By Pete Chiodo
Through four weeks of football, it’s kind of hard to figure out Central Tech.
Yes, the team is only 1-3. But those losses were against current undefeated Pittsburgh City League team University Prep (52-7), current undefeated Region 5 leader Slippery Rock (21-6), and a highly-regarded undefeated squad out of Maryland in Fort Hill (53-14).
Then again, so far Meadville hasn’t been easy to gauge either. The Bulldogs are also 1-3 on the year. And each of their losses were against currently undefeated teams as well, including Northwestern (31-7), Slippery Rock (49-16) and Warren (33-21).
Both Central and Meadville have one win, and they were each against the same opponent — East. Central blew out the Warriors 36-0 in Week 2. The following week, Meadville edged East 12-6 in overtime.
Now we get to see how the two teams stack up head-to-head as the Bulldogs and Falcons square off at Erie’s Veterans Memorial Stadium today at 7 p.m.
Actually, this won’t be the first time these two have battled this year.
“We scrimmaged them,” said Rob Matz, Central’s head coach. “It was a fairly even scrimmage.”
In that scrimmage, Matz and company got acquainted with Meadville’s most potent weapons.
“I have a ton of respect for Ryan Harkness,” said Matz. “I’ve watched him for a couple years now. He’s a tremendous player. And the line is always fundamentally sound.”
Harkness, a senior fullback, is Meadville’s top ball-carrier this season, gaining 497 yards and scoring four touchdowns on 97 carries. He’ll be flanked in Meadville’s Wing-T backfield by halfbacks Nathan Martin (40 carries, 183 yards, one TD) and Derek Niemann. Caleb Schweter, who had been playing halfback, will move back to his original wideout position as Niemann slides into the backfield.
Central Tech has also been doing some shuffling in its backfield. Their top rusher is and will likely remain senior Calvin Franklin, who has 42 carries for 241 yards and a touchdown this season. And quarterback Josh Wells is also a threat to run, taking 46 keepers for 222 yards and two TDs.
Matz admits, however, that “We’re still trying to find ‘that’ guy right now.”
He’s hoping to find that guy in either junior Eric Mitchell (18 carries, 130 yards) or fellow junior Desmond Mitchell, the latter of whom missed the first two games before getting two carries for 16 yards last week.
Whatever the combination is, Meadville coach Mike Feleppa realizes that, “They have a lot of team speed. I think that’s the glaring thing with them. They’re on you right now. ... The quarterback is good and both the running backs are decent kids as well. They have a plethora of people who can catch the ball. They’ll be a challenge to defend.”
The Falcons will pass the ball. Wells has completed 19 of 48 passes for 289 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions. His top target this season has been senior Eddie Tate, who has five catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
“We haven’t given up a 100-yard rusher yet this season,” said Feleppa. “That should equal more wins. But when you’re giving up too many yards passing ... we’ve got to get better at defending the pass for sure.”
The ’Dogs’ defense has to take care not to get burned through the air this week.
“It’s not that we’re not in position or schematically that we’re not defending the pass,” said Feleppa. “We’re missing the tackle and then there’s no one there to make up for it and the kid’s catching the ball and taking it the whole way. We have the kids in position. We’ve just got to do a better job of making the play.”