Labor Day Weekend signals the start of the collegiate fall sports season, and several former Clearfield and Curwensville scholastic athletes will be in action on football and soccer fields.
It figures to be a transition year for Albright quarterback Tanner Kelly of Clearfield.
The red-shirt sophomore, who was selected Middle Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year, thrived in head coach E.J. Sandusky\’s no-huddle offense that accentuated the passing game and made for big plays.
However, Sandusky (Penn State, 1992) resigned after his 10th season ended with a 2-8 record that dropped his career log to 50-52.
Under new head coach John Marzka (Allegheny, 1992), Kelly will be guiding a new-look offense with an emphasis on ball-control.
The Lions, who open Saturday afternoon at Salisbury, still will rely heavily on Kelly\’s strong arm.
The 6-4, 221-pounder didn\’t move into the starting role until Albright\’s fourth game last fall, but he wound up leading the MAC with 167 completions, a 63.7 completion percentage, 2,075 passing yards and 2,309 yards in total offense. His per-game averages of 230.6 passing yards and 256.6 total yards, 53 yards more than the runner-up, also were tops in the 11-team conference.
In addition, Kelly ranked second in pass attempts with 262, touchdowns with 19, fewest interceptions with six and passing efficiency with a 149.6 rating.
His 32 completions against Widener were the single-game high for MAC passers. He was second in attempts with 47 in that game as well as passing yards (335) and total offense (417) against Lycoming.
Kelly kept the ball 64 times, including sacks, and netted 234 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
He also handled the punting chores in the second half of the season, averaging 33 yards for 27 kicks, with five fair catches and one touchback.
Even with 69 lettermen, Albright was pegged by the coaches to finish seventh in the MAC, which is down to eight with Juniata and Moravian moving to the Centennial Conference and Susquehanna switching to the Liberty League.
Two Clearfield Area High School grads are on the Juniata squad, Beau Ryan of Clearfield at defensive back and Devin Yastro of Olanta at tight end.
Ryan, a 6-1, 180-pound sophomore, saw action in nine games last fall, recording four solo tackles and two assists. The 6-1, 180-pound sophomore is one of 53 returning letterwinners.
Yastro, a 5-11, 205-pounder, also is a sophomore.
One ex-Bison and four former Golden Tide standouts are on three Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference teams.
Dave Richards of Clearfield will be in his second season as a starting halfback in Shippensburg, and veteran head coach Rocky Rees is expecting big things from the red-shirt junior.
Rees counts the top four halfbacks in the Red Raiders\’ Wing-T attack as a \”real strength\” with \”a lot of big play capability.\”
Richards carried 72 times for 420 yards, second on the team and caught 13 passes for 152 yards in 2006.
The 5-10, 193-pounder also returned three kickoffs for 32 yards, giving him a total of 604 all-purpose yards that ranked third for the 5-6 Red Raiders, who finished 3-3 in the PSAC Western Division.
Richards, one of 15 returning starters at Ship, has an outstanding average of 5.7 yards per carry for his first two seasons.
He accompanied Rees at the PSAC Media Day in early August.
Shippensburg, which opens at Shepherd (W.Va.) in the 10th Annual Great Valley Classic Saturday afternoon, has been tabbed by the PSAC coaches finishing fifth in what probably will be its final year in the Western Division. With Gannon and Mercyhurst becoming full-time members and C.W. Post joining as an associate member in 2008, realignment most likely will send Shippensburg to the Eastern Division.
Red-shirt sophomore Nate Sipes and red-shirt freshman J.D. Skebo of Curwensville were on the sidelines at Slippery Rock Thursday night when The Rock thumped Seton Hill 51-24.
Sipes, who missed last season because while rehabbing a surgically repaired knee, is a 6-0, 230-pound running back, while Skebo is a 6-1, 295-pound offensive lineman.
The Rock, picked to finished second behind defending champion California in the West Division, will be at home against Millersville in a PSAC crossover game Sept. 8.
Freshmen Nick Sipes, Nate\’s brother, and Shawn Sopic of Curwensville have made the traveling squad at Clarion, which hopes to begin a turnaround under second-year coach Jay Foster in Saturday\’s 6 p.m. opener against Tiffin.
Both will play safety. Sipes (5-11, 200) was a linebacker and Sopic (6-2, 190) a cornerback for the Golden Tide defense last season.
Tyler Kirkwood, a 5-10, 190-pound freshman from Clearfield, is an inside linebacker for Grove City, which opens against Dickinson Saturday afternoon.
Two soccer players from Clearfield are expected to make key contributions for their teams.
Sophomore Michelle Welker returns as goalie for Allegheny after a brilliant rookie season in which she tied the school record for shutouts with eight.
Welker, one of eight returning starters among 18 returning letterwinners, started in goal in 15 of the 16 games she played, finishing with a 10-5-1 record.
The Gators were 3-4-1 in the North Coast Athletic Conference and 10-7-1 overall.
Welker allowed 15 goals, a .91 average, in 99 shots for a save percentage of 84.8. She tied for second in goals allowed and was third in saves per game in the NCAC.
Allegheny, picked by the coaches to finish sixth in the nine-team NCAC, opens against Wilmington Saturday and John Carroll Sunday in the Rachel Miller Invitational at Rochester, N.Y.
The season already has begun for Mark Auman at Lock Haven.
The freshman midfielder earned an assist at Kutztown Monday when the Bald Eagles opened with a 6-1 PSAC victory.
Coach Doug Moore described Auman as the perfect replacement for 2006 captain Pat Long, saying \”Auman is a skillful, creative and hard-working player whose greatest strength is his passing ability.\”
Lock Haven, which shut out New Haven (Conn.) 4-0 Wednesday, travels to West Chester Saturday.