Nov. 10—Two area teams will contend for titles on Friday night in rematches of their respective 2022 championship games.
In the District 5-8 Class 2A subregional championship contest, second-seeded Berlin Brothersvalley will play top-seeded Westinghouse, the two-time defending subregional champion and a 2022 state runner-up.
In District 6 Class 3A, second-seeded Penn Cambria will play top-seeded, two-time defending district champion Central at Mansion Park. This is the teams' third straight meeting in the 6-3A title game, with the Scarlet Dragons winning in 2022 (35-6) and 2021 (42-7).
Each game, as well as three District 6 semifinal round playoff games involving area teams, will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
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District 8 Westinghouse (9-0) will play in its third straight subregional title game after defeating Berlin Brothersvalley 59-7 last season and Windber 35-34 in 2021.
The Bulldogs won their fourth Pittsburgh City League championship in the past five years and built on the momentum of a 14-win, PIAA runner-up finish in 2022.
"They're real solid. They have a lot of their linemen back from last year," Berlin coach Doug Paul said. "Their line was so physical. By far the best team we're going to play up until this point in the season. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Berlin Brothersvalley is 10-1 and has won six straight since falling to Northern Bedford County in Week 5 in the Inter-County Conference South.
The Mountaineers will have the uncharacteristic role as an underdog, but Paul believes his players will embrace the challenge.
"We always talk about momentum and how important it is," Paul said. "The momentum turned on us so quickly in the game last year.
"We picked the wrong night to have the turnovers and play that team that night.
"Westinghouse has been beating everybody pretty handily this year. We've just got to come out and battle and take it one play at a time."
Senior quarterback-defensive back Pace Prosser has passed for 1,338 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing for 400 yards and three scores. On defense, he has seven interceptions and 52 tackles.
Senior running back Aidan Ream has 480 rushing yards and four TDs, and senior middle linebacker Cody Kimmel has 101 tackles and four sacks.
"We've talked all year about the leadership Pace, Cody and Aidan provide for us," Paul said. "(Junior) Cooper (Huston) was in the trenches last year, too.
"Other than that, it's pretty much new guys out there.
"Our offensive line and defensive line were a huge question mark at the beginning of the season. It's been something watching these guys grow. They're not young anymore."
Westinghouse sophomore running back-defensive back Kyshawn Robinson is a Power Five recruit who already has received offers from Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Florida and Colorado.
"Their sophomore cornerback has 20-plus D-I offers," Paul said. "Coach (Donta) Green has that program turned around. We were 3-0 against them 2013 to 2017."
The Mountaineers defeated Westinghouse in 2013 (24-6, regular season), 2016 (21-20, playoffs) and 2017 (38-0, playoffs).
----Penn Cambria and Central didn't meet during the regular season, but this still will be the programs' fifth meeting in three years.
In addition to the Scarlet Dragons' two championship game wins in 2022 and 2021, Penn Cambria and Central also split two regular-season games in those two seasons.
"Two great programs. Two very similar communities," Penn Cambria coach Nick Felus said. "Both the Central and Penn Cambria communities are small-town USA that loves their sports, and possess a blue-collar work ethic. It's great for high school football to have this type of match up in a championship."
Penn Cambria had an eight-game winning streak snapped at Bald Eagle Area during Week 10, but bounced back with a 32-28 comeback win over visiting Tyrone in the semifinal round of the 6-3A playoffs.
Central won the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference championship in Week 10 and had a first-round bye in the playoffs.
"You have to deal with the bye week," Central coach Dave Baker said. "I don't particularly like it in that your team develops better and has more continuity if you're playing games.
"If you had guys hurt or if someone doesn't get hurt because you didn't play, in that way it could be good."
Both teams lost a number of playmakers, including Division I quarterbacks, after the 2022 season. Each team has picked up where it left off in terms of 2022's success.
Central junior Eli Muthler has thrown for 2,353 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions since replacing record-breaking quarterback Jeff Hoenstine, who now is a St. Francis University player.
"Their quarterback stepped in and has done a tremendous job," Felus said of Muthler.
"He's very poised, very athletic. As a first-year starter, he's really impressive."
Penn Cambria sophomore Brady Jones has thrown for 1,376 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions in following standout Panthers quarterback Garrett Harrold, who now is at Duquesne University.
"They do the same things they've done in the past, but they're also a little bit different," Baker said of the Panthers.
"They'd like to run the ball at you. They have a lot of deception in their offense.
"This guy is pretty good at quarterback — really fast, a good runner," Baker said of Jones. "The younger (Gavin) Harrold boy is dangerous as a receiver and a good runner when they put him back at the quarterback position."
Felus said the Panthers and Scarlet Dragons each continue to build on a strong tradition.
"Your goal is to be consistent year in and year out," Felus said. "We've been striving to do that and I think we've done that. Central has done it with success.
"Each year, you're not rebuilding. You're reloading.
"There are a lot of good players on both sides of the ball this year who did not play a lot last year. It's a testament to the kids' work ethic in both programs."
Class 1A Semifinal
No. 4 Cambria Heights (8-3) at No. 1 Northern Cambria (10-1)
Last week: Cambria Heights 40, West Branch 6; Northern Cambria 45, Marion Center 0.
About the Highlanders: For the second straight season, Coal Bowl II will be part of the postseason as the teams met two weeks ago in the traditional Coal Bowl rivalry game. Cambria Heights has lost three straight games to the Colts since the Highlanders won 35-0 in 2021. Stephen Nelen has rushed for 816 yards and Isaac Weiland has passed for 789 yards.
About the Colts: Northern Cambria has won 10 consecutive games since a season-opening loss to United Valley. Senior Jack Sheredy has an area-high 1,525 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs. The Colts won the Coal Bowl 28-11 in Week 10. Last season, Northern Cambria swept the regular-season and playoff games against the Highlanders on the way to their first district crown.
Class 2A Semifinal
No. 5 Forest Hills (8-3) at No. 1 Bald Eagle Area (10-1)
Last week: Forest Hills 41, River Valley 13; Bald Eagle Area 36, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 14.
About the Rangers: Forest Hills has won six consecutive games while outscoring opponents 231-82 in that stretch.
The Rangers are seeking their fourth district title game appearance since 2017. Forest Hills beat Huntingdon 32-25 for the 2017 District 6 Class 3A crown, which is the program's most recent successful title run. In 2021, Forest Hills defeated Bald Eagle Area 49-20 in the 6-2A semis.
The Rangers will try to reach the nine-win mark for the first time since 2018.
About the Bald Eagles: Bald Eagle Area defeated Forest Hills 21-16 in the 2018 District 6 Class 3A title game.
That was the final game in hall of fame coach Don Bailey's career.
The Bald Eagles have won four straight since falling to Clearfield (13-7) in Week 7.
No. 6 Mount Union (9-2) at No. 2 Richland (10-1)
Last week: Mount Union 25, United Valley 22; Richland 45, Penns Valley 7.
About the Trojans: Mount Union bounced back after having its seven-game winning streak snapped at Karns City (34-0) in Week 10. The Trojans have a balanced offense, with senior quarterback Bryce Danish passing for 821 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions while rushing for a team-high 942 yards and 14 TDs. Josh Ryan (809 yards, 11 TDs) and Jesaun Robinson (503, 10 TDs) have combined for 1,312 yards and 21 TDs on the ground.
The Trojans rushed for 3,156 yards, 8.5 a carry and 286.9 a game.
Richland also rebounded after a Week 10 loss at Central in the LHAC title game.
Freshman quarterback Grayson Mahla returned after missing four games due to an injury, and he completed 13 of 20 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Mahla has passed for 1,354 yards, 11 TDs and two interceptions this season. Senior Easton Robertson, filling in for injured leading rusher Evan McCracken, gained 102 yards and scored a touchdown on 19 carries last week.
McCracken has 941 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.