HS football preview: Hughesville at Central Mountain

Hughesville facts: The Spartans gave their playoff hopes a boost last year when they defeated Central Mountain, receiving 160 playoff points, and are hoping history repeats itself tonight. Hughesville has several new starters on both sides of the ball, but fought back from a 13-point deficit less than two minutes into last week’s game before losing, 19-15 at Lewisburg. Hughesville took a brief lead in the second quarter, allowed just two offensive touchdowns and showed it could be a stingy defensive team throughout the season. The Spartans allowed no gain of more than 10 yards in the second half and both Kade Heckel and Zane Gee had sacks. Dale Shrawder made a team-high eight tackles and the run defense held Max Moyers to 18 yards on his last 17 carries. Devon Bushor gave the offense a spark in his first varsity game, catching four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Gavin Steele made an excellent 26-yard touchdown catch and quarterback Ori Shaner totaled 219 yards in his first varsity start. Jase Wright was held to 21 yards but has the potential to have a strong season after being among the team’s leading rushers and receivers last year. Hughesville rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit against Central Mountain last year, totaling 417 yards in a 35-21 win.

Hughesville player to watch–Julian Brehm: The senior linebacker is a good playmaker on both sides of the ball and made seven tackles against Lewisburg. Brehm had a team-high six solo tackles and can play along the offensive line or at tight end offensively. He showed his explosiveness against Montoursville last year, catching a 48-yard touchdown pass.

Central Mountain facts: The Wildcats held Williamsport scoreless in the first quarter a week ago, but struggled from there in a 34-7 loss. Still, playing a 6A state qualifier in the opener is no easy task and Central Mountain has a chance to build off last year’s 3-7 finish. The defense could be particularly strong moving forward with good playmakers at all three levels. Defensive end Mason Campbell is an athletic presence who flies to the ball and who had nine tackles and a sack against Williamsport. Linebacker Tanner Weaver made a game-high 13 tackles and safety Asher Corl added eight. Weaver and Mahlik Houtz both averaged more than 10 tackles per game last season and Houtz had a sack last week, as did Donovan Burnell. The offense is replacing Justin Neff, now at Penn State, after he carried it last season. That proved a tough task last week but quarterback Austyn Carson is athletic and potentially a more dangerous passer than Neff. Carson ran for a 17-yard second-quarter touchdown against Williamsport and Seth Andrus averaged nearly six yards per carry while running for a team-high 40 yards. Weaver led Central Mountain in rushing last year and recorded two 100-yard games.

Central Mountain player to watch–Turner Mader: A senior leader, the linebacker plays hard all the time and was all over the field against Williamsport. Mader was among the team leaders in tackles, had two quarterback hurries and did his best to keep his teammates motivated. Mader could be poised for a big season.

Outlook: Both teams are fairly young, but both could be sleepers moving forward. Whoever wins tonight’s close game could us it as a launching pad.

— CHRIS MASSE 

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