Kiski Area football coach Dave Heavner had taught sophomore history in the Gateway School District for 19 years before moving to the middle school this fall.
He knows several players on Gateway's football team, ranked No. 4 in WPIAL Class AAAA.
But tonight, Heavner will watch them from the across the field as his Cavaliers put their 2-0 record on the line in the Post-Gazette Varsity Xtra Game of the Week. Heavner, in his second season at Kiski Area, knows firsthand the reputation that precedes Gateway football.
"Anytime you play Gateway, you know you're going up against, geez, the premier athletes in Western Pennsylvania -- and maybe the entire state," Heavner said. "They are fast. They attack on offense and stretch the field very quickly.
"On defense, they shrink the field very fast. I was very impressed with their first two games and scrimmages that I watched on film."
The winner Friday will take sole possession of first in the Class AAAA Foothills Conference with McKeesport (2-0, 1-0) lurking.
Gateway has had its way with Kiski Area in recent seasons, winning 13 of the past 14 meetings, dating to 1995. The past three games ended in 55-14, 56-0 and 53-0 victories for Gateway. But Heavner doesn't dwell on history.
"I didn't have anything to do with the past," he said. "I only focus on the present and the future."
Kiski Area has won six conference games since Heavner took over last year, matching the number of conference wins the Cavaliers had in the five seasons before his arrival. This team is laden with senior leadership and has nine returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Kiski Area runs a two-quarterback system with sophomore Chad Kuhn and senior Billy Johnson. Senior Joe Brungo is a top receiver and has come up with a few interceptions on defense, too. Pat Turner is a standout at cornerback and doubles as an H-back.
Senior Shane Kuhn, Chad's brother, plays tight end and linebacker, and Kiski Area has the added benefit of kicker Adam Mitcheson, whom Heavner believes is a Division I talent.
Gateway is a powerhouse in transition with coach Donnie Militzer replacing Terry Smith, who took a job as an assistant coach at Temple. The Gators struggled in the opener, escaping Latrobe, 22-20, and beat Connellsville, 41-22, last week.
Kiski Area, by comparison, won at Connellsville, 53-20, in Week 1. But the Cavaliers know what they're up against in Gateway.
"We have a slogan," Heavner said. "DWWD -- do what we do. We've been focusing on ourselves and our game plan and execution. ... We do what we have to do."hsfootball
Nick Veronica: email@example.com and Twitter @NickVeronica.