RUSSELL, Pa. – Eisenhower will open the District 10 Class 1A football playoffs on Friday the same way it opened the 2021 season, with a tilt against Saegertown.
Though the names are the same, the two teams that step onto Carter Field in Titusville will have a different look than the ones that met in the season-opener. Both quarterbacks who started the season-opener have been out of action since mid-season.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on D9and10Sports.com.
Eisenhower is coming off a thrilling, 15-7 win over Maplewood in the regular-season finale. The Knights’ offense will look to get rolling again after tough sledding against the Tigers. Neither team was able to generate much in that contest. Eisenhower had just 146 total yards while Maplewood managed only 96 total yards.
The Knights’ offense runs, quite literally, through its ground game.
Benji Bauer (122 carries 779 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Keegan Eckstrom (52 carries, 546 yards, 6 touchdowns) are a “thunder-and-lightning” combination in the backfield. Bauer is a punishing runner who can wear defenses, while Eckstrom will be gone in a flash if he gets to the open field.
Steven Reilly (31 carries, 159 yards, 2 touchdowns) has seen his workload increase since Shawn Pascuzzi (61 carries, 316 yards, 4 touchdowns) moved to quarterback for the injured Garrett Jensen.
The Knights ran for almost 300 yards in the first meeting against the Panthers (a 14-0 Eisenhower victory) and Saegertown’s defense is allowing more than 270 yards per game on the ground.
Pascuzzi showed what he’s capable of passing in Eisenhower’s win over Iroquois two weeks ago (5-8, 100 yards, TD) and will try to recapture that form against a Panthers defense allowing 114.6 passing yards per game. For the season, Pascuzzi is 14-36 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Wyatt Lookenhouse has emerged as a big-play option for the Knights, primarily as a receiver but also as a passer the last two weeks. Lookenhouse has 13 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Each of the last two weeks, Lookenhouse has thrown passes out of the field goal formation.
Against Iroquois, Lookenhouse had to improvise after a bad snap on a PAT. He rolled right and found Kris Bunk for a 2-point conversion. Last week, the Knights ran a designed fake and Lookenhouse dropped a dime to Camron Jakubczak to give Eisenhower the lead.
Video courtesy Jared Beers:
Eckstrom and Jakubczak each have three receptions and a touchdown on the season.
The Panthers also feature a run-first offense as they average only seven pass attempts per game.
Three players – Keenen Schaaf, Zach Yoder and Aaron Shartle have run for over 300 yards each this season. Shartle (86 carries, 323 yards, 4 touchdowns) leads the team in carries, while Schaaf (70 carries, 371 yards, 5 touchdowns) is the team leader in yards and TDs. Yoder has missed two games this season, but still has 58 carries for 354 yards and a score.
Sully Zirkle has taken the helm at quarterback for the Panthers as Henry Shaffer hasn’t played since Oct. 1. Zirkle is 7-20 for 89 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions this season.
Schaaf is the leading receiver with six catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Zirkle still leads the team in receiving yards (135), while Yoder (5 catches, 72 yards, touchdown) and Shartle (4 catches, 14 yards) are the only other Panthers to catch a pass this season.
The winner of this game will face the Reynolds-Cambridge Springs victor in the semifinals.