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Written by: on Sunday, August 30th, 2015

    District Nine is made up of 25 teams with 17 being in the A state classification.  There are 4 AA teams, 3 AAA squads, and 1 AAAA school.  Let’s begin with the A schools.
     The Brockway Rovers are apparently the team to beat in A.  They return 6 starters on offense and 5 on defense.  Their strengths will be the offensive line, and running backs on offense.  Defensively, they should have an outstanding linebacking core even though they lost their top tackler due to a preseason injury.  Names of those who will make an impact for sure are WR/RB/DB Anthony Isabella, RB/LB Mark Latuska, OL/DL Joey Varischetti, and PK/P Jarred Esposito.  The Rovers are big, strong, and fast and they literally overwhelmed the teams they scrimmaged.
     The Golden Tide of Curwensville expect to make a run for the district title as they do every year.  They have 5 players back on offense, including their whole starting backfield.  Linebacking will be the Golden Tide strength on defense.  Impact players include Soph. RB/LB Nick Stewart, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards as a freshman,  QB Jake Terry, and linemen Seth Sloppy and Ian Barrett.
     Clarion’s Bobcats are another team that is usually in the hunt for the D-9 championship every year and their cupboard is not bare this year either.  Offensive strength will definitely be their line returning 4 of the 5 starters.  The secondary on defense is the area of experience.  Key players are QB/CB Bo Miller,and OL/DL Alexander Burkhart.  Clarion has a new offensive coordinator this year so their offensive schemes may change somewhat.
     The Kane Wolves are the defending D-9 champs.  They have lost some key players, but have the nucleus to possibly make another title run.  Skill positions on offense may be a strength for Kane with the secondary a plus on the defensive side.  Twins Tyler and Shane Rolick (QB/CB and WR/RB/CB respectively) are 2 people to keep an eye on along with TE/FB/LB Tyler Weidenhoff.
     Redbank Valley’s Bulldogs are another single A team that could make some noise in 2015.  A real plus for them is returning 4 of the 5 offensive linemen and 3 on defense.  The secondary will be the same as last year, but the trenches are what usually helps determine a game’s outcome and with the Bulldogs’ experience there, they could make a serious run.  Names to remember are, lineman BryLee Shumaker (KSAC Lineman of the Year), and slotbacks/cornerbacks Wyatt Hetrick and Nick Shoemaker.
     The Union Golden Knights had a memorable year last year making the district semi finals.  Player to keep an eye on this year is Cole Morris, RB/CB.
     The Crusaders of Elk County Catholic hope to build on their phenominal year in 2014 when they made the playoffs going 8-3.  Their strength is returning 3 offensive and 3 defensive linemen.  ECC runs the single wing which is very confusing to defenses.  Key players are Noah Werner, RB and linemen Doug Schatz and Joe Kucenski.
     The other teams who make up the D-9 Class A contingent are AC Valley, Cameron County, Clarion-Limestone, Coudersport, Keystone, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegheny, Ridgway, Sheffield, and Smethport.  Reports are that many of those schools’ numbers are down to the low to mid twenties which doesn’t usually mean having winning records especially with injuries that may occur.  But with that said, every year in District Nine someone creeps up on the rest of the field and has an exceptional year as ECC did last year after going 0-9 in 2013.
          The four teams in Double A are the Brookville Blue Raiders, the Karns City Gremlins, the Moniteau Warriors, and the St. Marys Flying Dutchmen.  Karns City is the class of D-9’s AA classification.  They lost some key players, but return enough and have a system where they plug in newcomers and don’t seem to lose a beat from year to year.  They return 3 defensive linemen from a stingy defense a year ago.  Players to watch for include Maverick Kelsea FB/LB, Colin Dunmyre TB/S, Ben Ealy G/DT, Reese Barger C/DE, and Evan Stitt SE/CB.
     St. Marys will have most of their skill position players back along with a couple of linemen.  They are hoping to build off of their title game appearance against Karns City last year.  Don’t count them out, but that is a tall task to defeat the Gremlins.  Vital players returning are T.J. Hogan FB, Nate Straub HB, and QB Pat Schlimm.
 In AAA Clearfield should be the king of the hill as they just reload every year.  Coach Tim Janocko takes the talent he has and makes slight adjustments every year to get the most out his players.  Their strength offensively is their skill position players, defensively it is their line.  Those who will make key contributions are Cody Spaid QB, Ryan Lezzer WR/RB/S, Seth Caldwell RB/CB, Dylan Fenton OL/DL, and Nate Lash OL/DL.  The Bison will be challenged to the max in their opener at home this Friday when they take on the 2 time Maryland state champion, Ft. Hill, who is sporting a 28 game win streak.
      The Punxsy Chucks have some key returning starters and probably will meet Clearfield in the district final again.  They return 4 offensive and 6 defensive starters.  The key players are Brandon Douthit OL/DL, Ethan Riley PK/P, Braxton Giavedoni WR/S, and Blake Bizousky FB/LB.
      Not much is known about the Bradford Owls at this point.  They have a proud program and not too many years ago were the district champs.
Finally, the only AAAA team is the DuBois Beavers who lost a ton of starters due to graduation and another due to injury.  But  their wide open offense gives defenses fits and they should score a lot of points again this year.  They changed their defense for 2015 in hopes of tightening it up.  Key personnel returning includes Dante Dawson WR/LB, Ryan Pasternak OL/DL, and Jared Meinhart PK.  They improved from the first scrimmage to the second and hope to make another improvement as they enter the regular season.  A real key to their success is the health of their new QB Matt Miller who had to sit out all of 2014 due to injury.


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