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NTL FOOTBALL: CANTON READY FOR BG IN STATE SEMIFINALS (2021-12-02)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
It’s the state final four, and Canton (13-0) will be going up against another state power in Bishop Guilfoyle on Friday with a 7 p.m. start at Mansion Park in Altoona.

Despite the game being in BG’s backyard the Warriors, and their fans, are undeterred, filling three fan busses that were generously paid for by businesses around Canton and beyond.


“It’s crazy how everyone has come together,” said Riley Parker. “It fills the stadiums, and everybody gets loud during the games. It just gets you excited.”


The Warriors have enjoyed a fan advantage so far during these playoffs, and they’re grateful for the support.


“The fan base we’ve had the last couple of week has been incredible, especially here in Towanda,” said Cooper Kitchen. “We got a lot of NTL fans, and, last week being hunting season, we got a lot more people. This week schools around the NTL will be wearing red tomorrow in support of us, so to have the whole league behind us is incredible.”


The Marauders (9-4) are coming off a 24-21 win over Juniata Valley in the District VI final, and have been a state power, being in the state playoffs for six of the last eight years. They’re riding a 3-game win streak - all playoff contests - and have only been held to under 20 points four times this season, three of which were losses.


Once again they’ll be facing a quarterback who is the center of what the opposing team does offensively. Karson Keisewetter has run for 867 yards and 18 touchdowns on 160 carries - all tops for the team. He’s also thrown for 1721 yards and 12 touchdowns - but 10 interceptions - with a .632 completion percentage.


“He likes to run a lot, and he’s good throwing the ball, too,” said Hayden Ward. “We have to control him, and we’ll be fine. He’s more of a run threat than a pass threat, just in my opinion, but he’s pretty mobile.”


His biggest weapon is Cooper Rother. They’re comfortable lining him up all over the place, but he’s run for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns on 138 carries, while also hauling in a team high 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns. The next closest receiver doesn’t even have 20 catches.


“They’ve got some speed, some athletes, but we’re just going to stick to our game plan,” Parker said. “Hopefully, come out and dominate them.”


While BG has two shutouts to their name, they’ve also allowed more than 20 points five times this season, and look susceptible to Canton’s power run game.


“We’re going to try to get back to the run game like we have all year,” Kitchen remarked. “We’re going to try to get what we were doing, like the option, and just see if we can ground and pound them.”


They were able to do that in the second half against Steelton-Highspire two weeks ago, though Old Forge forced them to create offense other ways last week.


“I think if we can get our run game, that will open it up a lot more for some different stuff,” said Parker. “Overall, just wear them down.”


Either way, the Warriors feel like they’ve played the top two teams in the state the last two weeks. They played from ahead to beat the Rollers, and they rallied in the fourth quarter to edge the Blue Devils - winning both games in different ways, though the big difference was the turnover battle, where Canton’s been plus-7 the last two weeks.


“Both games, I don’t think anyone really expected us to win,” Ward remarked. “Coming out on top of both those games, it felt really good, and it really gives us the confidence to keep going.”


CANTON

Player to watch: Riley Parker, RB - Parker was limited offensively last week, but it looks like this will be his time to shine. Canton should have an easier time controlling the the line scrimmage, giving Parker the holes he needs to churn out yards…and first downs. 

Key to the game: They’ve been outscored 28-13 in the first half of games in the state playoffs, forcing them to be a second half team. A fast start will be key, especially since they’re coming off a long bus ride. BG can score points in bunches, averaging 27.3 points per game this season, so keeping ahead of them, like Steelton-Highspire, will be crucial.


BISHOP GUILFOYLE

Player to watch: Karson Keisewetter, QB - Keisewetter is a dual threat from under center, running for 139 yards and throwing for another 134 in last week’s win. He also had two of the team’s three touchdowns - both on the ground - while sporting a .611 completion percentage in the game. He did throw one pick, though.

Key to the game: BG is going to have to match Canton’s physicality, or they’re going to get ground down all night long. The Warriors’ eventually more down Steel-High, and are coming off playing the ultra physical Old Forge, so they’re primed to push people around. If the Marauders get pushed around, it’ll be a long night for them.


PHOTO GRAPHIC BY EDDIE LARCOM



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