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Muncy at Canton

Last meeting: Canton won, 27-13, in Week 6

Background: Make it two straight years that the district championship has come down to Canton and Muncy. A year ago, Muncy avenged a regular-season loss, went to Canton and won a 9-7 thriller to capture its second district title in three years. There are parallels here with Canton beating Muncy again in Week 6 of the regular season this year. Just like a year ago, Canton defeated South Williamsport in the semifinals and Muncy avenged a Week 9 loss against Sayre. Muncy has rallied around a second chance theme in each of the last two seasons and has won its two previous championships on the road while avenging regular-season losses. Canton is seeking its first district championship since 1990 and is playing in consecutive finals for the first time since 1990-91. The Warriors also are going after a second straight 10-win season.

Muncy PPG–27.5, YPG–336.2, PPA–22.5, YPA–282

Muncy facts: A team that started the year surrounded by question marks has surged throughout the season’s second half and will return several starters next season. Muncy has won four of five games since the Canton loss and avenged that defeat a week ago against Sayre. The Indians rallied from two first-half deficits, then mounted a late game-winning drive to take a 26-20 victory. Muncy improved to 4-0 on the road in district playoff games since 2016 and the offensive line was outstanding, paving the way for 241 rushing yards. Ethan Gush scored all four touchdowns and has produced 14 touchdowns since Week 7. Quarterback Branson Eyer has made big strides during his freshman season and reached 1,000 passing yards last week. He totaled 160 yards and is third on the team in rushing while also intercepting a team-high four passes. His cousin Ross Eyer is one of the area’s premier big-play threats and caught two touchdowns against Canton six weeks ago. Eyer has produced nine touchdowns on his 20 catches and is averaging 29.2 yards per catch. Paul Pepper went over 500 rushing yards two weeks ago, but missed last week’s game. Freshman Elijah Weikle played well in his place, running for 62 yards. Seniors Cael Hembury, Dakota Haueisen and Mason Hillman anchor an offensive line which has become one of the area’s best down the stretch. Haueisen also has shined on defense and has produced consecutive 12-tackle performances. Hembury has a team-high nine tackles for loss and Hillman averages four tackles per game. Gush and fellow linebacker Bailey Hadzinikolov each have gone over 100 tackles and both average more than 10 tackles per game. Sophomore Chase Crawley is enjoying a breakthrough season and is averaging 6.6 tackles per game. He had one of the three interceptions against Sayre and Muncy forced four turnovers. Cornerback Gage Wertz played well against Sayre, caught a touchdown two weeks ago against Hughesville and is one of the area’s top punters.

Muncy player to watch–Christian Good: Another outstanding senior leader, Good played one of the best games of his scholastic career in last year’s district final. Good made 14 tackles, intercepted a pass and blocked a punt that resulted in a safety. He has again been an all-around contributor in 2019, leading Muncy in catches, starting at quarterback in Week 6, topping 100 yards rushing against Cowanesque Valley and averaging 6.4 tackles per game.

Canton PPG–30.0, YPG–371.4, PPA–13.4, YPA–243.5

Canton facts: Nothing has come easy down the stretch, but Canton has overcome some costly injuries and tough opponents and again given itself a shot at winning that elusive district championship. The Warriors dominated the fourth quarter against South after it was scoreless through three quarters and played well in all three facets. Canton’s offense produced 17 fourth-quarter points, the defense made two first-half red zone stops that helped change the game’s complexion and Nick May returned a kickoff 71 yards for a score after South scored a touchdown that made it 10-7. The Warriors held up well against South’s ground and pound offense over the last three quarters and have played tough in three straight games against South, NTL-I champion Troy and District 4 Class AA semifinalist North Penn-Mansfield. Quarterback Uriah Bailie is the first Canton player in the 2000s, top go over 1,000 passing and rushing yards. The senior gashed Muncy for 191 yards in Week 6 while also throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown and has produced 30 touchdowns in 12 games. Carson Stiner averaged six yards per carry against South and he and Owen Wesneski both scored touchdowns in the first Muncy game. Ben Knapp earned all-state honors at tight end last year and the junior will line up there and as a wide receiver. Knapp caught the go-ahead 26-yard touchdown against South and also caught a touchdown against Muncy. Sophomore Cooper Kitchen is emerging as a two-way weapon and hauled in a game-clinching 28-yard touchdown last week. Kitchen also has a team-high five interceptions for an opportunistic defense which has intercepted an area-best 17 passes. Linebacker Garrett Storch is one of the team’s most valuable players, also anchoring the offensive line. Storch leads the team in tackles and has 27 over his last two games. Storch also blocked a punt in last year’s regular-season win against Muncy and partially blocked one at Muncy in Week 6. Canton scored 13 points in less than three minutes to start the first Muncy game, but it was 13-13 over the final 45 minutes.

Canton player to watch–Evan Landis: A valuable two-way starter, Landis moved to the offensive line for the first time in the North Penn-Mansfield win and has helped solidify that unit. The defensive end also has been a weapon coming off the edge and was sensational against North Penn-Mansfield. He made two tackles on a goal-line stand that started with a first-and-goal at the 1 and also had three tackles for loss.

Winner plays: District 3 champion Millersburg

Outlook: These rivals are becoming quite familiar with each other and mirror one another in terms of physicality. While both teams are hard-nosed, they also feature some exciting playmakers and one has the feeling that it could be one or two big plays that help determine this game’s outcome.

–By CHRIS MASSE

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