JOHNSONBURG – In a football game that featured 690 yards of offense, it was the ground game of the Curwensville Area High School that came out on top of a 27-24 mark over Ridgway. Golden Tide senior Zach Tibbens finished the game with 272 yards rushing to outlast Elkers’ quarterback Ben MacDonalds’ 285 total passing yards on Friday night.
Tibbens handled the ball 50 times in the game, and his linemen created space for him to churn up real estate en route to all four Tide scores. MacDonald threw for two touchdowns on a 14-for-24 output and ran for another in effort to keep his team within striking distance.
“Ridgway is a tough team with a nice offense,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. ”They presented a lot of problems for us, and made us earn this one.”
Both teams scored four times on the night, but the difference came down to the Elkers’ inability to convert an extra-point. Also, tough defensive stances by the Golden Tide prevented further damage on the scoreboard.
One such defensive stance came on the hosts’ first possession. The Elkers had taken over on downs at their own 30-yard line and moved the ball well before Tide senior Austin Jacobson picked off a MacDonald pass on the goal line to thwart the scoring effort. However, the Tide returned the favor on an interception that eventually led to the first score of the game on a MacDonald 1-yard keeper for a 6-0 lead with no time on the clock in the first quarter.
Ridgway would push the score to 12-0 with 6:34 left to play in the first as Sam Delhunty went up the middle untouched from three yards out. Curwensville answered on their next possession as Tibbens carried the ball eight straight times to cover 55 yards. The touchdown run covered 10 yards and Jason Thorp added the PAT to set the score at 12-7 through the halftime.
After the intermission, the Tide defense created its first big opportunity. On a run through the middle Delhunty had the ball squirt out of his hands, and Curwensville’s Travis Lansberry was able to corral it and set his team up first-and-10 on the Elkers’ 49-yard line. It took the Tide 11 plays to cash in on the miscue as Tibbens rolled into the end zone from five yards out. An off-sides penalty gave the visitors the opportunity to punch the extra-point in on the ground and quarterback Kyle Johns did just that to give the Tide the lead for good at 15-12.
“We have been fortunate the last couple of weeks to get some big turnovers,” Evanko noted. ”You can put the x’s and o’s up on the board, but the kids have to execute, and our guys have been coming up big.”
Curwensville then took advantage of a weak punt as Trey McKenzie alertly snagged the 15-yard kick at the Tide-40 and returned it to mid-field. Tibbens clipped off the yardage in four plays ending the drive on a 16-yard jaunt for a 21-12 count.
However, Ridgway would not quit. On their next possession, after strong defensive efforts by Bryce McClure and a delay of game flag pushed them backwards, a calm MacDonald found his speedy receiver Cameron Grumley deep for a 65-yard strike that again closed the gap to 21-18.
Again, however, the Tide was able to sustain a drive. Again Tibbens proved to be the workhorse with eight carries on a nine-play drive that ended at the 8:52 mard of the fourth quarter with a 3-yard walk into the end zone.
Curwensville would hold off the Elkers until the 3:19 mark when a fourth-and-four play came up a yard short on the Ridgway 26 yard line. At that point MacDonald used his arm and feet to make the game interesting again. With the junior play-caller scrambling for his life behind the line, Dane Cappiello found himself wide open for a 33-yard catch. Cappiello found clearance on the very next play to cover a 28-yard catch and run. On a third pass completion in a row, MacDonald saw white jerseys in the end zone and let the ball rip. It appeared to be tipped by a Tide player, go through the hands of Cappiello and be caught for a touchdown by junior Cody Delhunty to make the deficit again stand at three with a 27-24 count.
Time would eventually run out for the Elkers, and Curwensville was just glad to get out with the hard-fought victory
“This was a great win for us and we’re very excited,” Evanko said. ”This time of year it’s not about what you’ve done; it’s about what you are doing now.”
What the Tide was doing on Friday night was taking care of the things they can control. Both Curwensville (6-1 overall) and Ridgway (3-4 overall) are now 2-1 in the Allegheny Mountain League-South Division with two weeks to play. They trail Kane who is 3-0, but the district playoff picture takes “AA” Kane out of the equation and gives the Tide the head-to-head advantage in seedings.
Curwensville will travel to St. Marys next week to take on Elk County Christian. ECC pays host to Brockway tonight in AML action – neither team has won a South Division game on the season. The Golden Tide will play the Crusaders next Saturday evening at St. Marys High School at 7:00 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Curwensville –0 7 14 6 – 27
Ridgway – 6 6 6 6 – 24
Ridgway: 1 -yard run by MacDonald (kick blocked),00:00.
Ridgway: 3-yard run by S. Delhunty (run failed), 6:34.
Curwensville: 10-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 3:36.
Curwensville: 5-yard run by Tibbens ( Johns run), 6:09.
Curwensville: 16-yard rub by Tibbens (kick failed), 2:51.
Ridgway: 65-yard pass from MacDonald to Grumley (pass failed), 00:39.5.
Curwensville: 3-yard run by Tibbens (kick failed), 8:52.
Ridgway: 13-yard pass from MacDonald to C. Delhunty (kick failed), 2:34.
Curwensville / Ridgway
FIRST DOWNS: 19 / 14
RUSH YARDS: 314/ 80
PASS YARDS: 11 / 285
TOTAL YARDS: 325 / 365
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 3-9-0-2 / 14-24-1-1
FUMBLES: 0 /3
FUMBLES LOST: 0 /1
PENALTIES: 6 / 8
PENALTY YARDS: 56 / 51.5
CURWENSVILLE: Tibbens- 50 carries, 272 yards, 4 TD; Olson- 5 carries, 17 yards; Johns – 5 carries,17 yards; McKenzie – 2 carries, 8 yard.
RIDGWAY: MacDonald – 14 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD; S. Dehunty – 8 carries, 31 yards, TD; Myers – 2 carries, 5 yards; Grumley – 1 carry, 0 yards; Team – 2 Carries, (-8) yards.
CURWENSVILLE: Johns – 9 attempts, 3 completion, 11 yards, 0 touchdown; 2 interception.
RIDGWAY: MacDonald – 24 attempts, 14 completions, 285 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interceptions.
CURWENSVILLE: Kurtz – 1 reception, 10 yards; Olson- 1 reception, (-1) yards; Jacobson – 1 receptions, 2 yard.
RIDGWAY: Grumley – 8 receptions, 163 yards, TD; C. Delhunty – 3 receptions, 38 yards; Cappiello – 2 receptions, 61 yards; Toncich – 1 reception, 12 yards; S. Delhunty 1 reception, 11 yards.