By Pete Chiodo
Week 5 could be a pivotal one in Region 2 as a handful of teams in the top half of the standings go head-to-head with possible playoff implications on the line.
Included in those marquee matchups are Cochranton and Maplewood. Both teams are tied for third in the region standings at 2-1. And both have an interesting test ahead of them.
Cochranton faces an important battle with Eisenhower tonight at home. And Maplewood is hoping to maintain its edge with a homecoming win over Iroquois.
Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
Cards look to climb ladder
Cochranton comes into tonight’s game looking up at Eisenhower in the standings. The Knights are currently tied with Cambridge Springs for first place in the Region 2 with a 3-0 record (3-1 overall).
Following an opening-week loss to Mercer (41-13), the Knights have pulled off consecutive victories over Maplewood (33-6), Iroquois (42-18) and Mercyhurst Prep (29-26).
The only opponent the two teams have shared so far is Mercyhurst. Cochranton downed the Lakers 32-21 in Week 3.
“(Eisenhower is) a very good football team,” said Cochranton head coach Nate Liberty. “They play very well. They’re big inside. They have a great quarterback and great running backs.”
Eisenhower possesses a pretty good offensive balance in the air and on the ground. Led by senior quarterback Rob Wilston, the Knights are averaging 126.0 yards per game through the air and have scored seven touchdowns via pass. Meanwhile, they’ve gained an average of 207.5 yards and have scored 10 touchdowns on the ground. Senior Alex Johnson is the team’s top rusher with 444 yards and seven TDs on 49 carries.
Cochranton has been pretty effective in both phases of offense too. And they will try to maintain that balance even as injuries have caused some shuffling in the lineup.
The main loss for Cochranton is senior quarterback Chad Eisenhooth, who will likely miss his second straight game due to injury.
“Yeah, probably, Chad’s out,” Liberty said. “We’ll see what happens. We’ve moved some people to cover that. The last game, we had four freshmen playing against Union City and they did very well.”
Under center will likely be freshman Nate Slawson. Starting against Union City last week, he completed three of four passing attempts for 42 yards and a TD.
The Cards will still field a healthy compliment of running backs, which includes the likes of Jamar Moody, Garrett Adams, James Groover and Jake Yarnell. Together, they’ve helped the Redbirds average 228.3 rushing yards per game.
“I feel we’ll do well,” said Liberty. “We’ve had a great week of practice. The kids seem pumped up. We’ve just got to prove it (tonight).”
Tigers have something to prove
After starting the season with losses to Reynolds (41-6) and Eisenhower (33-6), the Maplewood Tigers seem to have found their footing, going on to win two consecutive outings against Union City (28-19) and Youngsville (39-8).
The Tigers have shown that they possess some effective offensive weapons. Two weeks ago, running back Miller Peters rushed for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns. Last week, fellow running back Tyshaun Johnson took a turn, gaining 125 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. (He also returned a pick for 6.) Also, quarterback Dane Barker has been a consistent threat, rushing for 279 yards and five TDs on the year while passing for another 314 yards.
This week, the Tigers (2-2 overall, 2-1 Region 2) will look to keep that going against Iroquois. But it won’t come easy.
“They got me nervous, I can say that,” said Tigers head coach Bryan Borkovich. “I respect their program up there. They have a lot of players who have the ability to be explosive. We have to do our job and make sure they don’t get out in our flat and make any big plays.”
The Braves enter the game with a record of 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the region. Although, those two losses came against the top two teams in the region — Eisenhower (42-18) and Cambridge Springs (36-14).
Iroquois’ playoff hopes depend on how they fare against the rest of the league. And that stretch begins tonight against Maplewood.
By that same token, Maplewood needs to win to maintain its spot among Region 2’s top four.
“If we win, we’re right where we need to be,” said Borkovich.
Iroquois has a couple of threats on the offensive end of the ball. But the main one is junior running back Brandon Roda, who has rushed for 445 yards and six touchdowns on just 32 carries this season.
“He’s averaging over 13 yards a carry and 100 yards a game,” said Borkovich. “He is definitely someone we have to keep bottled up.”
Dylan Carpin is the Braves’ quarterback. He’s completed 15 of 28 tries for 137 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. And Borkovich says, “Carpin is not a bad athlete either. But Roda is definitely the engine that makes them go, and he is someone we have to take care of if we want to come out on top (tonight).”