BROCKWAY – To be successful in District IX Class A football the recipe calls for a heavy dose of running, a pinch of consistent passing to keep the defense honest, and a solid defense to keep your opponent from raising to victory. That potent mixture will be stirring this week in the 6:00 p.m. district semifinal to be held in Brockway on Saturday.
Top seeded Curwensville Area High School will face off against Cameron County, the fifth seed who knocked off Clarion last week 19-13. The interesting aspect of the game is that the two teams are essentially mirror images of each other.
“They run an offense that is very similar to ours – some of their plays even look like ours,” said Tide head coach Andy Evanko. “The difference is in how they run the ball. They like to dive up the gut quite a bit or the quarterback will keep the ball and try to get around the ends. Execution will be the key in this game.”
Cameron County, the Alleghany Mountain League – North Champion, is currently 8-3 on the season. The Red Raiders lost to Elk County (34-12) and Johnsonburg (16-12) in the first two weeks of the season. Their only other loss was at the hands of Brockway by a 57-22 score in the AML title game.
Curwensville’s only blemish on the season was a 41-26 loss in week six also against Brockway. The Tide is 9-1 and hasn’t seen Cameron County since a pre-season scrimmage in August.
“That scrimmage was like a season ago,” Said Evanko. “Hopefully we’ve improved since then, and they have undoubtedly gotten better. Their defense has also gotten better, and they have great size on both sides of the line.”
This week the two teams will meet on the artificial turf at Brockway – a place neither team could win at during the regular season. Both teams will look to those negative experiences to better prepare for the difference in turf.
“There will be a different feel to the game this week,”Evanko said. “We’re playing on turf and on a Saturday night – things we haven’t done consistently all year. At this time of year, however, you want to be on the turf because you never know what kind of footing you’ll get on natural grass. We’re happy to be still playing, and we’ll make the best of the opportunity.”
The footing is key for both ground games as the Golden Tide has rushed for 2862 yards this season, and the Red Raiders have carried the ball for 2714 yards to date. Curwensville junior Alex Holland is 18 yards shy of 2000 in 2010 while Cameron County features Jason Blose, who has tallied 1385 yards thus far. Last week in both teams’ quarterfinal victories, Holland gained 140 yards on 28 carries against Smethport while Blose scampered for 188 yards on 22 totes against Clarion.
Balancing the Black and Gold running attack is senior fullback Zack Dimmick with 437 yards (12 yards a week ago) while sophomore Josh Greslick, in limited action, is the only other back on the team with more than 100 yards at 246.
Cameron County spells Blose with three other effective runners. Senior fullback Andrew Fragale has broken through the line for 609 yards on the season including 114 a week ago while junior quarterback Zach Austin and Jason Shaw gained 370 and 155 yards respectively for the season.
“Cameron has a potent running attack,” Evanko said. “Blose is an exceptional running back, Fragale is a huge, powerful runner and Austin, at quarterback is always dangerous when he tucks and runs. We have to stay focused in this game.”
Austin has thrown the ball for 597 yards on the season connecting on 42 of 107 passes. The prime target for those passes has been Blose out of the backfield with 15 receptions for 197 yards. Other threats in the secondary include Fragale who has 178 yards on 10 receptions, Ryan Grimm with 17 receptions for 173 yards and Vince Summers with 103 yards on four receptions.
Curwensville’s quarterback duo of Hunter McCracken and Alec Starr has thrown for 841 yards combined. McCracken is 33 of 71 for 515 yards while Starr has 326 yards on 21 of 39 passing. Senior receivers Shae Best and Shane Hoover have the majority of those yards on the receiving end. Best’s 17 receptions have been good for 373 yards while Hoover totals 290 yards on 17 grabs.
Undoubtedly, Cameron County is looking to prove they were the best Class A team in the AML this season, while Curwensville will look to show their number one seed was well deserved. With offenses that feature the run, it may end up being a “last man standing” kind of contest.
The other semifinal game will feature sixth seeded Port Allegany and number two Redbank Valley. The teams will battle in Brockway as well with a 1:00 p.m. kick off.