EMPORIUM – It was a bit hard to get a feel for which team had momentum throughout Friday’s high school football game between Curwensville Area High School and Cameron County. However, as junior Kyle Billings batted the ball to the turf on a two-point conversion try with no time left on the clock, the Golden Tide carried off the 21-20 victory over the Red Raiders.
The contest took on an air of, “the last team with the ball will win,”, and except for Billings heroics, that would have been the case.
“I’m so proud of these kids and their play tonight,” said head coach Andy Evanko. ”We had mistakes throughout the game, and that’s part of our growing pains, but we did play well enough to win – well enough to be 2-0 after two weeks of shaky play.”
The first bump of the game came on the Tide’s first possession as the Red Raiders fell on a fumble at the visitor’s 13-yard line. Two plays later senior Tony Olivett scampered 14 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was blocked and Curwensville trailed 6-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter. Olivett would run the ball seven more times in the game with the Tide holding him to just two more positive yards.
Curwensville (2-0) stepped up to the challenge on its next possession. Starting on their own 46, the Black and Gold turned to senior running back Zach Tibbens. Tibbens chopped off 46 yards on his first carry of the drive. He finished four plays later with a 6-yard dive to the left for a score of his own. An off-side’s penalty moved the extra-point closer to the goal, and Alex Olson was called on to give his team two points for an 8-6 lead at the 4:26 mark of the opening frame. Fortunately for Curwensville, Cameron County did not stifle Tibbens after his initial score.
“Zach is an exceptional athlete”, said Evanko. ”There is nothing about him that you can’t like. He runs hard every time he touches the ball, but he wouldn’t go anywhere without the effort of those guys up front. Jonathan Miller, Ian Barrett, Seth Sloppy, Philip McCracken and Ricky Magnuson along with others have been making great holes to run through.”
The Tide held the lead, but it seemed like the Raiders were controlling the rest of the half as they moved the ball consistently on two drives. Interceptions by Olson and Austin Jacobson kept the hosts in check, but at the 2:06 mark in the half, quaterback Tucker Britton shook loose for a 16-yard score that put his team back on top. Britton connected with Olivett on the point-after to set the halftime score at 14-8 in favor of the Red Raiders.
Penalties and turnovers piled up on both sides of the ball in the early going of the second half, and it came down to who could take advantage of the other’s mistake. Curwensville grabbed the first opportunity after a poor punt set them up on the Cameron County 25. It took two carries for Tibbens to hit pay dirt again. Jason Thorp kicked the PAT and the Tide again had the lead at 15-14.
Just before the end of the third quarter it looked as though Curwensville might have the momentum to score again as Jake Lancaster pounced on the ensuing kick-off. However, the effort stalled, and once again, turnovers, miscues and a missed field goal by the Raiders kept fans on both sides nervous.
It was, in fact, the missed field goal that gave the Golden Tide life. Tibbens and Alex Olson combined for a 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in another Tibbens score from 10-yards out. The extra-point try was blocked and the score stood at 21-14 with 1:33 left to play.
Cameron County suddenly found life again as they put together a 62-yard drive in eight plays that saw Britton find Nate Andrus in the endzone. The pass went off the fingertips of a Tide defender. The pass play came with no time on the clock after a Curwensville sack at the 11-yard line with only seconds left. Britton just got the ball off and Andrus ‘ catch came after the horn sounded the end of the game to set the score at 21-20 in Curwensville’s favor.
“We didn’t think that their line was quite set,” said Evanko. ”Then, our guys made a nice play on the ball and actually tipped it before it fell into their lap.”
Cameron County initially elected to go for the win with a two-point coversion, but an illegal procedure call backed them up five yards. Perhaps every armchair coach in the stadium felt that the Raiders would surely try the kick at that point, but none were right. Again the hosts set up for the win. However, Britton’s toss to the back of the end zone this time was batted down by Billings to close out hopes of the valiant comeback effort.
“We just have to get more consistent with our play,” said Evanko. ”I told the guys that if we get rid of the mistakes, good things will happen.”
Tibbens finished the game with 214 yards rushing on 36 carries with three touchdowns. Olson added 45 yards on four totes. Britton threw for 98 yards while scrambling for 49 yards including a touchdown. Andrus, with 50 yards receiving and a TD, also ran for 52 yards for the Raiders.
Curwensville will be coming home next week to face Smethport for Homecoming. Smethport currently stands at 1-1 going into week three. The Hubbers fell 70-7 against St. Marys of New York on Friday night.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Curwensville –8 0 7 6 – 21
Cameron County – 6 8 0 6 – 20
Cameron County: 14-yard run by Olivett (kick blocked), 7:37.
Curwensville: 6-yard run by Tibbens (Olson Run), 4:26.
Cameron County: 16-yard run by Britton (pass from Britton to Olivett), 2:06.
Curwensville: 15-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 1:26.
Curwensville: 10-yard run by Tibbens (kick blocked), 1:33.
Cameron County: 11-yard pass from Britton to Andrus (pass failed), 00:00
Curwensville / Cameron County
FIRST DOWNS: 10 / 10
RUSH YARDS: 275/ 107
PASS YARDS: 11 / 98
TOTAL YARDS: 286 / 205
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 3-8-0-1 / 8-22-1-2
FUMBLES: 3 / 2
FUMBLES LOST: 3 /1
CURWENSVILLE: Tibbens- 36 carries, 214 yards, 3 TD’s; Olson- 4 carries, 45 yards; Johnson – 3 carries, 15 yards; Johns – 4 carries, 1 yard; TOTALS: 47 carries, 275 yards, 3 TD’s.
CAMERON COUNTY: Britton- 12 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD; Andrus- 9 carries, 52 yards; Spehalski – 2 carries, (-1) yard; Olivett – 8 carries,16 yards; Team – 1 carry, (-9) yards; TOTALS: 32 carries, 107 yards, 2 TD’s.
CURWENSVILLE: Johns – 8 attempts, 3 completions, 11 yards, 0 touchdown; 1 interception.
CAMERON COUNTY: Britton – 22 attempts, 7 completions, 98 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions.
CURWENSVILLE: Reed- 1 reception, 7 yards; Billings-1 reception, 6 yards; Kurtz – 1 reception, (-2) yards; TOTALS: 3 receptions, 11 yards.
CAMERON COUNTY: Spehalski – 3 receptions,34 yards; Andrus – 4 receptions, 50 yards, TD; Garrigan – 1 reception, 14 yards; TOTALS: 7 receptions, 98 yards, TD.