CURWENSVILLE – A week ago the Curwensville Area High School football team was preparing for an inexperienced pack of Wolves with a few featured standouts to contain. The Golden Tide domesticated St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy 25-7, but turn around this week to face a more fierce and tested group of Wolves in Kane.
Kane will welcome the Tide to a rowdy Homecoming weekend that features the Allegheny Mountain League-South showdown of the week as both teams stand unbeaten. Week five of the high school gridiron season seems a bit early to start worrying about the post season, but the winner of this game will take a huge step toward a spot in the AML Championship and a home game in the first round of the District IX Playoffs.
“Every game the rest of the way is big,” said Tide head coach Andy Evanko. ”That’s just the way this league is – on any given night, you’re going to have to step up and play big.”
In wins over Sheffield, Port Allegany, Otto-Eldred and Brockway, Kane has piled up 158 total points while yielding just 45 to their opponents. Their balanced attack on offense shows 170 yards through the air per game with nearly 202 yards averaged on the ground.
“They will force us to bring our ‘A’ game to every snap,” admitted Tide quarterback/defensive back Kyle Johns. ”Kane poses a lot of problems that we need to solve early.”
Running the offense is senior quarterback Kevin Cleer. Cleer has thrown the ball 75 times on the season connecting on 52 of those attempts for 657 yards, 13 touchdowns and one pick. He has scattered those passes among five receivers, but the most dangerous has been classmate Jeff Kocjancic who has 22 receptions for 314 yards and seven TD’s. Senior Andrew Pierson has collected 15 tosses for 201 yards including three scores while sophomore Tyler Rolick has scored once among 10 grabs and 74 yards.
On the ground, junior John English has totaled 487 yards and six end zone walks on 76 hauls. Rolick has shown to be the biggest double threat with 108 yards and a score on 12 carries thus far on the season.
“There’s no doubt that we’re going to have to come out to play,” mentioned senior Tide lineman Ricky Magnuson. ”If we play to our capability, we should be fine.”
Like most great match-ups this game may be won in the trenches. The Wolves have recorded 16 sacks in 2013 while scooping up 10 fumbles by their opponents with two interceptions as well. The Black and Gold have been equally impressive on defense with seven sacks, seven recoveries on the ground and nine picked passes.
“We thought we had good talent on defense coming into the season,” Magnuson beamed. ”Some may have doubted us because we did lose some great players, but I think we have come out and proven ourselves. I think we’re getting better every week.”
The Tide defense has allowed 66 points by opponents in their five wins while totaling 122 offensively. The offense has relied mainly on the running game as they have averaged over 277 yards a game while putting up just over 13 yards through the air.
“The passing game helps balance out the offense so we don’t have to run every down,” Johns said. ”I don’t feel the pressure to do well. I’m used to it; it’s not a problem.”
Johns has thrown 18 passes since stepping into the starting roll after game one. He has connected on seven attempts for 48 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Junior Kyle Billings has pulled in three aerials for 22 yards while Zach Tibbens has two grabs for 17 yards.
Tibbens has paced the Tide ground game with 10 touchdowns among his 109 touches for 766 yards. He has been backed by a balanced attack that continues to prove big as Alex Olson has scored three times as part of his 21 carries for 134 yards. Senior Trey McKenzie has rumbled for 100 yards and two scores on 11 hauls with sophomore Hunter Johnson taking 18 hand-offs for 111 yards.
Defensively, junior Jake Stiles has been in on the most stops for the team with 33 while Brice McClure holds the second spot on the team with 22. Stiles also has three interceptions from his linebacker position. Johns and Austin Jacobson have two picks each in the secondary.
While Curwensville stands unbeaten in week five, they do find themselves without a win in the AML-South which puts them behind both Kane and Ridgway in the division who are 1-0. Staying unbeaten after Friday’s game will put one of these teams in the driver seat of the AML standings.
“Being undefeated is always the dream going into the season,” said Johns. ”Being a senior, it would be great to finish the regular season that way, but we just have to play one game at a time. One loss wouldn’t be the end of the season; we’re going to come out and play our best and take care of what we can control.”
In the North division, Smethport, Sheffield and Coudersport all stand at 1-0 going into this week. The Tide have already beaten Smethport and Coudersport while Kane bumped Sheffield. Will it be said that the AML Champion had to get by a week five Homecoming game in Kane to stay unbeaten? Kick-off is set for 7:00 p.m.
Golden Tide Scoreboard:
|08/30||COUDERSPORT||34 – 26||1 – 0|
|09/06||@ Cameron County||21 – 20||2 – 0|
|09/13||SMETHPORT||42 – 13||3 – 0|
|09/20||@ St. Joe’s Catholic Academy||25 – 7||4 – 0|
|10/19||@ Elk County Catholic|