MILL HALL - If you put Central Mountain and Bellefonte side-by-side, looking into the mirror, it shouldn't come as a shock that they are almost identical.
Both started off the season with two straight wins.
Each one has lost to DuBois and Hollidaysburg.
Central Mountain’s Colten Stover looks on from the sidelines last week as the Wildcats took on Hollidaysburg at LHU’s Hubert Jack Stadium. CM will host Bellefonte tomorrow.
NATE WILSON/THE EXPRESS
Both are jockeying for playoff positioning, looking to get that coveted fifth victory to assure a winning season.
It's what you would expect Friday night at Lock Haven University's Hubert Jack Stadium as Bellefonte and Central Mountain tangle in the MAFC Seven Mountains Division clash. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m.
The mood around Camp Wildcat this week is a sour one.
Central Mountain (3-3) is coming off two consecutive losses, both league games, and need to rebound.
"We are still in this," CM head coach Steve Turchetta said. "It's tough after two losses to keep them up. They have to want to do that. It's something we have to keep stressing. It boils down to the kids. They have to want it."
If the Wildcats need a sort-of reminder, here it is. In 2007, Central Mountain closed the season with four straight wins and finished with a 6-4 record.
"Right now, we are trying to take one game at a time," Turchetta said.
Zac Wynkoop, on the other hand, walked off the field last Friday like his team just won a huge game.
The problem? The scoreboard said the Red Raiders lost, 32-29, to DuBois.
"I never felt like that before after a loss," the second-year Bellefonte head coach said. "Honestly, it felt like we won that game. Like I told the team, we are on the right track. Now, we have to close out the season strong. Against Philipsburg, I felt like we finally played together as a team. At the beginning of the season, we had some big plays and kids stepped up to get wins. In the last two weeks, I've seen the kids start to come together. We never gave up in the game with DuBois, no matter how much we were down."
Against Hollidaysburg last week at The Jack, Central Mountain hung with a streaking Golden Tiger squad, knotted at 7 midway through the third quarter - despite missing two key linemen and athlete Scotty Zuback.
Matt Overdorf was his consistent self on offense, with his third straight 100-yard game and fourth of the season.
Logan Houtz broke the school's record for most tackles in a game, ending with 18 last week and also set the new mark for most solo tackles with 14.
Yet, the Golden Tigers took advantage of the Wildcats' injuries and grinded out a 28-7 victory.
"Central Mountain has some good athletes," Wynkoop said. "Zuback and Overdorf are two pretty solid backs, and their quarterback is a good athlete. They are always a threat to run the ball, and do it effectively. Plus, they have such a solid defense. When you watch them, they get a lot of hats to the ball."
Bellefonte lost a good deal from last year.
The Red Raiders lost experienced quarterback Ryan Poorman, and athletic receiver Matt Fisher decided not to come out for football this season, electing to focus on baseball.
It doesn't mean the Centre County squad hasn't recovered.
Senior Kode Plank has done a nice job at running the offense, and has several dangerous receivers in Chris Irwin, David Radziak, David Florey and Torin Miller.
"They are a very good throwing football team. That's a concern for us," Turchetta said. "You have to come at them, and you have to defend it. You can't give their quarterback many reads. And I think that's something that DuBois tried to do. They sat back and rushed three or four guys and he had plenty of time. Bellefonte has some good receivers, so we have our hands full."
For Central Mountain, the key is going to be balance.
"We have to spread the field a little bit and be able to get that balance," Turchetta said.
"Bellefonte can score quick, so you want to limit that and keep the ball out of their hands. We have to play some ball control, which we are getting better at."
For Wynkoop, it's about coming together.
"That's really our ultimate goal," he said. "We are at the point in the season where you hope that everyone is starting to gel.
"We want to play competitive football games, and get ready for that late-season push. Our passing has been our strong point. We have kind of found a niche where we've had some success when we were able to spread out teams."
Central Mountain does get a boost this week.
Two-way starter Jacob Shade is expected to be back in the lineup, which would put the defense at almost full strength.
Matt Bower, who sustained an injury in the DuBois game, is still questionable for Friday's game.
"We have to bounce back," Turchetta said. "We have to get back to fundamentals, and get back to business. We have to do things correctly, and stop making mental mistakes."
CM NOTES: Despite the loss last week, Central Mountain still sits in the fourth spot in the current District 6-8-9-10 rankings. Turchetta's boys currently have 300 points, 60 points ahead of Altoona. State College, baring a complete collapse, will be the top seed in the bracket, currently undefeated and holding almost a 300-point lead. DuBois and Erie McDowell both have 470 points. This week, Altoona travels to Cedar Cliff (3-3), State hosts Central Dauphin East, McDowell gets the treat of playing the nation's third-ranked team in Gateway and DuBois travels to Double-A Chestnut Ridge... Houtz has really established himself as one of the top linebackers in District VI. He currently has 70-plus tackles in six games, and is poised to challenge the season record of 120 held by Erik Fetter. He's also closing in on the all-career tackle mark of 220 held by Tom Meyers...Tonight will be Senior Night at Central Mountain as those athletes will be honored. There are 16 seniors on the CM football team: Zack Boone, Nathan Conway, Overdorf, Ryan Worden, Ryan Meredith, Corey Bartholomew, Clay Allen, Matt Houser, Ian Murray, Glenn Barnes, Bower, Dylan Webb, Kyle Boone, Shade, Cody McKinney and Tony Corl. The Wildcats still have one more home game, Oct. 24 against Harrisburg.