Crusaders Capitalize On Golden Tide Mistakes For 13-12 Victory
CURWENSVILLE – Coming out of Riverside Stadium on Friday night, the followers of the Curwensville Area High School football team had to be asking themselves, “what just happened?” The Golden Tide dominated most of the contest against Elk County Catholic, however, it was the Crusaders who came away with a 13-12 victory.
Curwensville allowed the Crusaders just two first half first downs, yet trailed the game 7-6 at the break. ECC ran just one play in the third quarter to allow the Tide to pull ahead 12-7, but miscues and penalties enabled the visitors to steal the win and even their record with the Tide at 6-2 on the season.
“We just made some stupid mistakes that we’ve been making all season long,” said Andy Evanko, head coach at Curwensville. “The problems came tonight at the most inopportune times, and we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Both teams were forced to punt on their first possessions, but Elk County Catholic made quick work of the field on their second series. On third-down-and-10, senior quarterback Mitchell Vallone found his split end Ryan Childs on a 19-yard pass play to the Curwensville 39. After converting one of just two first downs, senior running back Brock McCullough broke to the visitor’s side line and scampered 39 yards for the games initial touchdown. Kicker Ryan Seelye added the point after for the 7-0 lead.
“They had lost two games in a row, and we knew it was going to be a physical game,” said Evanko. “We gave up one big play on that second series in the first half, then we give them the big penalties in the second half to breath life into them. We need to grow up a bit and gain the maturity to keep our cool.”
Curwensville was unable to really mount an offensive threat until their first series of the second quarter. The Crusaders punted early in the quarter, and Tide senior Jordan Russell returned the ball 41-yards to the Elk County 15-yard line. On the tackle, Russell was pulled down from behind to produce a flag for a horse-collar. The penalty put the ball at the ECC eight-yard line. Three plays later, Josh Greslick bounced into the end zone from two yards out to give the Tide a shot at tying the game. After an offside call, Curwensville decided to set up a two-point play. However, the hand-off hit the turf and was covered short of the goal to keep the score at 7-6 in favor of the visitors.
Strong defense by the Golden Tide quickly gave them the ball back. Brad Coudriet dropped McCullough for a four-yard loss, and Russell broke up a long pass on third down to force another punt and give the hosts some momentum.
Curwensville’s steady running game used power backs Greslick and Zach Tibbens to methodically move the ball down field. The 12-play drive covered 67 yards before the Tide stopped itself on the ECC 12 yard line. On a fourth-and-five play the hand-off was once again botched and McCracken fell on the ball to stop the drive.
“They were able to make the opportune plays and we didn’t,” Evanko said. “I hope we learned from this kind of game. We have been making the same kind of mistakes all year, and it finally came back and bit us.”
At the end of the first half, the hosts were driving again. However, with the ball on the Crusaders’ 27 yard line, linebacker Devon Constable stepped in front of a McCracken pass to again stop a drive. ECC ran out the clock at that point and went to the locker room with the slim 7-6 advantage.
The third quarter was totally dominated by the Golden Tide. Curwensville took the kickoff and started on their own 25 yard line. The running game again was effective as Tibbens, Greslick, Coudriet and Alex Olson carried the ball nine straight plays to the ECC 37-yard line. On a third-and-nine, McCracken found Brad Stubbs over the middle for an 18-yard pass play to keep the drive moving. Six plays later, McCracken rolled right and zipped a five yard strike to Russell to give the Tide the lead. The scoring drive covered 16 plays and 9:03 of the third period as ECC hadn’t touched the ball on offense yet. However, the try for two-points again came up short, and despite the dominant frame, Curwensville led by just five points at 12-7.
The mood for the home team got more excited when the the Golden Tide forced a fumble on first down after the ensuing kickoff. Elk County Catholic possessed the ball just :08 in the quarter as Russell came out from the bottom of the pile with the ball for his team. Curwensville would control the ball through the rest of the frame and held the 12-7 mark into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the turnover didn’t turn into more points as Curwensville had to punt the ball away with 10:17 left in the game.
It appeared that the Tide defense would stand strong, but ECC found its energy after Vallone escaped a sack and threw an 11-yard strike to fullback Hank Cappiello. That momentum increased for the visitors as they pushed the ball to the Curwensville 36. Curwensville then committed two consecutive personal fouls that set the ball on the 6-yard line. Curwensville stepped up to hold the Crusaders to zero yards through the first three downs after the penalties. On fourth-and-goal, however, Vallone found Childs alone for the score and the lead with 3:13 left in the game. A try to extend the lead to three points failed, and the difference was the slim 13-12 mark.
Curwensville moved the ball steadily down field and earned three first downs on their final drive. However, the Crusaders defense was able to force a fourth-and-three at the ECC 26 yard line. With :54 left to play, Elk County’s pursuit stopped the drive and ran two plays to end the game with the 13-12 final.
“It was a tough way for the seniors to go out in their last home game,” Evanko noted. “Spencer (Smeal) and Hunter (McCracken) have been with us for four years and the others for three and they have had quite a big impact on this program.
“I don’t want to take anything away from ECC. They blocked and tackled and hit us hard. We just made things hard on ourselves on the last drive – we lined up offsides on first down and just weren’t thinking.”
In reality, Curwensville’s loss will be reflected in the seedings of the District IX playoffs. Curwensville may have slid from a number five to the sixth seed while ECC will likely jump to the fifth spot. If Curwensville is able to keep that position, they will likely play either Brockway or Port Allegany in the first round of the playoffs. The district seedings will not be officially set until after next week’s match-up against the unbeaten Rovers and the Gators, who will probably have to battle each other in two consecutive weeks – their season finales and the AML Championship game. Both games will be played at Port Allegany.
Elsewhere in the League on Friday night, Port Allegany blanked Cameron County 41-0, Brockway held off Johnsonburg 59-33, Kane stayed alive in the play-offs with a 12-7 win over Ridgway, Coudersport downed Otto-Eldred 38-8 and Smethport ousted Sheffield 21-3. Curwensville will finish the regular season at Sheffield next Saturday in a 1:00 P.M. start.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Elk County – 7 0 0 6 – 13
Curwensville – 0 6 6 0 – 12
Elk County: 39-yard run by McCullough (Seelye kick), 6:13.
Curwensville: 2-yard run by Greslick (run failed), 9:36.
Curwensville: 5-yard pass from McCracken to Russell (run failed), 2:57
Elk County: 6-yard pass from Vallone to Childs (pass failed), 3:13.
ECC / Curwensville
FIRST DOWNS: 7 /20
RUSH YARDS: 121/202
PASS YARDS: 44 / 83
TOTAL YARDS: 165 /285
PENALTIES: 8/ 7
PENALTY YARDS: 69.5 / 56
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 4-9-1-0/ 10-18-1-1
FUMBLES: 1 / 2
FUMBLES LOST: 1/0
ELK COUNTY: McCullough – 14 carries, 89 yards, TD; Cappiello - 8 carries, 35 yards; Team – 3 carries, (-3) yards; TOTALS: 25 carries, 121 yards, TD.
CURWENSVILLE: Greslick – 16 carries, 36 yards, TD; Tibbens - 26 carries, 135 yards; Coudriet - 6 carries, 25 yards; Olsen - 2 carries, 8 yards; Team – 1 carry, (-2) yard; Totals: 51 carries, 202 yards; TD.
ELK COUNTY: Vallone - 9 attempts, 4 completions, 44 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT’s.
CURWENSVILLE: McCracken - 18 attempts, 10 completions, 83 yards, 1 TD’s, 1 INT.
ELK COUNTY: Childs – 12 receptions, 25 yard, TDs; Cappiello – 2 receptions, 19 yards; TOTALS: 4 receptions, 44 yards, 1 TD.
CURWENSVILLE: Russell - 9 receptions, 57 yards, TD; Stubbs – 1 reception 18 yards; Tibbens - 0 receptions, 8 yards; TOTALS: 10 receptions, 83 yards, TD.