CM, Bellefonte look to replicate last season’s thriller

By SHAREIK FLOWERS

sflowers@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL — Central Mountain and Bellefonte’s previous two meetings were competitive matchups in which each team exited with a victory.

The Wildcats bested the Raiders, 24-21, in a 2016 showdown, but the Raiders responded with a thrilling 34-31 triple overtime win a season ago. Despite CM’s winless record and Bellefonte’s unbeaten streak, fireworks are expected tonight when the teams clash at Don Malinak Stadium.

“Geographically being so close makes it a rivalry,” Central Mountain head coach Jim Renninger said. “But with these kids, a lot of them play baseball against each other, and they play basketball against one another. They know each other on and off the field, so you know that always adds to the rivalry behind it.”

“And we’ve been fortunate enough to play, since I’ve been here, play tough two years in a row, so our kids are excited.”

Central Mountain (0-3) enters tonight’s game with a seven-game slide tracing back to 2017. They suffered a 35-6 loss to Shamokin in Week 3, a team CM dropped 15-2 in 2017 for its lone win.

Bellefonte (3-0) hasn’t missed a beat on the ground this year. They average 225 rushing yards per game. Last week they clobbered Philipsburg Osceola with 330 rushing yards en route to a 55-7 win.

“They’re really well-coached,” Renninger said of Bellefonte. “They play disciplined, they play hard. They do with they’re taught, work really hard, play really hard and they believe in each other.”

OFFENSIVE BLUES

Central Mountain’s offense had a promising showing in Week 1. They totaled 26 points and 548 yards against Williamsport. In the two games since, CM’s managed just 13 points and 356 yards.

Against Shamokin, two late turnovers in the closing minutes of the half put the game out of reach. CM also failed to convert fourth down situations and had multiple drives stall during short-yardage plays.

“We just can’t make those types of mistakes,” Renninger said. “We have to execute better. Our offensive is capable of moving the ball against anybody, we just can’t have those little mistakes.”

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Bellefonte’s identity is its potent ground game. Its 330 rushing yards last is more than CM totaled in three games this year.

CJ Funk is thriving in his switch to tailback. He’s recorded 282 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three game. Bellefonte has totaled 675 yards on the ground this year, which is 69 percent of its total offense.

“They do a lot of different things with a lot of different formations and motions,” Renninger explained. “Ultimately, we’ve got to read [our assignments] and do our jobs. If we do that, tackle well and get 11 hats to the ball we’ll be okay.”

“Bellefonte’s going to make some plays and we just can’t get down when they make a play or two. We just can’t get down on ourselves when it happens.”

KEYS TO VICTORY

Bellefonte’s bread and butter is its rushing attack. But if you limit their ground game, good things can happen.

The Red Raiders were held to a season-low 137 rushing yards against Huntingdon in a game where they also managed a season-low 10 points., but exited with a 10-0 victory.

CM needs to replicate Huntingdon’s blueprint and reduce Bellefonte’s rushing numbers to maintain a competitive game.

“Our front seven is going to have to do a great job against their run, which is defensively better than what we’ve done the first three games,” Renninger said. “CJ Funk’s a very good football player, [quarterback] Kyle Myers is a very good football player. They run multiple fronts and multiple formations at you, but essentially they’re a run-first football team, so we’ve got to try and slow the game down a little bit.

“And then hopefully we keep everything in front of us in the pass game. It’s gonna come down to defense, and our defense is going to have to play really well.”

CENTRAL MOUNTAIN WILL WIN IF

“We control the ball offensively, make some plays, not turn the football over and minimize penalties,” Renninger said.

NOTES: Prior to kickoff Central Mountain will induct alumni Brooke Williams (2001) and Von Walker (2013) into the Central Mountain Athletic Hall of Fame. The pre-game ceremony will commence at approximately 6:45 p.m.

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