CURWENSVILLE – In athletics, if you ask someone to give up their tradition to join a rival squad, I guess you might want to keep the newcomers happy for a successful outcome. Such appears to be the case with the merger between the Ridgway and Johnsonburg high school football teams as Friday night’s Elkers’ homecoming game will be played at Johnsonburg’s field. It might also be an added bonus that the Curwensville Area squad now has a longer bus trip to meet up with their week seven foe.
With both school’s gridiron numbers dwindling, the decision was made in this past off-season that the two teams should join forces and take the Elkers’ mascot. So far the blend has been so-so with a 3-3 overall record. However, an Allegheny Mountain League-South Division record of 2-0 has Ridgway just above the 1-1 Golden Tide in league play.
“Every game looms big now when you consider positioning for playoffs,” mentioned Tide head coach Andy Evanko. ”None is bigger than this week’s. They are a good football team who doesn’t give up many points – at least until the last two weeks.”
The Elkers were not only out of league last week; they were out of the state traveling to Allegany, Maryland where they fell 42-0. Until that loss, however, the team had given up just 63 points in five games. Against comparable opponents, Ridgway defeated Brockway 40-20, and lost to Coudersport 19-8 while the Tide dumped Brockway last week 42-22 and defeated Coudersport in week one 34-26.
Perhaps the one thing that the two teams picked up in their merger was a multiple look at the game that has caused a problem for opponents.
“They are a very difficult team to defend,” admitted Evanko. ”They have a multitude of formations that can present a lot of problems for any team. It’s like preparing for three teams in one week – it’s crazy.”
The offense has produced a balanced attack that leans a little more to the run than the pass. Elkers’ runners average just over 236 yards per game while the passing attack connects for nearly 107 yards each week. Eight rushers have taken their turn at hitting the holes with a trio of players doing most of the damage. Junior quarterback Ben MacDonald has used the pass option to his favor on the ground as he leads the rushing attack with 494 yards and eight touchdowns on 60 attempts. Senior fullback Sam Delhunty has hauled the ball 55 times for 336 yards and two scores with junior Cole Myers also scoring twice on 31 carries for 257 yards.
MacDonald has thrown the ball 54 times for 434 yards on 29 completions with one scoring toss and three interceptions. The leading target for the season has been senior Cameron Grumley with one touchdown and 217 yards on nine receptions. Myers also has eight catches for 112 yards with seven other players pulling in at least one pass.
MacDonald shows his versatility on defense as well as he leads the team in tackles with 54. Junior Ryan Geyer is a distant second with 38 knockdowns while Myer has added 37. The Elkers’ defense has been able to apply pressure in their opponent’s backfield with 12 sacks on the season. Dalton Feldbauer has recorded four with Gyer adding three to lead the team.
Stopping the pass rush will be a big focus for the Golden Tide, who established a steady passing attack last week. Senior quarterback Kyle Johns threw for 103 yards against Brockway to double the team’s output for the year. Senior wide-out Austin Jacobson pulled in three catches against the Rovers for 52 yards to help the offensive charge. Jacobson also pulled in a toss on the defensive side of the field that he ran back 58 yards for a touchdown.
“I was more excited about catching the defensive pass because you’re not as likely to score from that position, but I just saw open field in front of me,” said Jacobson. ” It was like we all made an unspoken agreement to come out and play hard last week. If one of us was down, we picked him up and continued to go hard.”
Jacobson’s pick was his third of season to tie junior Jake Stiles as the team leaders. Curwensville now has 11 interceptions in 2013 to go along with eight fumble recoveries and 11 sacks to cause problems for opponent’s offenses. Bryce McClure and Alex Olson have two recoveries each while Johnathan Miller has upended the other team’s quarterback four times.
Offensively, the Golden Tide stumbled slightly against Kane two weeks ago, but found the holes against the Rovers to total 341 yards as a team. Zach Tibbens broke loose for 231 yards on 28 carries. With his effort, Tibbens surpassed the 1,000-yard mark to sit at 1,068 yards to date.
“Everyone realized we didn’t play to our potential at Kane,” senior offensive lineman Philip McCracken stated. ”We came out, hit hard and controlled the line against Brockway. We remembered what it felt like to not get the job done at Kane, and we don’t want to feel that again.”
“Last week’s game was a nice rebound from the week earlier,” Evanko noted. ”We put pressure on the quarterback and stepped up our game in the second half. We just need to put together a whole game this week.”
Kane continues to sit atop the AML-South at 3-0 while Sheffield and Smethport are both 3-0 in the North. Ridgway will play Kane next week. A win this week could allow the Tide to jump over the Elkers in the league standings with two games left to play. Kick-off is set for 7:00 in Johnsonburg.
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|
|09/27||@ Kane||8 – 42||4 – 1|
|10/04||BROCKWAY||42 – 22||5 – 1|
|10/19||@ Elk County Catholic|