Raiders hope history doesn’t repeat itself
CLARION — The last time the Raiders played in postseason football action, they were run off the field following a 55-7 blowout at the hands of Moniteau.
Brookville is sure hoping that two years can make a world of difference.
The Raiders and the Warriors will square off in the semifinal round of the District IX Class AA playoffs at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. tonight with a spot in the championship game against Brockway on the line.
History, as far as the playoffs are concerned, is certainly working against the Raiders, as Moniteau has won the last three postseason meetings against Brookville and sports a 3-1 all-time playoff record against the Raiders.
But perhaps the most relevant statistic involving the two teams came in Week 3 of this past season, when the Raiders traveled to West Sunbury and defeated the Warriors, 19-14.
"It is definitely a confidence thing. The players said after that game that it was the first time they had ever beaten Moniteau in football (on any level)," Brookville head coach Chris Dworek said. "That was a big motivational factor, and it raised their confidence level up."
The current senior class was around during Brookville's last playoff run and still remembers the embarrassing final score from that game.
It might be two years old, but Dworek acknowledges that it's a moment that still lives with his players.
"The seniors have talked about that game, just making little comments about how bad and rough it was," Dworek said. "Something like that is good, experience-wise, for our guys."
Flash forward to Week 3 of this season, and a big monkey flew off the back of Brookville during an impressive road victory. In that game, Brookville running back Ryan Kerr rushed for a staggering 189 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Steven Kennedy threw a touchdown pass and rushed for one, as well.
The Raiders may not need another monster game from Kerr to knock off Moniteau, but a big showing from the junior would be a huge bonus for Brookville.
"(Kerr) realized in that game that he was a workhorse. He was the one to do multiple things, and they left him alone to do them," Dworek said. "He was ready for that opportunity and knows he can do it. It was a big game for his confidence, too.”
The Raiders' defense was sharp throughout, but the second-half defense made the difference down the stretch, halting a potential game-winning drive from the Warriors in the closing minutes to close out the victory. That same defensive intensity will need to show up tonight, and Dworek expects it to. In fact, Dworek expects his team to play with poise, knowing that if Brookville falls behind early, there is no need to reach for the panic button.
"I think if anyone gets an early lead, it will be magnified as far as putting pressure on the other team trying to score," Dworek said. "The thing is, they have such a great athlete at quarterback, and they have the ability to jump on us early. We have to be patient."
That quarterback is Kyle Armagost, who threw for a pair of touchdowns in the first meeting.
Armagost is certainly a double threat, having thrown for more than 1,000 yards (1,268) and rushed for more than 1,000 yards (1,154) this season.
"He is definitely getting our most attention and our focus," Dworek said. "They have good atheltes and a power running game they can use. They put pressure on teams and force you to throw the ball. We have to focus on that as well, but Armagost is the hub of their offense."
Returning to action tonight will be A.J. Skerkavich and Garrett Weaver, as both Raiders have missed a handful of games late in the season due to injury. Both starters are expected to play, and Dworek can't foresee any rust from two important players.
"Coming back are A.J. Skerkavich and Garrett Weaver, and those are two huge plusses," Dworek said. "A.J. being a great lineman and a spark plug, and Garrett being a steady leader for us. Both of them are older guys who have played a lot, so they'll be fine getting back in there."
Brookville has the physical tools to defeat Moniteau, as it proved earlier this season, leaving the mental edge up for grabs. If this past week of practice has been any indication, the Raiders should be just fine.
"We had one of our best offensive practices (Wednesday)," Dworek said. "We tell the guys that those practices show that they can do it. The guys seem mentally ready."