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NTL FOOTBALL: A MISHMASH OF STYLES AS CANTON FACES STEELTON-HIGHSPIRE IN FIRST ROUND OF STATES (2021-11-19)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
It’s the day after tomorrow for Canton football as the Warriors have tossed the gorilla off their backs. Now, they’ll have to refocus as they try to make their way through the PIAA Tournament, beginning with Class A power Steelton-Highspire.

“It feels good to finally get to this point in the season,” said Warrior running back Riley Parker. “I think we have worked hard as a team to get here.”


By virtue of their win over Muncy, who was at the time the number ranked team in Class A by Pennsylvania Football News, Canton is now the top ranked team in the state, with Steelton-Highspire in third.


The Steamrollers come in 8-2 on the season, as they won their seven games of the year.


Their wins look more like basketball scores - another sport the Steamrollers are good at it - beginning with their 77-0 win over Morrisville to start the year.


They’ve scored over 60 points three times, and, even in their losses, they’ve put up double digit points - 49-14 to Big Spring, and 29-28 to Boiling Springs.


In the District III title game they defeated Delone Catholic 42-20.


“Steelton-Highspire is a very fast, and athletic team,” said Canton coach Tyler Sechrist. “We need to continue to play fast and disciplined on defense. How well we tackle will be the key.”


The Steamrollers, though, have given up a lot of points as well, with just two shutouts to their name. They’ve allowed 20 points or more in their last five contests.


They’re led by Alex Erby Jr, a sophomore quarterback, who, at 6-foot, 3-inches and 200 pounds, has been getting looks by several schools, including Penn State and Rutgers. Erby will sit back in the pocket and pick teams apart with his throwing.


He also has a plethora of receivers to throw to, especially on the outside.


“They have a lot of speed across the board,” said Parker. “We have to keep them out of open space, and take good pursuit angles.”


Erby was 6-for-11 for 75 yards and four touchdown passes against Delone Catholic, hitting four different receivers for scores.


They also run the ball with Daivin Pryor, who had 147 total yards - 126 rushing, 21 receiving - and two touchdowns against Delone Catholic, while also getting an interception on defense.


“Going against Steelton will be a battle on both sides, and if we can manage to stall their offense we can come out on top,” said Parker.


The best defense against a team like the Steamrollers maybe Canton’s offense. 


They ran the ball 56 times against Muncy, for 320 yards, and score five of their six touchdowns on the ground. They nearly doubled up Muncy on offensive snaps, and, if they can do the same to the Steamrollers, it could be a long day for Steelton-Highspire.


Both Parker and Sechrist used ‘ball control’ as one of the big keys for the game.


“If we can hold onto the ball on long drives for touchdowns that will help us a lot,” said Parker.


“We need to be able to run the ball successfully on Steelton in order to win the game,” Sechrist said.


They’ll have one big advantage - the game will be in Towanda on Saturday at 3 p.m.


“We are really excited to be playing close to home,” said Parker. “Not having to go through a long bus ride to the game is going to be really good for us.”


They’re hoping to not only have a big hometown crowd, but also to see the entire NTL show up in support of them.


“Towanda has a great field, and we are grateful that we are able to play there,” Sechrist said.


If Canton wins this will be their first state win in school history - they lost to Marian Catholic back in 1990, and in 1987 they didn’t have a state format yet.


No matter what, though, this is shaping up to be an afternoon to remember.


STEELTON-HIGHSPIRE

Player to watch: Daivin Pryor, RB, DB - Erby is good, but if Pryor can run the ball effectively it means Canton won’t be able to load up their strong pass rush. 

Key to the game: How do the Steamrollers handle Canton’s physicality up front will be the biggest deciding factor. The Warriors are a physical team that is quick off the snap, and that could pose problems for the Steamrollers. If they get pushed around it'll be hard for them to get the ball to their playmakers.


CANTON

Player to watch: Hayden Ward, RB, DB - He’s part of the three headed monster that is their run game, but it’s his defense that will be key. He had a couple big tackles last week against Muncy, and he might be called upon to make some big open field tackles again.

Key to the game: Tackling in open space, because that’s where Steel-High likes to play. This goes into limiting the Steamrollers on big plays. Canton has good tacklers, especially in the secondary, which had a couple touchdown saving tackles against Muncy, and they’ll need to be just as sure handed on Saturday.




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