Curwensville (3-0) at Johnsonburg (1-2)
CURWENSVILLE – Week four of the 2012 high school football season is a showcase for change. The air is a little cooler, the days are a little shorter, and the passing game is becoming more prevalent among Alleghany Mountain League football teams.
The Curwensville Area High School football coaches, players and fans were a bit surprised after last week’s scores came in as one more change was added to this week’s equation. The Golden Tide will travel to Johnsonburg this Friday to battle a Rams team who upset Coudersport a week ago 22-14.
Johnsonburg hadn’t won a game in its last 16 tries and had not beaten the Falcons since 1991. What may be more surprising than the win is the fact that the Rams scored almost exclusively through the air – an option that seems to be spreading through the usually ground-dominant teams of the AML.
“For years the AML has been the kind of league that tried to push each other up and down the field with strong runners,” noted Tide head coach Andy Evanko. “We’ve had good athletes at quarterback, but mostly they have been runners as well. The KSAC was more of a passing league in the past, but it seems like it has been trickling into the AML lately. I’m not sure I like it, but we do have to deal with it.”
Johnsonburg’s running game was ineffective against Coudy as they finished last week with a negative 30 yards on 17 carries. Most of the yards-for-loss came as a result of bad snaps out of the shot-gun formation. However, the passing game was more than up to the challenge.
Rams’ senior quarterback Frank Kocjancic connected on 14-of-19 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He teamed up with three different receivers on the scoring drives to give future defenses even more to worry about.
“Johnsonburg played an outstanding game on both sides of the football last week,” Evanko said. “For them to go into Coudersport and win was a big accomplishment.”
Kocjancic’s targets last week consisted of a trio of seniors in Mitchell Holmberg, Caleb Garvey and Kyle Sheldon. Sheldon also possesses a strong leg and handles the kicking and punting duties. Johnsonburg uses him as a defensive weapon to force offenses to start deep in their own territory.
“I’m glad for Johnsonburg that they got a win for their program,” Evanko acknowledge, “But we’re going up there to win a football game, and our guys need to stay focused on that. It’s a different atmosphere at their field and can be distracting.”
Perhaps the Rams’ win against Coudersport will be a factor for the Tide to focus on because a team with no wins may be more easily looked past. However, with momentum of a decisive victory and the Homecoming crowd behind them, Johnsonburg may be looking to make it two wins in a row.
“We need to be ready to play. They won’t just give us anything,” Evanko warned. “I keep telling the kids that the toughest game that you have to play is the one in front of you. We need to take care of business Friday night before anything else can be done.”
Coach Evanko may not like the influx of passing attacks around the league, but he can’t deny that his squad has used the pass to help the early season success. Senior quarterback Hunter McCracken has proven to be one of those effective throwers who have invaded the AML.
McCracken has helped lead his offense to its 3-0 start on the season by throwing four touchdown passes among his 16-for-26 effort that has gained 257 yards to date. The primary target this season has been senior Jordan Russell, who has caught 14 passes for 248 yards and all four TD’s. The Tide had a total of just five passing scores all of last season.
That’s not to say that the Curwensville running game has been abandoned with mirrored backs in senior Josh Greslick and junior Zach Tibbens in the backfield. Greslick has toted the ball 61 times on the year for 442 yards while Tibbens has rumbled for 414 yards on 57 carries. Both have rushed for four touchdowns on the season.
From the fullback position, Alex Olson has tucked-and-run for 103 yards on 12 carries while Brad Coudriet has bolted through the line for 83 yards on 17 attempts. The fullbacks have collected two scores each in the first three games
Defensively, the early “Johnny on the Spot” award goes to sophomore Jake Stiles who has recorded 18 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Brad Stubbs has set down 16 opposing runners. Other notable tackling efforts include Ricky Magnuson with 12 including a sack and Greslick with 10.
The Golden Tide would like nothing better than to stop the Rams’ bid at becoming a throwing team while the offense continues to play a more balanced attack.
“Their formations can be a bit hard to handle,” said Evanko. “If we pay attention to the details, however, We can be successful.”
There is one trend that the Golden Tide would like to hold on to this week. Johnsonburg has only defeated the Tide once since they have been meeting as part of the AML – a 22-16 loss in 2005. Johnsonburg’s Homecoming kick-off is set for 7:00 p.m.