CURWENSVILLE – While the Curwensville Area High School football team never trailed in Friday’s season opener with Coudersport, the Golden Tide was unable to pull away from their Alleghaney Mountain League-North rival. Curwensville came up with the plays it needed to post a 34-26 win over the Falcons who battled to the final seconds of the contest.
In the first quarter, early season miscues helped set up the Tide’s first score. An off-side call and a bad snap on a punt attempt set the hosts up with their first offensive opportunity of the season. With the ball resting on their own 19-yard line, senior running back Zach Tibbens took the hand-off from junior quarterback Travis Lansberry and rolled 19 yards to the end zone.
While the Golden Tide needed the ball just nine seconds and one play to score, it was the only points posted in the first quarter. Both teams seemed to sputter on offense until midway through the the second quarter before a flurry of events excited the crowd on both sides of the field.
The Black and Gold needed to hold, and came up big on fourth down with the ball on their own 26. However, a fumble on the very next play left the ball loose for Coudy senior Ethan Hite to scoop up and scamper 31 yards for a score. The missed extra-point left the Tide in the lead 7-6 at the 7:46 mark of the first half.
Falcon fans had barely returned to their seats, however, when Tibbens accepted the ensuing kick-off and pounded down field. It looked as though Tibbens would be stopped at the Tide 40, but he kept his legs driving and broke loose to return the ball 82 yards for another score. Jason Thorp added his second PAT of the game for a 14-6 advantage.
“Zach came up big all night,” said Tide head coach Andy Evanko. ”He ran hard all night, but there were times we didn’t block well for him. Coudy is not a bad football team, but we weren’t consistent; we weren’t crisp.”
However, as the fans changed positions again, like the wave was circling Riverside Stadium, Coy Hoffman pulled in Thorp’s kick-off at the 5-yard line and returned it 89 yards to the six of the Tide. A face mask penalty set the Falcons up at the three, where Hite walked in on the first play from scrimmage. The run for a two-point conversion was stuffed and Curwensville stayed on top 14-12 with 7:11 left in the half.
The teams had scored three times in :35, and everyone was anxious to see what the next kick-off might bring. With over seven minutes left, there was plenty of action left for the first half.
The next Tide drive stalled, but it was a 48-yard punt by senior Austin Jacobson that provided the next opportunity for Curwensville. On the next play from scrimmage, Hite fumbled and Alex Olson pounced on the ball at the Falcon 12-yard line. Three plays later Lansberry followed his line up the middle for a 1-yard quarterback keeper. The PAT was blocked and the home team led 20-12.
Coudy was left with 4:45 until half-time, and they mounted an 11-play drive that effectively used every aspect of their offense to get into the end zone. The final 26 yards of the drive came through the air as Hite connected with Hoffman on a third-and-13 play with :34 left. When Alex Hershey ran the ball in for the PAT, the teams went to their locker rooms knotted at 20-20.
“Coudy has a tough offense for anyone to stop,” admitted Evanko. ”With their traps, counters, dives, and ducks you never know where the ball is going; then they throw in the quick passes and you’re always off balance.
“At half time, I simply told the guys we had to stop being tentative with our blocking; this is time to play football. They came out and handled the adversity pretty well and showed their resiliency.”
Out of the locker room, the Golden Tide traded balls with the Falcons, but blocked well on a heavy dose of Tibbens. The senior found the holes on three consecutive plays to cover 80 yards, including a 44-yarder that scored at the 4:46 mark. The kick gave the hosts a 27-20 advantage.
However, Coudy wasn’t ready to get on the bus yet. Another 39-yard pass play to Hoffman and hard running eventually set up Ben Ragosta from three-yards out. Curwensville denied the PAT once again and the score stood at 27-26 as the third quarter ran out.
Curwensville was in the middle of another drive at the closing seconds of the third quarter that featured the fresh legs of senior Trey McKenzie in the back field. As players on both sides were battling cramps because of the evening’s humidity, McKenzie proved to be very effective. He had four carries in the game, covered 31 yards and scored on a 17-yard burst up the middle stretching for the goal as he dove for the score. With Thorp’s kick the difference was now 34-26.
“We were pretty confident we could come into the game and use four or five backs to stay fresh,” said Evanko. ”We felt the heat was to our advantage. Trey came in and hit holes, ran over people, and went to the house – that was huge for us while the other guys were battling cramps.”
Coudersport was still not about to pack up and go quietly. Their final drive pushed to the Tide 26 in nine plays, but on fourth-and-four, good defense and solid tackling from senior Kyle Johns shut down the Falcons one yard short of a first down with :40 on the clock.
“I am so proud of Kyle’s play,” praised Evanko. ”He is a leader by example and did his job on their final play.
“The first game is always a tough one to win, and this was a good win, but we have to keep improving and stay focused. This was a good win, but we need to play better; keep improving.
Curwensville will travel to Cameron County next week. The Red Raiders fell to Brockway last night by a 21-18 score. Other AML match-ups included Smethport over Elk County Catholic 28-21 and Ridgway 20, Otto-Eldred 8.
NOTES – Tibbens finished the game with 177 yards on 16 carries to lead all rushers…Coudersport piled up 319 total yards to the Tide’s 229 and had 11 first downs to just five for the hosts…The Falcons will hope to get defensive captain James Brown back soon as Brown was taken from the field by ambulance in the third quarter.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Coudersport – 0 20 6 0 – 26
Curwensville – 7 13 7 7 – 34
Curwensville: 19-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 9:28.
Coudersport: 31-yard fumble recovery by Hite (kick failed), 7:46.
Curwensville: 82-yard kick-off return by Tibbens (Thorp Kick), 7:30.
Coudersport: 3-yard run by Hite (run failed), 7:11.
Curwensville: 1-yard run by Lansberry (kick blocked), 4:53.
Coudersport: 26-yard run by Hoffman (Hershey run), 0:34.
Curwensville: 44-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 4:46.
Coudersport: 3-yard run by Ragasta (run failed), 1:36.
Curwensville: 17-yard run by McKenzie (Thorp kick), 11:19.
Coudersport / Curwensville
FIRST DOWNS: 11 /5
RUSH YARDS: 164/222
PASS YARDS: 155 / 7
TOTAL YARDS: 319 /229
PENALTIES: 9/ 2
PENALTY YARDS: 59 / 8
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 9-19-1-1/ 1-5-0-0
FUMBLES: 3 / 3
FUMBLES LOST: 2/2
Coudersport: Hoffman – 10 carries, 113 yards; Hite - 10 carries, 0 yards, TD; Elenchin – 11 carries, 50 yards; Ragasta – 9 carries, 25 yards, TD; Team – 2 carries, (-24) yards; TOTALS: 44 carries, 164 yards, 2 TD’s.
CURWENSVILLE: Tibbens – 16 carries, 177 yards, 2 TD’s; Olson - 7 carries, 17 yards; McKenzie – 4 carries, 31 yards, TD; Lansberry - 3 carries, 4 yards, TD; Johnson – 3 carries, (-4) yards; Team – 2 carry, (-3) yard; Totals: 35 carries, 222 yards; 4 TD’s.
Coudersport: Hite – 20 attempts, 9 completions, 155 yards, 1 TD,1 INT.
CURWENSVILLE: Lansberry - 5 attempts, 1 completion, 7 yards, 0 TD’s, 0 INT.
Coudersport: Hoffman – 3 receptions, 24 yard, TD; Hershey – 1 reception, 25 yards; Waterman – 4 receptions, 67 yards; Ragasta – 1 reception, 39 yards; TOTALS: 9 receptions, 155 yards, 1 TD.
CURWENSVILLE: Tibbens - 1 receptions, 7 yards; TOTALS: 1 reception, 7 yards.