Any given Friday
One unusual part of small-school football is that on any given night, anyone can be beaten.
Last year in Week 7 of the TVL season, there where three games that went into overtime.
The league has also sent multiple teams to the post season each year with the way the districts are defined.
Matt Maniskas, now the head coach at Halifax, was an assistant coach at Newport in 2000.
“We were 8-2 that year and we didn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “The league has always been a tough one. Week in and week out, it doesn’t matter what the records are, each team gets their best each and every week.”
Jackson Fuhrer plays wide receiver and cornerback for Halifax and is all of 5-feet, 9 inches and weighs 165 pounds.
“A lot of people look at small schools as not having a lot of talent, but here in the TVL, we have a lot of fast kids and it’s hard to keep up with some of them and you have to run hard and do your best,” he said.
Juniata head coach Gary Klingensmith, 70, a former player at Penn State in the mid 1960s, has been coaching for 45 years.
“I personally think this is one of the toughest small-school conferences in the state,” he said. “Every week is a tough game and you have to be ready to play. I think it is a great league and the coaches have a great rapport with each other.”
Everybody knows everybody
Another part of small-school football is the local rivalries.
Neil Bodley, a senior at Juniata, plays running back, linebacker and was the quarterback last season.
“We came from the Mountain League the other year and I honestly thought that league was going to be tougher and I thought I had experienced a tougher league and we came back into the TVL last year and the league has some really tough competition and I would put it up there with any of the other small-leagues in the state,” he said. “Week in and week out, it’s a fight to the end of the game.”
“When you get the ball and come through the hole, there are guys popping you from all sides,” Ryan Heim, Pine Grove running back said. “They want to hit, you can tell they want to hit and they will not shy away from a tackle.”
With small schools, it is not uncommon for two-way players, but that also increases the risk for injuries.
“You find that kids have to play both ways and you have to watch your injuries,” Tri-Valley head coach Mike Ulicny said. “We have kids who have to know how to play multiple positions. The kids who do play really enjoy playing in the league.”
“Being in a small-school league also offers a lot of opportunity for younger kids to play since you don’t have the numbers, so you need freshmen, sophomores and juniors starting on both sides of the ball,” Millersburg head coach Brad Hatter said.