The focus returned to practice at Beth-Center this week. So did the energy that comes with playing a rival.
While some of the credit could be given to the Bulldogs’ Week 3 opponent – unbeaten Carmichaels – an equal amount of credit goes to simply having a reason to prepare.
Beth-Center, which owns a 35-3 record in Tri-County South Conference games, was dealt an unexpected night off last Friday when long-struggling Geibel Catholic forfeited because of a lack of players. Geibel was fresh off an 81-0 loss to Frazier in Week 1.
“Nothing good came from it. There’s no advantages to an off week this time of the season,” said veteran Beth-Center coach Ed Woods, who has guided the Bulldogs to three Tri-County South titles, including the last two.
“We’re in a situation where it’s early. Nobody’s banged up yet. Nobody’s hurt. It’s a disadvantage to our kids, and now we have to go play a really good Tri-County South football team.”
Beth-Center (2-0) at Carmichaels (2-0) is one of two early season games featuring Class A programs with postseason aspirations.
In the Black Hills Conference, Fort Cherry (2-0) faces a difficult challenge at Monessen (2-0). The Rangers, who opened last season with two wins before a 29-point home loss to Monessen, and Greyhounds are tied with Clairton atop the conference standings
“It’s big. You don’t want to wager the whole season on it because it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out the way we want, but it’s big,” Fort Cherry coach Jim Shiel said.
Through two games, Fort Cherry has put up big numbers behind senior quarter Matt Heslin and multipurpose back Koltan Kobrys.
Only Frazier (107) and Sto-Rox (97) have scored more points in Class A than Fort Cherry’s 96.
Seven of Heflin’s 12 completions have gone for touchdowns. Kobrys, meanwhile, ranks fourth in the WPIAL with 433 rushing yards. They’ll be challenged by a Monessen defense loaded with talent. Division I prospect Justice Rawlins and Clintell Gillaspie anchor a unit that’s allowed a scant seven points on the season and is coming off an impressive performance against Brentwood.
“There’s just not a whole lot of weaknesses that I can see with Monessen,” Shiel said. “They’re very good, very good.”
Carmichaels believes it falls into the “very good” category following a Week 2 win at Frazier.
“We have a lot of respect for Frazier. They’re a good football team,” Carmichaels coach Ryan Krull said. “But we went to Perryopolis and beat a good football team. We had to be sharp mentally and physically, and we were.”
Like Fort Cherry, the Mikes have proven potent in the passing game, and the quarterback-receiver combo of Brandon Lawless and Ty Aeschbacher is piling up significant statistics.
Lawless has completed 21 of 35 passes for 384 yards with five touchdowns. Aeschbacher has 13 receptions for 333 yards (25.62 per catch average), including Lawless’ five TD passes.
“The two of them, they just have it, whatever it is,” Krull said. “(Lawless) is putting the ball in great places and (Aeschbacher) is making great catches. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in practice before. They’re just doing it in games now.”
Beth-Center is charged with slowing the Carmichaels offense.
Historically speaking, the Bulldogs have risen to the challenge since becoming a member of the Tri-County South. But Woods is unsure how this group will respond to playing a critical game after having a week without live action.
“I don’t know what kind of team we have yet. This game will tell the tale,” Woods said. “This group was disappointed, of course, with last week, but they’ve had a really good week of practice. We’re looking forward to playing Carmichaels.”
Peters Township at Upper St. Clair, 7:30 p.m.
Big Nine Conference
Ringgold at Belle Vernon, 7:30 p.m.
Trinity at Albert Gallatin, 7:30 p.m.
Quaker Valley at McGuffey, 7 p.m.
South Fayette at Steel Valley, 7 p.m.
South Park at Burgettstown, 7:30 p.m.
Brownsville at Waynesburg, 7 p.m.
Washington at Charleroi, 7 p.m.
Black Hills Conference
Chartiers-Houston at Serra, 7:30 p.m.
Clairton at California, 7 p.m.
Fort Cherry at Monessen, 7 p.m.
Avella at Mapletown, 7 p.m.
Beth-Center at Carmichaels, 7 p.m.
Frazier at Bentworth, 7 p.m.
Jefferson-Morgan at West Greene, 7 p.m.
Central Catholic at Canon-McMillan, 7:30 p.m.