Football preview: Line Mountain at Wellsboro
No. 7 Line Mountain (6-4) at No. 2 Wellsboro (10-0)
Line Mountain PPG-24.4, YPG-299.3; PPA-16.6, YPA-232.3
Line Mountain facts: The Eagles are a dangerous lower-seeded team and are in a similar position to last year when they went on the road and defeated North Penn-Mansfield in the quarterfinals. Line Mountain ended Newport’s undefeated season in Week 8 and has played well on both sides of the ball throughout the season. The Eagles have lost two straight games but gave South Williamsport one of its toughest games last week, holding it to a season-low 27 points. Line Mountain has recorded two shutouts and held seven teams to 14 points or fewer. Linebacker Chance Hackenburg averages seven tackles per game and has made 15 tackles for loss. The Eagles have rushed the passer well and have 24 sacks with Hackenburg’s five leading the way. Karl Troutman has added 4 1/2 sacks and Breven Derk has three interceptions. Derk is part of a potent passing game and has caught 43 passes for 639 yards and six touchdowns. Brenden Cregger is another big-play threat who averages 19.1 yards per catch and has a team-high 743 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught a 62-yard touchdown against South last week and Derk had six catches for 86 yards. Gage Bowers averages 18.3 yards per catch and has scored three touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Evan Herb has shined in his first season starting, throwing for 1,860 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has topped 200 yards six times. Running back Tyler Boyer has run for 429 yards and five touchdowns.
Line Mountain player to watch-Chris Koperna: The senior linebacker ignites Line Mountain’s defense and has 122 tackles, averaging 12.2 per game. Koperna made 20 tackles against South, has topped 10 tackles eight times and has made at least eight tackles in all 10 games. Koperna also has 1 1/2 sacks and has broken up three passes.
Wellsboro PPG-51.4, YPG-445.4; PPA-8.5, YPA-115.9
Wellsboro facts: After capping a third undefeated season in five years, Wellsboro is eager to try and make a district-wide statement tonight. The Green Hornets have won 21 straight regular-season games and mercy-ruled their first nine opponents but Line Mountain will be the toughest team it has faced. Wellsboro thumped North Penn-Mansfield, 36-7 last week and outgained it, 555-138. The Hornets feature the area’s top-ranked offense and defense and have won three of the last five NTL-I championships. The starting defense has surrendered just five touchdowns and the defensive line has been outstanding with former linebackers Collin Pietropola and Robert Brown helping solidify it. Defensive end Hunter Brown has had an outstanding season and leads the team in tackles while adding a team-best seven sacks. Zach Florio has six sacks and has returned a fumble for a touchdown. Pietropola and Robert Brown each have five sacks and the team has an area-best 29 sacks. Wellsboro has scored eight defensive touchdowns and Chase Moser has returned two interceptions for scores. Moser also is one of three player who has run for more than 500 yards behind a strong offensive line. Quarterback Quinn Henry went over 1,000 passing and rushing yards for a second time in three years last week and has totaled 3,423 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also went over 7,000 career yards last week and has totaled 109 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Aidan Hauser is a big-play threat who has run for 693 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has become a big part of the passing game and has a team-best 24 catches for 300 yards. Wellsboro captured the 2015 District 4 Class A championship and reached last year’s Class AA semifinals.
Wellsboro player to watch-Alex Kozuhowski: The senior cornerback has been a big part of Wellsboro’s success the last four years and returned last week after missing the first nine games. He wasted no time making an impact either. Kozuhowski intercepted a pass, broke up another and caught three passes for 88 yards. His return is an added boost entering the postseason.
Outlook: Wellsboro has been downright dominant all season but it is hard to get a read on how potent it really is because it only played two Class A schools outside the NTL. A win tonight would go a long way in silencing any doubters out there but this will be a tough and hard-fought game.
Winner plays: No. 3 South Williamsport or No. 6 Mount Carmel
-by CHRIS MASSE