Windber 57, North Star 22.
Last week: Blacklick Valley 27, North Star 7; Portage 35, Windber 7.
About the Cougars: North Star’s most recent win over the Ramblers was 34-33 in overtime in 2015. Ty Maluchnik has 306 rushing yards.
About the Ramblers: Windber has won five of the past six meetings of the teams, including a playoff game in 2017. John Shuster is second in the area with 435 rushing yards on 75 carries though he had a season-low 14 rushing yards as Portage’s defense limited Windber to a net 58 rushing yards.
Shade (1-2) at Blacklick Valley (1-2)
Last meeting: Shade 32, Blacklick Valley 13.
Last week: Meyersdale 42, Shade 19; Blacklick Valley 27, North Star 7.
About the Panthers: Shade has won three straight in the series since the Vikings’ 23-22 victory in 2015. Quarterback Braden Adams has completed 43 of 66 passes for 570 yards to rank fifth in the area. Vince Fyock has 260 rushing yards on 38 attempts.
About the Vikings: Quarterback Dom DiPaolo completed 7 of 9 passes for 145 yards and two TDs and ran for 68 yards and another score as Blacklick Valley beat North Star for the Vikings’ first win last week. Isaac Thomas has 144 rushing yards on 33 carries.
Conemaugh Township (1-2) at Meyersdale (3-0)
Last meeting: Conemaugh Township 42, Meyersdale 0.
Last week: Conemaugh Township 35, Conemaugh Valley 0; Meyersdale 42, Shade 19.
About the Indians: Conemaugh Township earned the first win of coach Tony Penna Jr.’s tenure with a romp over Conemaugh Valley. Seth Rosey rushed for 123 yards last week and quarterback Jackson Byer passed for 80 and ran for 36 in the win.
About the Red Raiders: Meyersdale has outscored opponents 133-39 in three wins. Drake Gindlesperger has a team-high 30 tackles with a sack and two interceptions. He carried 25 times for 147 yards. Devin Kretchman has 374 yards and 11 touchdowns on 59 carries.
Penn Cambria (1-2) at Bedford (3-0)
Last meeting: Bedford 19, Penn Cambria 6.
Last week: Penn Cambria 52, Greater Johnstown 19; Bedford 13, Bishop McCort Catholic 0.
About the Panthers: Penn Cambria looks to build on the momentum of its first win of the season and first under Panthers coach Nick Felus. Jacob Tsikalas has 14 catches for 213 yards and Nicholas Marinak has 13 receptions for 159 yards.
Quarterback Garrett Harrold has completed 37 of 66 passes for 572 yards, fourth-best in the area.
About the Bisons: Undefeated Bedford produced just enough offense and plenty of defense in a shutout win over Bishop McCort at Sargent’s Stadium.
The Bisons defense has allowed only 16 points in three games. Elijah Cook leads Bedford with 226 rushing yards on 39 carries.
Cambria Heights (1-2) at Bishop McCort Catholic (1-2)
Last meeting: Cambria Heights 14, Bishop McCort Catholic 13.
Last week: Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 36, Cambria Heights 12; Bedford 13, Bishop McCort Catholic 0.
About the Highlanders: Cambria Heights has been outscored 84-12 in the past two weeks by Richland and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic after a one-sided season-opening victory over Penn Cambria.
Tyler Trybus ranks fifth in the area with 316 rushing yards. Ian Eckenrode has 25 tackles and Nate Donahue, 2.5 sacks.
About the Crimson Crushers: Bishop McCort Catholic has split its past two games, scoring 20 points and allowing 20.
The Crimson Crushers beat Somerset (20-7) in Week 2 and were shut out by visiting Bedford (13-0) last week. Quarterback Will Miller has rushed for 286 yards and passed for 239. Jake Ardary has 31 tackles, fourth-highest in the area.
Central Cambria (2-1) at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (2-1)
Last meeting: Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 27, Central Cambria 0.
Last week: Westmont Hilltop 35, Central Cambria 0; Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 36, Cambria Heights 12.
About the Red Devils: Central Cambria had outscored Greater Johnstown and Penn Cambria by a combined 109-29 through the first two weeks, but was shut out by visiting Westmont Hilltop last week.
Dylan Long has 264 rushing yards and quarterback Carter Seymour has 277 passing yards.
About the Marauders: Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic got back on the winning track after a Week 2 loss at Westmont Hilltop.
Keegan Myrick leads the LHAC with 374 rushing yards. Andrew Yanoshak has five sacks and 22 tackles.
Forest Hills (0-3) at Somerset (0-3)
Last meeting: Forest Hills 41, Somerset 14.
Last week: Richland 54, Forest Hills 12; Chestnut Ridge 26, Somerset 7.
About the Rangers: Forest Hills has played three undefeated teams through the first three weeks, with Chestnut Ridge, Bedford and Richland combining to outscore the Rangers 130-27. Seth Richardson has 14 catches for 149 yards. Zach Myers has completed 33 of 63 passes for 384 yards.
About the Golden Eagles: Somerset also has had difficulty putting points on the board, as opponents have outscored the Golden Eagles 72-14 through three weeks. Dustin Hyde has 210 rushing yards on 50 attempts.
Greater Johnstown (0-3) at Richland (3-0)
Last meeting: Richland 64, Greater Johnstown 21.
Last week: Penn Cambria 52, Greater Johnstown 19; Richland 54, Forest Hills 12.
About the Trojans: Greater Johnstown leads the all-time series 14-4 since the teams began playing in 2001. Sammy Barber is second in the area with 667 passing yards, completing 36 of 74 attempts.
About the Rams: Richland snapped Greater Johnstown’s four-game winning streak in the series with a one-sided victory last season. Caleb Burke leads area receivers with 320 yards and seven TDs on 16 catches. Kellan Stahl has an area-best 734 passing yards, 39 of 61, with 11 TDs and one interception.
Bald Eagle Area (2-1) at Bishop Carroll (2-1)
Last meeting: Bald Eagle Area 35, Bishop Carroll 6.
Last week: Penns Valley 42, Bald Eagle Area 7; Tyrone 28, Bishop Carroll Catholic 20.
About the Eagles: Bald Eagle Area quarterback Jaden Jones has completed 24 of 47 passes for 330 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He has 28 carries for 174 yards and two TDs.
Gage McClenahan has 14 catches for 146 yards and two TDs. Kyler Cunningham has a team-high 25 tackles.
About the Huskies: Bishop Carroll Catholic, like Bald Eagle Area, was knocked from the unbeaten ranks last week. Hunter Dumm has 23 carries for 202 yards. He completed 26 of 49 passes for 648 yards. Jake Zazvrskey has 30 tackles.
Ligonier Valley (3-0) at Saltsburg (2-1)
Last meeting: Ligonier Valley won by forfeit.
Last week: Ligonier Valley won by forfeit over United; Saltsburg 45, Blairsville 24.
About the Rams: Ligonier Valley has won 31 consecutive Heritage Conference games dating to 2015. In the past four seasons, the Rams have won by forfeit over the Trojans and won the three previous games in the series by a cumulative 182-0 score.
About the Trojans: Saltsburg has won two straight games after losing its opener to Marion Center.
Trojans quarterback Josh Gibbons has passed for 601 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 276 yards and four scores.
Northern Cambria (2-1) at Purchase Line (1-2)
Last meeting: Northern Cambria 35, Purchase Line 0.
Last week: Northern Cambria 28, West Shamokin 14; Marion Center 27, Purchase Line 19.
About the Colts: Northern Cambria faced a two-touchdown deficit at the half last week against West Shamokin, but came back to score 28 straight points. The Colts have outscored opponents 47-7 in the second half this season. Adam Kopera has an area-high 557 rushing yards.
About the Red Dragons: Purchase Line quarterback Jacob Barnett has thrown for two touchdowns and two interceptions, completing 22 of 36 passes for 338 yards. Cullen Goncher carried 50 times for 329 yards and five scores.
Penns Manor (1-2) at United (0-3)
Last meeting: Penns Manor 20, United 9.
Last week: United lost by forfeit to Ligonier Valley; Homer-Center 35, Penns Manor 7.
About the Comets: Dimitri Lieb leads Penns Manor with 222 yards on 45 carries and 55 yards and a touchdown on three catches.
About the Lions: United is set to return to the field after forfeiting last week’s game due to low numbers. The Lions’ preseason roster had 18 names, but that number dropped to the low teens due to injuries in the first two weeks.
Chestnut Ridge (3-0) at Westmont Hilltop (2-1), 1 p.m.
Last meeting: Chestnut Ridge 19, Westmont Hilltop 14.
Last week: Chestnut Ridge 26, Somerset 7; Westmont Hilltop 35, Central Cambria 0.
About the Lions: Chestnut Ridge’s defense has allowed only 20 points through three weeks, limiting all three opponents to seven or fewer points.
Quarterback Logan Pfister has completed 30 of 39 passes for 491 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
About the Hilltoppers: Westmont Hilltop’s Mason Muto (41 carries, 241 yards) and Hudson Holbay (41-208) have combined for 82 carries and 449 rushing yards.
Ferndale (0-3) at Conemaugh Valley (0-3), 1 p.m.
Last meeting: Conemaugh Valley 23, Ferndale 13.
Last week: Berlin Brothersvalley 35, Ferndale 0; Conemaugh Township 35, Conemaugh Valley 0.
About the Yellow Jackets: Ferndale has opened against three WestPAC opponents (Meyersdale, Windber, Berlin Brothersvalley) that are a combined 8-1 and has been outscored 182-27.
Noah Korenoski has an area-high 39 tackles.
About the Blue Jays: Conemaugh Valley is 27-8-2 in the series since 1982. Opponents have outscored the Blue Jays 104-28 and posted shutouts over Conemaugh Valley in two of three games.
Nick Heltzel has 258 rushing yards.