District 6 Class 5A championship: Hollidaysburg vs. Central Mountain
Background: Central Mountain has not just a shot at winning the program’s second district title, but paying back at an old bully which has won 10 straight in this series, including in each of the last four seasons by a 48-16 margin. This is by far the best Central Mountain team during the last five years, however, and the Wildcats care little about the past.
Central Mountain PPG–21.9, YPG–275.6; PPA–18.1, YPA–259.6
Central Mountain facts: The Wildcats are a few plays from being 6-1, dropping consecutive hard-fought games against Selinsgrove and two-time defending District 4 Class AAAA champion Jersey Shore. Central Mountain defeated Selinsgrove, 7-3 in Week 2 and was the first team to hold a lead against Jersey Shore, going up 9-7 in the third quarter. The defense has been stout for much of the season, allowing single digits in four of seven games. Linebacker Micah Walizer is having a terrific season, averaging nearly 10 tackles per game and adding six tackles for loss. Jason Rinker also has been a playmaker, making 52 tackles. Two-way starting lineman Cyrus McCarl has been critical to the team’s success and has four tackles for loss while Tyler Weaver and Jake Welch have combined for 4 1/2 sacks. McCarl is part of an experienced and strong offensive line which paved the way for 267 yards against a Jersey Shore defense that had not allowed more than 117 in a game before that. Junior running back Ryan Pentz has put together a stellar season and is second among area rushers with 808 yards and eight touchdowns. He also became the first 100-yard rusher against Jersey Shore, going for 167 and ripping off a long touchdown run. Peyton Johnson is a versatile and exciting playmaker who will be used all over the field. He went over 1,000 career receiving yards last week and opened the season with a 103-yard, 2-touchdown catch performance against Shikellamy.
Central Mountain player to watch–Anton Stratts: The two-way starter has helped anchor the offensive line and also is a standout linebacker who has made a team-high seven tackles for loss. A junior, Stratts is one of the reasons both the present and future have looked good for Central Mountain and he has added 2 1/2 sacks.
Hollidaysburg PPG–18.8, YPG–218.4; PPA–22.0
Hollidaysburg facts: Timing and rust could be an issue for Hollidaysburg which will be playing its first game in 22 days. The Golden Tigers have won three straight since starting 0-2, highlighting that streak with a 26-12 win over rival and District 6 Class 6A champion Altoona. Hollidaysburg won its last game, 13-7, in overtime against Central Dauphin East on Oct. 9. Hollidaysburg defeated Central Mountain, 41-19, a year ago and has topped 40 points in each of the last four games against it. The offense goes through quarterback Bryce Martellaci who has thrown for 343 yards while running for a team-high 357 yards and five touchdowns. The defense has been stingy, allowing just 19 points the last two games. Six players are averaging more than five tackles per game and Rocco Grassi leads the way with 8.8 tackles per game.
Hollidaysburg player to watch–Hunter Gibbons: An active linebacker, Gibbons has made a team-high five tackles for loss and averages 5.8 tackles per game. His play has coincided with the defense’s surge. He has multiple tackles for loss in each of the last two games and also blocked a kick against Altoona.
Winner plays: Cathedral Prep
Outlook: Central Mountain has quite an opportunity Saturday and it showed against Jersey Shore how dangerous it can be against state-caliber competition. A new era appears to be starting at Central Mountain and whatever happens tomorrow, expect the Wildcats to give Hollidaysburg all it can handle.