Class AAAAAA football: State College vs. Williamsport
State College (10-1) vs. Williamsport (11-1) at Selinsgrove, Friday, 7 p.m.
State College PPG–31.7, PPA–9.6; YPG–305
Williamsport PPG–50.0, PPA–22.0; YPG–519, YPA–276.9
State College facts: The Little Lions captured their third straight District 6-9 championship last Saturday, downing Erie McDowell, 35-14. The Lions opened the season 9-0, navigating a tough schedule, before losing in their regular-season finale, 13-10 to Central Dauphin. That is one of three 6A District 3 semifinalists State College has played. It also defeated Harrisburg, 35-28 and Cumberland Valley, 20-16. Harrisburg is the only team that has topped 20 points against State College’s stout defense. The Lions are allowing just 9.6 points per game, have shut out three teams and have held five teams to 10 points or fewer. The defense is opportunistic as well and Josh Ruffner changed the complexion of the Erie McDowell game, returning a fumble 35 yards for a game-tying, first-quarter touchdown. State College is tough against the run and also features a strong pass rush that has produced 41 sacks. Outside linebacker Peyton Edwards has a team-high 10 sacks and defensive end Jackson Heasley has added nine. Both have had three-sack games. Defensive lineman Kam’ron Walker, a 6-3, 300-pounder, has five sacks and had a three-sack performance against Carlisle. Mark Wess and Paul Olivett each have intercepted three passes. The offense is balanced and dangerous. Quarterback Tyler Snyder has topped 1,000 yards the past two seasons, throwing for 1,663 yards and 19 touchdowns. Snyder threw for 150 yards and three touchdowns against Erie McDowell, all to Noah Woods. Woods is an explosive playmaker who turned all three catches into touchdowns last week. Woods has recorded four 100-yard games in his last five weeks and had 117 yards against Erie McDowell. Woods clinched the win with a 75-yard touchdown catch. Keep an eye on 6-4 receiver Brandon Clark as well. He has 26 catches for 349 yards and five touchdowns. The offensive line took control in the fourth quarter Saturday as Tristen Lyons ran for 95 yards and a touchdown. Lyons, a shifty 5-6, 167-pounder, forms a nice duo with hard-nosed running back Pete Haffner. Both have topped 500 yards rushing and combined for 19 touchdowns. Haffner ran for 185 yards four weeks ago against Harrisburg. Kicker Jack Sheehan could be an x-factor, making 6 of 7 field goal tries and 41 of 44 extra-point attempts.
State College player to watch–Josh Ruffner: The senior linebacker has been making plays like the timely one he did last Saturday all season. He is among the team’s leading tacklers and finished the regular season with 24 tackles in two games.
Williamsport facts: The Millionaires are playing in their first state tournament since 1995 after routing Delaware Valley, 55-21 in last week’s District 2-4 championship. Williamsport avenged its only defeat in emphatic fashion, scoring 41 points between the second and third quarters and inflicting the mercy rule three minutes into the third quarter against a team that had won seven straight games. Williamsport topped 40 points for an eighth straight game but it was its defense that took a big step forward. The Millionaires were gouged in the first quarter, but adjusted well, stifled the run and the starters did not allow a point the rest of the game. Moving 315-pounder Kurt Danneker to the defensive line has provided a big lift as has moving all-state defensive end Ross Stebbins to defensive tackle. Teams were running away from Stebbins earlier in the season but the adjustments have played a big role in Williamsport playing the run better. Linebacker Cameron Dickey was a force last week, recovering two fumbles and adding a sack that set up a short field and a touchdown. Jamaire Burget was often in the backfield and Keough Johnson played a strong game. Leading tackler Nathan Welch added a sack and defensive backs Elliott Walker, Isaiah Hankins, Dante Wright and Marcus Simmons made some timely plays. Williamsport is leading the state in offense and the starters scored on six of their eight possessions against Delaware Valley. Quarterback Isaiah Hankins broke his own single-season passing record and has topped 2,000 yards for a second time in three years while accounting for 36 touchdowns. Treyson Potts is having a big sophomore season, running for a District 4-high 1,890 yards and scoring a district-best 35 touchdowns. Potts ran for 141 yards and scored five touchdowns last week. Elliott Walker is a receiving and running threat who ended the regular season tied for second in the district with 10 touchdown catches. Dante Wright is an explosive player as well, catching five passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Danneker and fellow offensive linemen Tyler Anderson, Chance Bower, Eli Clary and Tucker Kreisher are vital to the offense’s success and have helped Williamsport top 50 points five times.
Williamsport player to watch–Jalen Jackson: An excellent senior leader, Jackson is an offensive and defensive weapon. He is one of the team’s top receivers and had four catches for 75 yards last week. Jackson also has a nose for the football and is third on the team in tackles.
Winner plays: District 7’s champion, either Pittsburgh Central Catholic or Seneca Valley
Outlook: It’s strength vs. strength Friday. The Williamsport defense has to build off last week’s performance and, if it does, this could be an excellent game from start to finish.