For decades, the Coal Bowl between Cambria Heights and Northern Cambria stirred the passion of those respective high schools fans and players.
Schedules haven't permitted the Highlanders and Colts to meet up since 2005, so anticipation for Friday's matchup at Duffy Daugherty Memorial Field has had time to build.
However, if that wasn't enough, the game also will have major District 6 playoff ramifications, not just in one classification, but two.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis will lead the Highlanders into the Coal Bowl against Northern Cambria.
This is the last week of the regular season and the last chance for teams to accumulate points toward qualifying and seeding for the postseason. Both Heights and Northern Cambria are in position to make the tournament in 6-AA and 6-A, respectively. However, the Colts probably need to beat their larger, streaking rival to get into the Class A bracket.
Although they already are in, the long-maligned Highlanders also have a lot of incentive, too: If they win, they'll host a quarterfinal round Class AA game. If they lose, there's a strong possibility they'll be on the road in the first round.
There are several other games that will have a similar impact on both teams. Penn Cambria hosts Somerset in a matchup where the winner advances in its class and the loser possibly is done for the season. Portage travels to Homer-Center looking to hold on to the second seed in 6-A while its host probably is out if it loses. Moshannon Valley and Blairsville face off, the winner a possible 6-A quarterfinalist if it gets some help. Ligonier Valley and Bald Eagle Area play in Wingate, and both teams have designs on a first-round home game. Puxsutawney is looking for a win to make the 5/6/8/9-AAA final four, but the Chucks will have to win at Northern Bedford, which is still in the running for the top overall seed in District 5 Class A.
Here's how the teams currently are ranked in the District 6 and 5 football standings and where the Mirror projects them to be when the playoffs open on Nov. 9-10 (playoff position in parentheses):
DISTRICT 6-9 CLASS AAAA
1. DuBois9801180 (1)
2. State College890910 (2)
3. Mifflin County 460 470 (4)
4. Central Mountain 400 500 (3)
DISTRICT 5-6-8-9 CLASS AAA
1. Clearfield11201310 (1)
2. University Prep640640 (2)
3. Somerset520540 (4)
4. Punxsutawney500660 (3)
5. Bradford470490 (-)
DISTRICT 6 CLASS AA
1. Richland12801510 (1)
2. Central9501120 (3/4)
3. Cambria Heights9401120 (2t)
3. Ligonier Valley9401120 (3/4)
5. Tyrone8301000 (5)
7. Forest Hills790910 (6)
6. Bald Eagle Area770780 (7)
8. Juniata610740 (-)
9. Penn Cambria590780 (8)
10. Penns Valley480610 (-)
DISTRICT 6 CLASS A
1. Bellwood-Antis14101450 (1)
2. Portage11501190 (5)
3. Penns Manor11001250 (3)
4. Juniata Valley10901260 (2)
5. Bishop Guilfoyle10601210 (4)
6. Bishop McCort9001080 (6)
7. Northern Cambria790810 (-)
8. Homer-Center750930 (7)
10. Glendale710840 (8)
9. Blacklick Valley700830 (-)
11. Moshannon Valley670700 (-)
12. Blairsville620780 (-)
DISTRICT 5 CLASS AA
1. Everett2727 (1)
2. Chestnut Ridge2525 (2)
DISTRICT 5 CLASS A
1. Berlin Brothersvalley4550 (1)
2. Northern Bedford4343 (2)
3. North Star3540 (3)
4. Windber3535 (4)
5. Shade2530 (5)
6. Tussey Mountain2328 (6)
7. Conemaugh Township1515 (-)
Notes: District 6 Class AAAA is based on points divided by games played; Cambria Heights is projected as the second seed in District 6 Class AA based on opponents' winning percentage tiebreaker, with a coin flip determining whether Central or Ligonier Valley finishes third.
Ironically, the one game that is meaningless is the Richland at Bellwood-Antis clash of unbeatens. Bellwood already has clinched the top seed in 6-A. Richland already has assured itself the No. 1 spot in 6-AA.
On top of everything else, there's a strong possibility of a three-way tie for the second seed in 6-AA between Heights, Central and Ligonier, should all of those teams win this week. Were that to occur, Cambria Heights would garner the tiebreaker on opponents' winning percentage. However, Central and Ligonier might be tied in that area, as well - it could actually come down to a coin toss.
Central will be pulling for Huntingdon to win at Juniata Valley - that would give the Dragons 10 extra points that might be enough to push them into second place.
If any of those three teams falters, Tyrone can jump back into the top four and earn a quarterfinal home game by winning at Johnstown, which seems likely.
Forest Hills and BEA are vying for the sixth seed. If BEA beats Ligonier, the Eagles not only will overtake Forest Hills regardless of how the Rangers do against Philipsburg-Osceola, they will also pass the Rams; BEA would then probably be fifth, Ligonier sixth and Forest Hills seventh.
The other spot that's up for grabs is the eighth seed. Juniata holds that spot now, but the Indians could win and still be surpassed if Penn Cambria tops Somerset.
Penns Valley still is alive mathematically, but it would take something just short of a miracle for the Rams to make it in. Both Juniata and Penn Cambria would have to lose, and then most of the teams they beat this year would have to lose this week, as well.
District 6 Class A will have its share of jockeying around, too.
Of the teams that have qualified, Portage has the most riding on its regular season finale. If the Mustangs win on the road at Homer-Center, the Mustangs are second.
Finishing second is key in both 6-AA and 6-A, because that team gets home-field advantage until the championship, which is played at Altoona's Mansion Park.
If Homer-Center wins that game, however, Portage probably will drop all the way to fifth, because Penns Manor, Juniata Valley and Bishop Guilfoyle all go into this week as favorites - although Valley has to step up in class to play a Huntingdon team that isn't an automatic win in spite of its 1-8 record. Homer-Center also would clinch one of the last two playoff spots; Bishop McCort will be sixth barring an upset loss to Central Cambria.
Northern Cambria is in if it wins. The Colts also qualify if they lose so long as at least three of a group that includes Homer, Glendale, Blacklick and Mo Valley also falter. The latter seems improbable, because Glendale and Blacklick have much better records than their week 10 foes.
Glendale makes it by beating 1-8 Ferndale on Saturday while either NC or Homer-Center loses. Blacklick can make it with a victory over Saltsburg and losses by Northern Cambria and Glendale, Northern Cambria and Homer-Center or Homer-Center and Glendale. If Blacklick and Glendale tie, Glendale holds the tiebreaker for opponents' winning percentage.
All four teams in District 6-9 Class AAAA may enter the high school football playoffs. If three or four enter, there will be semifinals in week 11 and a championship in week 12. If only two teams enter, the final will be played in week 11 and the winner will receive a bye in week 12 before playing the winner from District 8-10. Right now, DuBois and State College are set as the top two seeds and Central Mountain and Mifflin County both playing winnable games this week to try to get to 5-5.
The Class AAA bracket still has some sorting out to be done.
Clearfield has clinched the top seed there. Although Bradford is playing Clearfield in a District 9 Class AAA championship this week, that district used a different point system to determine the Owls as the Bison's opponent. That game has no impact on the subregional playoffs beyond accumulating points, as though it were a regular season contest.
It's been decided that total points will be used to determine the Class AAA seedings instead of points divided by games played as originally planned. That puts the Pittsburgh City League's University Prep - which only played eight games - at a disadvantage, but that school still will get the second seed if it beats Perry in its league championship game or if Somerset, Punxsy and Bradford all lose. If even one of them loses, University Prep still makes the playoffs.
Currently fourth, Punxsutawney can actually overtake third-ranked Somerset even if both win. Bradford, though, can pass both of them if it can upset Clearfield somehow.
SUBHED: District 5
The Class A picture in District 5 actually is fairly clear.
Berlin Brothersvalley is undefeated and can stay that way and wrap up the first seed by beating Windber on Friday. However, should the Mountaineers get upset by the Ramblers, Northern Bedford can jump into the top positions by virtue of its bonus points for beating teams of larger classifications.
Northern Bedford has beaten three Class AA teams, which are worth a point more apiece, and Punxsy would be worth two extra points since it is Class AAA. Berlin only has Class A teams on its schedule.
Both of those teams are likely to get opening-round byes. Conemaugh Township could qualify by winning this week, but that means the 3-6 Indians have to upset 7-2 playoff-bound North Star, which seems unlikely.
Presuming the favorites win this week, Tussey Mountain will wind up sixth and travel to North Star next week, while Windber hosts Shade in the other quarterfinal.