Smethport, Curwensville and Brookville are coaches choice for D9 winners
Written by: Brian Hagberg on Sunday, August 12th, 2018
RIDGWAY, Pa. – Change was in the air when District 9 players, coaches and league officials met at Aiello’s Cafe in Ridgway last week for the District 9 Football League Media Day.
Late in the 2017 season, District 9 announced the Allegheny Mountain League and Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference would be dissolved and a new District 9 Football League formed. The new league comprises Large School, Small School North and Small School South divisions, with the primary objective to level the playing field within the district.
It’s a big change to be sure, but one that has been met with overwhelming positivity throughout the district.
“It’s about time,” Redbank Valley assistant coach Blane Gold said. “We love it.”, “We’re pretty excited, we get to play schools more our size,” said Union/AC Valley head coach Brad Dittman. “It’s long overdue.” It wasn’t just the small schools who welcomed the switch. “We’re excited, the competition is going to be fierce,” Bradford coach Jeff Puglio said. “We’re going to have to up our game.”
The Terrors have a good returning core.
The division break down like this, Large School-Bradford, Brockway, Brookville, Clarion, Kane, Karns City, Moniteau, Punxsutawney, St. Marys, Ridgway; Small School North-Cameron County, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Sheffield, Smethport; Small School South-Clarion-Limestone, Curwensville, Elk County Catholic, Keystone, Redbank Valley, Union-A-C Valley
Those most benefitting from the change might be the former AML North squads (Cameron County, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Sheffield and Smethport). They annually opened their season with a four-game gauntlet against the bigger South (Bradford, Brockway, Curwensville, Elk County Catholic, Kane and Ridgway) teams. Often, the primary goal was to get through that stretch healthy.
“That AML South schedule was tough,” said Coudersport coach Tom Storey. “You just tried to push through it. (The new league) does equal things out.” The only real negative any of the coaches had to say about the new league was the amount of extra travel it creates. For many; however, those extra miles are worth a more competitive schedule from top to bottom. “We’re not too concerned about the travel,” Smethport’s Adam Jack said. “We’re excited about it. It evens the playing field.”
can Bradford make another deep playoff run?
The new league wasn’t the only change for D9. When the results of the league’s first coaches poll were announced, one team was noticeably absent from the top of the Large School division.
Kane, who saw its streak of 39 straight league wins end at the hands of Clarion in the District 9 Championship last year, wasn’t picked to finish in the top three. Those honors went to Brookville, Clarion and Bradford. The Wolves lost head coach Todd Silfies to retirement and will have to replace quarterback Reed Williams (2,123 yards, 26 TD), leading rusher Erik Delong (1,795 yards 23 TD) and leading receiver Ray Maze (835 yards, 10 TD), all having graduated.
Kane will have some experience coming back, however. New coach Jim Hillman has been with the program for 23 years and spent the last decade as the middle school head coach. Junior Jake Alcorn didn’t log many carries, but he made the most of his opportunities with an 8.2 ypc average. He also caught 33 passes for 499 yards and five scores. Alcorn will still have Jake Silvis paving the way for him on the offensive line as well. Silvis had 22 pancake blocks last season and is ready to prove the doubters wrong. “People will see us just being ourselves,” he said regarding what to expect from the Wolves this year. “I just want to put the pads on.”
Smethport chosen to lead the small school North division
District 9 Coaches Poll results:
Small School North
Small School South
2. Redbank Valley
3. Elk County Catholic
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