Five weeks have been played in this high school football season and we’ve come to know very little about the 23 teams that comprise the Big 30.
Yes, we all know that Port Allegany and Elk County Catholic have, so far, proven unstoppable.
Both are 5-0 and represent the Allegheny Mountain League, albeit, in different divisions. Could a battle of unbeatens loom to determine the AML championship game slated for Week 10?
We also know that Pioneer and Salamanca are each just two points from also being 5-0. Salamance stumbled two weeks ago when the Warriors dropped a 47-46 decision in overtime at Southwestern. Pioneer saw the Big 30’s regular-season win streak snapped at 13 last Friday when the Panthers lost at Springville, 14-13.
At the other end of the scale, a trio of area teams are still seeking their first win of the year as Cameron County, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Otto-Eldred all take 0-5 marks into their Week 6 games.
As for the remaining 16 teams?
If you had to describe what teams have done so far this year, you might consider the word ‘pedestrian’. With only 10 of the 23 football teams in the Big 30 over .500, it’s safe to say the majority of programs in the Twin Tiers have to find some very quick answers or start looking ahead to 2013.
This week offers a handful of key games with many observers focusing on Pioneer’s home game against Eden tonight and Port Allegany’s home game vs. Smethport on Saturday afternoon.
PIONEER’S clash with Eden trumps every other game on the Big 30 this weekend for one reason ... the winner clinches the WNY Class B South Division crown.
“It’s really quite simple,” Pioneer coach Jim Duprey noted. “Eden likes to line up in that double wing-T about one foot apart. They’re happy to just grind it out against you ... three yards at a time.
“We need to make big stops on every one of their first-down plays.”
And as Duprey sees it, that’s where his Panthers fell short in the loss to Springville.
“Defensively, we gave up way too many yards,” he said. “We knew what they were going to run ... we allowed their offense to execute better than we did on defense.
“We also wasted the few opportunities we had because our offense was not in sync at all. While we looked better in the second half, we needed a complete game to beat Springville and we didn’t get it.
“Trust me when I say that is what we focused on this week in practice,” he said. “I told my guys that I was proud they sucked it and didn’t completely fold in the second half. They fought hard, but we needed that from the start of the game.”
That setback was only half the story for Duprey.
Following the game, he made the 12-mile bus ride back to school, did a quick change of clothing in the school’s locker room and returned to Springville where he was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions,” said Duprey, a 1987 Springville alum. “I think I was more upset that we lost the game. But being honored by my alma mater along with two other guys that I competed with in high school ... that was special for a different reason.
“It was nice to see some old friends and a lot of my relatives were on hand. I got back there around 11:30, just in time to make my speech. But it would have been nicer to have won the game. I just had to man up and deal with that disappointment.”
Tonight, the Panthers might be without the services of senior quarterback Ryan Miller, who suffered a head injury during gym class on Monday.
ALL PORT ALLEGANY has done in its first five games this year is help Matt Bodamer rewrite the District 9 records and continue his assault on the PIAA record book.
The senior quarterback heads into Saturday’s AML North Division matchup with Smethport having completed 92 of 117 attempts — that’s a gaudy completion percentage of .786 — for 1,644 yardfs and 28 touchdowns.
Thus it’s no secret what Smethport will attempt to do for a win.
“Obvioulsy we have to defend the pass,” said Hubber coach Jim Berlin. “To that end, we’re working on a few things.
“Offensively, we need to sustain drives and keep Bodamer on the sideline.
“But there’s a double-edged problem in facing Port A,” Berlin said. “You want to keep the clock moving when you have the ball. You don’t want to score too quickly because they’ve proven countless times that they can surely strike quickly.
“We’re going to have to grind it out. That’s something I feel we’re capable of doing. I issued a challenge to my offensive linemen in preseason and they’ve accepted it. They’ve gotten better and better each week.
“Between the blocking we get up front and our ability to run the ball,” he added.,“I think we can chew up some clock.
“We’ve gotten some good running from Clay Shuler and Carl Lightner and our fullback Jake Abrams is blocking well out of the backfield. He doesn’t get a lot of credit ... he just gets the job done.”
Noted Gators’ coach Mike Bodamer, “Smethport has been able to run the option well this year. We need to find a way to contain Shuler, Lightner and Abrams.
“We’ve spent this entire week working on our run defense.”
Bodamer knows what can happen if Smethport can control the clock.
“We ran into this situation last year when we faced Elk County Catholic,” Bodamer said. “We let them control the clock and they beat us (25-19).
“I doubt anybody will see this when I say it, but we have trouble maintaining momemtum when our offense is off the field. If anything, we want to force our opponents to play our game. If we can jump out to an early lead, we take them away from a ball-control situation.”
For the record, Bodamer needs 1,112 yards to pass 2010 Brockway graduate Derek Buganza for first place on the Pennsylvania state all-time passing yardage chart. Buganza finished his career with 9,752 yards. Bodamer now has 8,641.
Brendan Nosovitch (Allentown CC, Class of 2011) is the only name separating the two District 9 phenoms. Nosovitch threw for 9,248 in his career.
Bodamer needs six TD passes to jump to No. 1 on that list. Kyle Smith (Lancaster Catholic, ’09) is on top with 118.
ELSEWHERE around the Big 30 this weekend, Cattaraugus-Little Valley could be the first of the winless trio to break into the win column. The Timberwolves host winless International Prep in a WNY Class D game tonight.
That league also features a key game for Randolph.
After a dominating 42-6 win at Portville last Friday, the Cardinals will look to continue their winning ways on the road when they travel to Mayville to take on Chautauqua Lake tonight.
In WNY Class C South action, Falconer visits Salamanca while Olean High plays at East Aurora in a Clas B South matchup.
Ellicottville and Franklinville both hit the road on Saturday for WNY Class DD games against Panama and Sherman/Ripley, repectively.
While each of them heads into the weekend at 3-2, they’re both in the hunt to clinch second place in the league standings.
Should both of them win tomorrow, it will set up a rivalry clash when Franklinville travels to Ellicottville a week from today.
Finally, Elk County Catholic, which plays at Kane tonight, will be very much interested in what happens when Curwensville travels to Brockway.
All three teams — Brockway, Curwensville and ECC — are tied for the top spot in the AML South Division with 5-0 marks.