Western Pennsylvania district college football preview
Game of the week
Indiana (Pa.) at No. 12/13 California (Pa.)
1 p.m. Saturday
Both teams badly need a win for two different reasons.
The Vulcans lost their first game since November 2006 to Mercyhurst last week, snapping a 24-game PSAC West winning streak. Now, California must win their final two division games and hope the Lakers lose one to clinch the PSAC West.
Since IUP coach Lou Tepper reached 99 career wins, the Crimson Hawks have lost three straight games, including last week’s 45-17 blowout to Gannon
The status of Cal running back Lamont Smith will be the key for the Vulcans. Without him against Mercyhurst, California lost the time of possession battle for only the second time this year. Indiana has had trouble stopping the run the past two weeks, giving up 239 yards to Clarion and 179 yards to Gannon.
Yards will be tough to come by for Indiana’s offense. California boasts the PSAC’s best rushing defense, which is the only way the Crimson Hawks have consistently moved the ball this season. To have any success, Indiana quarterback Bo Napoleon must make plays in an offense that has failed to complete more than 10 passes in four of their last five games.
The series was renamed the “Coal Bowl” last year, a 41-28 Vulcans victory. The winner takes home the Lunch Pail trophy.
Others to watch
Slippery Rock at No. 24 Mercyhurst
If Mercyhurst wins out, the Lakers will clinch the PSAC West title because of their head-to-head win over California (Pa.). However, Slippery Rock can still win the title with wins in its final two division games and some help.
Rock sophomore running back Akeem Satterfield goes against the conference’s second best run defense. The Slippery Rock trio of Satterfield, LaQuan Stephens-Howling and Chris Darby is averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game, and all average more than five yards per carry.
Still, Satterfield must be the catalyst not only to move the ball, but also to preserve any fourth-quarter lead. Mercyhurst has rallied from fourth-quarter deficits in two of its past three games.
Grove City at Washington & Jefferson
2 p.m. Saturday
Last week, the Presidents needed a last-minute interception in the end zone to escape with a 22-16 win over Geneva. This week, it’ll look to make a statement against a team it has recently dominated.
Grove City has lost 11 straight games to the Presidents and haven’t won in Washington since 1998. The Wolverines have also lost three of their last four games, including last week’s loss to St. Vincent, 42-17.
The Presidents continue to rely on running back Tim McNerney. The sophomore and Knoch product rushed for his third-straight 100-yard game and led the team in receiving against Geneva. Look for Washington & Jefferson to lean on McNerney again against the PAC’s second-best rush defense.
Waynesburg at St. Vincent
1 p.m. Saturday
St. Vincent quarterback Aaron Smetanka’s performance last week is what the Bearcat offense has been looking for all season. The North Catholic product set single-game school records with 336 passing yards and four touchdowns.
To beat Waynesburg, Smetanka will need to keep finding his two favorite targets, Tom Quirin and Sheldon Loughner. Quirin, a Central Catholic grad, caught a school-record eight passes for 106 yards, while Loughner, a Leechburg product, had a team-record three receiving touchdowns.
This is St. Vincent’s final home game of the year, and a win would give the Bearcats momentum going into their last two games at Westminster (Pa.) and Bethany (W.Va.).
Player to watch
Brad Dawson, Waynesburg QB (6-1, 200-pound senior) — The Thomas Jefferson grad is averaging nearly 250 yards of total offense per game and has been the offensive spark in Waynesburg’s three-game winning streak. With St. Vincent’s offense playing well, Dawson and the Yellow Jacket offense will need to keep up to make it four straight victories.
• With four teams ranked in both Top 25 polls this week (AFCA and D2football.com ), the PSAC is tied for having the most ranked teams of any conference in Division II.
• Indiana (Pa.) tops the nation allowing the fewest tackles for loss per game. The Crimson Hawks have only given up 30 tackles for loss this season, an average of 3.75 per contest.
• Clarion receiver Jacques Robinson became the school’s all-time reception leader (199) with one catch last week. The Oilver product is third on the school’s receiving yards list with 2,350.
• Westminster (Pa.) was successful in its first night game in school history, a 35-0 victory against Thiel, also the Titans’ first shutout since 2003.
• St. Vincent will put two streaks on the line Saturday. The team has completed a touchdown pass in 17 straight games, while senior Sheldon Loughner has caught a pass in 23 straight contests.
• Waynesburg’s game at St. Vincent on Saturday is the only game the Yellow Jackets will play on natural grass this season.