Football teams looking to bounce back

It was a tough week for Warren County teams, as Warren, Eisenhower and Sheffield all lost.

They’ll look to rebound this week, as the Dragons look to get to 2-1, while the Knights and Wolverines aim for their first win of the season.

Here. We. Go.

– – –

DUBOIS (0-2) at WARREN (1-1)

Warren coach Mark Morelli admitted that his team got ‘punched in the mouth’ last Friday against Fort LeBoeuf. The Dragons led until a Bison field goal late in the first half, and then the wheels came off after halftime.

Tonight they welcome DuBois to town for their home opener.

“We have to pick up our physicality, our intensity and our leaders have to start leading,” Morelli said. “We have to be able to handle adversity. That comes from the top down. That includes me, the assistant coaches, our captains, the whole team.”

The Dragons will be without a pair of starters, as RB/OLB James Swanson is dealing with an injury and OL/DL Tony Batiste will have to sit out after being ejected in the second half against LeBoeuf.

That being said, Morelli is pleased with what he sees from the guys who will be starting in their place.

“Ethan Benedict gives us a different look in the backfield,” Morelli said of the speedster. “On the offensive line, we’re still going to be doing some mixing and matching.”

They will be facing a DuBois team that is 0-2, but those two losses have been to defending D-9 champ Clearfield (31-20) and defending D-10 finalist General McLane (39-12).

The Beavers are going to put the ball in the air … a lot. Quarterback Alex Kovalyk has attempted 59 passes in his first two games, completing 30 of them for 514 yards, 4 touchdowns and three interceptions.

His main weapons are Zach Shilala (12-296-3 TDs), Dale Kot (9-112) and 6-8 tight end Chase Husted (4-77-1).

“DuBois is a mere image of Franklin,” Morelli said. “Their quarterback is a lot like Ian Haynes (Franklin). You’re going to see a lot of balls in the air. Much like Fairview and Fort LeBoeuf, they are big upfront. They have a physical line. We have to respond to that challenge.”

To that end, the Dragons have to like that matchup, with experienced senior corners Alex Anderson and Ryan Arnold.

Arnold is also a big threat on special teams, with a pair of electrifying returns already this season.

Morelli again emphasized the offensive line play, which will be tasked with opening holes for Benedict and the running game and protecting quarterback Micah Passmore.

“Football is a lot like life,” noted Morelli. “There’s adversity every play, every quarter, every game. You have to be able to handle that adversity if you’re going to be successful. Based on the week we’ve had and the way our coaching staff has prepared our kids, I think we’ll play like we did in the first half against Fort LeBoeuf.”

– – –

EISENHOWER (0-2) at MERCER (1-1)

Eisenhower makes the lengthy trek to Mercer County tonight in search of its first win of the season.

The Knights will have to find a way to limit their mistakes after three first half fumbles put them in an insurmountable hole in a 42-13 loss at Union City last week. The Mustangs are coming off a 28-0 loss to Northwestern.

Mercer (1-1) is a ground-and-pound team. Running back Aidan Bright leads the team with 109 rushing yards on 21 carries (5.2 ypc), while Logan Turton has picked up 90 yards on 25 totes (3.6 ypc). PJ Boggs will also see his share of rushes, having gaine 57 yards on 17 carries (3.4 ypc) so far.

Quarterback Ethan Wiley is just 5-21 through two games with 61 yards a touchdown and an interception. Bright is the team’s leading receiver with three catches for 51 yards and a score.

Eisenhower will have to find a way to slow the run game to stop Mercer. Through two games this season, the Knights have allowed opponents to run for 661 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Mustangs will have a bit of a size advantage up front, but the Knights defensive line needs to find ways to get linebackers Gannon Jaquay (16 tackles), Jared Beers (13 tackles) and Dillon Benson (12 tackles) space to make plays in the backfield. The trio, along with lineman Colby Hagg (15 tackles) have accounted for more than half the team’s total tackles, yet have a combined 2.5 tackles for loss.

Not only have the Knights struggled to stop the run, they’ve been unable to effectively move the ball on the ground as well.

Eisenhower has run the ball 57 times through two games for 135 yards, a paltry 2.4 yards per carry. Cael Black has 19 of those carries for 91 yards (4.8 ypc) on the year. Benson has five rushes for 35 yards. Where the Knights have struggled is getting Zane Alexander going. He’s carried 23 times for just 11 yards (0.5 ypc).

When they’ve gone to the passing game, the Knights have been fairly effective. Quarterback Owen Trumbull is 14-25 on the year for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Alexander leads the team with six receptions for 43 yards, while Benson has hauled in four passes for 101 yards and two scores, including a 51-yard touchdown pass in the loss at Union City.

Kickoff at Mercer Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

(Note: Sheffield preview will be run in Saturday’s edition of the Times Observer.)