Bellefonte Football: Raiders prepare for tough Selinsgrove team in state playoffs
By SHAREIK FLOWERS
BELLEFONTE — Against Greater Johnstown last week, Bellefonte played to its potential and captured its first district crown since 1999.
They’ll be looking to replicate that performance this week, as the stakes continue to rise as they advance in the postseason.
The Raiders face District 4 champion Selinsgrove on Saturday in the first round of the PIAA State Playoffs. The game being held on Saturday provides Bellefonte with an extra day of preparation, something the team is using to its advantage.
“With the extra day of practice, this is different for us, so we’re trying to get a little bit of a tempo, a little bit of a routine established into how these things go with the six-day week,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said. “So it’s been a little bit of a learning curve to it.”
The extra day is beneficial because it allows the team to relax from an emotional standpoint.
“It gives us another day to get ourselves back, grounded and focused on the task at hand,” Manning said
“You have to figure that was the first district title in 20 years,” he added. “That was an emotional game for these kids. It meant a tremendous amount.”
Bellefonte and Selinsgrove enter Saturday’s game with identical records. Both teams are 10-2 and boast wins against Jersey Shore.
While there’s plenty of common traits between the two teams, playoff experience isn’t one of them. Selinsgrove has been a powerhouse for the last decade, indicative by their state championship in 2009.
“They’re a team that has been in the state playoff picture for a long time,” Manning said of the Seals. “This is not anything new for them. They’ve been [to the state playoffs] off-and-on the last decade and a half.”
The Red Raiders defense just can’t catch a break.
Although they have risen to the occasion each time, Bellefonte’s defense facing elite quarterbacks is growing repetitive.
Against Selinsgrove, they’ll face their stiffest test yet at quarterback with Logan Leiby. He’s thrown for 35 touchdowns this season and completes 66 percent of his passes.
“He’s accurate, he does a great job with his feet and he does a great job of extending plays,” Manning explained of Leiby. “He’s a good leader, the kid’s a Division I quarterback.”
Saturday will be the first day-game many of the Bellefonte players have experienced.
Because of this, Manning is interested to see how his team reacts to a new environment.
“I’ll be curious to see how these kids show up,” Manning explained. “We’ve never played a day game. I’d like to see how they do. I’d like to see what the adjustment looks like.”
He thinks what could decide the outcome is how the team adapts to the new game-time setting.
“I think the first team to adjust to the weather conditions, new atmosphere and the time of the day will be the team that wins,” Manning said. “I think we’re very, very evenly matched.”
While Manning expects both teams to implement some in-game adjustments, he also expects the two squads to stick to its bread-and-butter.
Bellefonte is a run heavy team.
Led by Dylan Deitrich, Dexter Gallishaw and CJ Funk, the team combined for 3,502 yards on the ground this year. They’re averaging 291 rushing yards per game and don’t plan on abandoning their identity.
The Seals prefer to air the ball out.
Logan Leiby has thrown for 3,197 yards and likes to spread the ball around. Jarrett Inch leads the Seals with 1,062 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s one of eight Selinsgrove players to total 100 receiving yards on the year. Bellefonte has just two players in that category.
“Selinsgrove makes their living 300 yards through the air a night, we makes ours 300 yards on the ground a night,” Manning said. “At this point, you are who you are.”
BELLEFONTE WILL WIN IF
“We keep the ball off the ground, and if Selinsgrove can throw to us a couple of times,” Manning said.