H.S. football preview: Canton at Montgomery

Canton PPG–25; YPG–296; PPA–21; YPA–288

Canton facts: The Warriors might have recorded District 4’s biggest upset last week, defeating Towanda, 25-21. Canton rallied from a 21-13 fourth-quarter deficit and won with 46 seconds remaining when Uriah Baillie hit Timmy Ward with a 24-yard touchdown pass. Canton never led until that point and Baillie played most of the game after starter Michael Smithers injured his ankle early in the game. Baillie frequently was hit, but made some excellent plays on the run and under pressure, throwing each of his three touchdowns in those situations. Smithers led Canton in rushing and passing last season and the Warriors likely will alternate both quarterbacks, if healthy throughout games all season. Baillie threw for 220 yards and Ward and tight end Ben Knapp both topped 100 yards receiving. Ward earned all-state honors last season and had four catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Knapp is a 6-4 sophomore who looks like an emerging weapon who caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown on Canton’s second scoring drive. Levi Gaiotti has the most receptions by a Canton receiver the past two seasons and was the team’s leadign rusher against Towanda. The offensive line is young and started two freshmen and a sophomore but played well in the fourth quarter. The defense did a nice job recovering after Towanda took the game’s opening possession 68 yards on four plays for a touchdown. The defense kept Canton in the game, despite four turnovers, stuffed the run except for two big plays and prevented big passing plays. Ben Knapp and Nick May both had sacks, Gaiotti made 10 tackles and Garrett Storch played one of his best games, making nine tackles.

Canton player to watch–Carson Stiner: The junior linebacker was key in Canton slowing down Towanda. Stiner was all over the field, making nine tackles. Stiner frequently was hitting runners near the line of scrimmage and could take on a bigger offensive role as the season progresses.

Montgomery PPG–7; YPG–173; PPA–25; YPA–447

Montgomery facts: Last week’s 25-7 loss against South Williamsport was pretty deceiving if one just looks at the score. Montgomery held South scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter, leading 7-0 until that point. The Mounties then scored 25 points in the game’s last 6:08. Following last year’s breakthrough campaign that culminated with a trip to the District 4 Class A final for the first time since 2000, Montgomery is right on the cusp of taking another big step forward. But to do so, Montgomery must handle adversity better. When teams took leads against Montgomery last season they often stayed ahead. The Raiders obviously were shaken after losing standout three-year starting quarterback/linebacker Brayden Strouse to an injury and that could have played a role in the collapse. Strouse is questionable for tonight’s game. Montgomery highlighted its ascension last season when it snapped an 11-game losing streak against Canton and defeated it, 34-7. Montgomery allowed just 172 yards in that game and also forced six turnovers. Four-year starting running back Hunter Budman helps spark the Montgomery offense and ran for 96 yards and a 30-yard touchdown last week. Budman ran for 1,490 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, the best season by a Montgomery running back in the 2000s. Budman also intercepted a pass last week as did Steven Prince. In addition to leading both teams in tackles, senior linebacker Rhyle Strausbaugh blocked an extra point that preserved Montgomery’s lead until less than four minutes remained. Strausbaugh was the NTL-II’s Defensive Player of the Year last season when he made 122 tackles.

Montgomery player to watch–Kalen Guyer: The wide receiver/defensive back caught a team-high three passes last week and will be one of the players who tries to keep defenses from loading the box against the run. Guyer also is a talented defensive back and had a key interception in last year’s district semifinal win against Bucktail, the program’s first playoff victory in 17 years.

Outlook: Four of the six District 4 Class A teams will reach the playoffs so there is a chance this could be the first of two games between these rivals who have played some heated games over the years. The last 12 games in this series have been blowouts, but these teams are as evenly matched as they have been during that stretch. The streak ends tonight and this game will be close throughout.