PORT ALLEGANY — It’s a classic matchup of opposites.
Saturday’s game between Brockway and Port Allegany headlines the local Week 5 slate of District 9 football.
The Rovers will bring their high-powered passing attack to Port, where the Gators will counter with their power run game.
Strength vs. speed. Force vs. finesse. And, for Saturday’s winner, a leg up in what promises to be a tight race for D9’s Region 2 championship.
“We’re not looking to change what we do,” Port head coach Justin Bienkowski said. “We’re looking to do what we do really well, which is to run the ball and control the clock. That just happens to be a strength for us against an opponent like Brockway.”
Brockway sits at 2-2 entering Week 5. The Rovers fell to Union/A-C Valley by a touchdown last week, but are just 14 days removed from hanging 70 points on Coudersport.
Sophomore QB Brayden Fox leads the way for the Rovers — he has completed just under 62% of pass attempts to this point, and has already thrown for 1,168 yards and 12 touchdowns with just one interception. Fox’s favorite target, Alex Carlson, has already caught a whopping 45 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns.
Bienkowski and the Gators (3-1) know Brockway wants to play fast. They prefer to do the opposite, and will seek to set a methodical pace.
“We are trying to keep the lid on,” Bienkowski said. “We’re not pretending that we’re going to stop (Fox) from throwing for 100 yards or that he’s not going to get his throws and their receivers aren’t going to get their catches. We’re just trying to keep them under wraps and, hopefully, give the ball to our offense, let them do what they do and let the clock tick.”
Port’s bread-and-butter since last season’s playoff run has been to run the ball with its two talented backs behind a sure-handed offensive line. Blaine Moses and Noah Archer have been key in each of the Gators’ games so far, but last week against Cameron County, senior QB Drew Evens added another dimension to the team’s offense.
Evens threw for more than 200 yards against the Red Raiders, bringing his season passing totals to 446 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Archer — as good of a pass-catching back as you’ll find — has been Evens’ top option, but in the past few weeks, multiple Gators have emerged as perimeter threats.
Peyton Stiles has caught 11 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown this season. After moving from fullback to receiver last week, Kaden Price has caught two passes for 56 yards and a score, also providing a trustworthy blocking option out wide.
“We weren’t getting the production out of the receiver position, so we tried (Price), and he has become a really good blocker for us,” Bienkowski said. “He’s done for us what we’ve needed that position to do, and it’s given us another threat that we didn’t have before. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to whether we can manage the six, seven or eight-man box that we’re going to see, and whether we can run the football.”
Last year’s game between the schools featured plenty of drama, as three late goal-line stands allowed the Gators to hold on for a 26-21 victory at Varischetti FIeld. This year’s contest will be Port’s homecoming game, adding another layer to an already intriguing matchup.
“The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping and that feeds into our style of football,” Bienkowski said. “We’re still playing on the same field, and they stretch the field really well, but we like to think that we’re a line-of-scrimmage-control team so we just want to minimize our mistakes. We talked about just playing the best ball we can play, and that’s been our focus the last two weeks.”
PORT’S ONLY loss came at the hands of Central Clarion, which will visit 0-4 Bradford this evening.
The Wildcats (4-0) boast as much speed as any team in District 9, and used it successfully in a 29-24 win at the Gators. Sophomore QB Jase Ferguson sits at just under 1,000 passing yards and 12 passing touchdowns, while Ashton Rex has posted 564 receiving yards and averages nearly 30 yards per reception.
Elsewhere in Region 1, St. Marys (3-1) hosts Punxsutanwey (2-2). The Dutch will look to rebound from last week’s loss at Karns City, where the Gremlins silenced an offense that had previously averaged better than 30 points per game.
THE REGION 3 conference race becomes increasingly interesting as teams reach the mid-point of the regular season.
Week 5 will feature two rematches of Week 1 — Otto-Eldred vs. Elk County Catholic and Bucktail vs. Sheffield — while Cameron County and Coudersport will play their first league games of the season.
Four of the six teams in the region elected to play eight games against conference opponents, while CC and Coudy will only play five. The Red Raiders meet the Falcons tonight in Emporium for a game that will be crucial in deciding which will challenge O-E and ECC for the league title.