Elk County Catholic (5-2) at Curwensville (6-1)
CURWENSVILLE – There may be no more dangerous opponent than the one who has its back to the wall, and the last two weeks have put the Elk County Catholic football team against that wall. On Friday night, the Curwensville Area High School football team will make it their business to continue to hold down the Crusaders. ECC (5-2) has lost two tough games in the past two outings falling 17-14 to Kane and 44-22 to Brockway respectively. The Golden Tide (6-1) has gone 1-1 over the same period with a 56-34 loss to Brockway and a 55-6 win over Ridgway.
This week’s crunching of the numbers can focus on the outputs between common opponents. Curwensville defeated Kane by 16 points three weeks ago, and ECC lost to the Wolves by three. The Crusader defense held Brockway to 12 points less than the Tide allowed. However, the Tide offense scored 12 points more against the Rovers and 22 points more against the Wolves. And, after looking at all the numbers, the only thing that is certain is that these two teams will battle toe to toe at Riverside Stadium on Friday night and entertain the fans.
“This is a big game for both teams as we near the end of the regular season,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. “ECC played well against Brockway last week and fell short. They need a win and we need it, and it should be a heck of a football game.”
The Crusaders are the kind of team that Coach Evanko has said earlier represents the traditional AML-South squad. They run at you with two strong backs and look to control the line to move the sticks down field. Brock McCullough has been the team’s top runner to date with 660 yards on 87 carries and six touchdowns. McCullough toted the ball 20 times last week against Brockway for 144 yards with one rushing score and a receiving score as well. Also running well for ECC has been Hank Capiello with 65 carries for 507 yards and six TD’s on the year.
“They are a power running team that comes at you with an unbalanced line at times. McCullough gave them a lot of offense last week and Capiello was effective the week before. Both are fast strong runners,” said Evanko. “On film, it looks like our game, and we have to find out how to stop ourselves to be successful.”
The Crusaders can be effective throwing the ball as well with Mitchell Vallone as the signal caller. Vallone has turned in a 30-for-68 passing effort for 374 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite target in 2012 has been Clayton Housler with 27 catches for 256 yards and all five scoring grabs.
Elk County stats suggest that the Crusaders have piled up 22 sacks on the season and have taken that ball away on 12 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. The leading tackler on the team is Joey McLaughlin with 81 thus far.
“I think their defense is the best in the league when it comes to giving up points, and they always play us tough,” Evanko noted. “We just have to be ourselves and take advantage of what is given to us. It’s going to be a physical game with hard hitting players, and we have to be ready to play.”
Curwensville’s one-two punch at the tailback spot has been equally impressive over the first seven weeks of the season. Junior Zach Tibbens needs just three yards this week to go over the 1,000 yard mark for 2012 while senior Josh Greslick has posted 757 yards. The three-four knockout blow has come in the form of fullbacks Alex Olson and Brad Coudriet. Olson’s 357 yards and Coudriet’s 182 total on the run have helped keep defenses off-balance.
The Golden Tide has posted 3129 total offensive yards in this campaign with a passing game that can strike quickly as well. Senior quarterback Hunter McCracken has thrown for 704 yards with a 46-of-76 effort. He has thrown for nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. McCracken’s main target has been senior Jordan Russell who has pulled in 34 tosses for 525 yards and eight scores. Other receivers gaining respect over the last few weeks include Austin Jacobson with three catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, Coudriet with 51 yards in the air and Greslick with 39.
Regardless of how potent any offense is, the difference in Friday’s game may come down to the big defensive stops. ECC’s defense has proven themselves as a tough defense by allowing an average of just 12 points per game, while Curwensville’s opponents have scored an average of 20 points to date. The Tide has knocked down quarterbacks nine times with Spencer Smeal posting two to lead the team. Kyle Johns, after two interceptions last week, has three of the teams 10 picks. The tackles on the team have been spread out up and down the line with Stiles at 35 tackles, Coudriet 34, Smeal 31 and Stubbs 26 to pace the Black and Gold.
In all probability, Curwensville and Elk County are playing for their District IX playoff seeds over the final games of the regular season, but both want to be as high in the bracket as possible. A quick look at the district’s Class A teams shows Brockway, Port Allegany and Clarion all at 7-0 with Curwensville and Union standing at 6-1 followed by ECC’s 5-2 mark.