ST. MARY’S — The Curwensville Golden Tide have been known to always be a running team. They don’t pass the ball very often, only if needed. Run the ball, run the clock, put points on the board; that is Curwensville. On Saturday night, with a long week to prepare, the Tide made the trip to St. Mary’s to take on the Elk County Catholic Crusaders.
With the way the night was shaping up, neither team would likely be passing the ball much. Before the opening kickoff, there was a slight puckering of rain drops as both squads warmed up. It turned into a light drizzle at the beginning of the night, but at some points the rain became heavy where the footing on the field became difficult to grab, and even just standing on the sidelines turned into just trying not to slip.
What didn’t happen was Curwensville slipping on the field. The wet weather allowed them to simply rely on the ground game to wear out Elk County Catholic, and do so in quick spurts.
The Golden Tide didn’t keep the ball for long on many drives, but that reason was due to the fact they scored early, and often. On a night where the rain only yielded 22 yards passing combined for both squads, the Tide would rely on nearly 500 yards of rushing to roll over the Crusaders by a final of 35-8.
Head coach Andy Evanko knew that with the rain, it would play right into the Tide’s offense.
“Fortunately it rained on us, and of course it hasn’t rained in 20 months. It did rain on us Wednesday night, so we got a little bit of practice in that,” Evanko said afterward. ” But that’s who we are, we’re a running football team, so it shouldn’t bother us because that’s what we do.”
It seemed to do the trick because Curwensville used the muddy, wet, and sloppy field to put their running offense to work, and did so with intense success. By the end of the night, Curwensville would run for 465 yards against the Crusader defense. In doing so, they also would not even attempt a pass. According to Evanko, the weather played right into their favor, and they did not need to try and pass because of the running game working so well.
“In weather like this and these type of field conditions, you don’t want to pass. Fortunately we have a run game, and guys blocked really well and running backs exploded tonight,” Evanko said.
Running back Zach Tibbens again had a monster night, all coming mostly in the first half of play. At the end of the night, Tibbens would put up 270 yards on just 13 carries, including three touchdowns. Teammate Alex Olson had just as impressive numbers in just over two quarters of play in the rain, racking up 133 yards on only four carries, with two touchdowns.
The Tide were just as impressive on defense, holding Elk County Catholic to just 170 yards of total offense, and forcing two turnovers.
The Crusaders took the opening kickoff as the rain just started falling at a slightly steadier rate, but after a 14-yard gain on the first play, they were stuffed at midfield, and were forced to punt.
The punt went deep into Tide territory, and was downed at the Curwensville 3. But, Tibbens was ready for the play, and on the handoff he found a gap on the left side, and began the sprint. The Crusaders started closing in, but he shoved off tackles and cut back to the middle of the field. In just one play, and after 18 seconds, Tibbens already had a 97-yard touchdown on his stat sheet. Jason Thorp would boot the extra point, and it would be an early 7-0 lead for the Tide.
Rain began letting up slightly midway through the quarter as Elk County Catholic got the ball again with great field position. But, the Tide defense halted Jonathan Dippold on three plays, forcing a fumble on third down, which was recovered by the Tide.
Unfortunately, the Tide would not make use of the turnover, as Tibbens fumbled on the opening play of the drive, and handed the ball back to the Crusaders in about the same starting point as the previous drive. Not wanting to let yet another opportunity slip away, Curwensville stuffed Dippold again twice on the drive, forcing a fourth down play, one that saw Mitchell Smith get halted after just one yard, and giving the ball back to the Tide.
Once again, the good field position paid off as on the next play, Alex Olson found a hole on the left side of the line, and shook off tackles as he rumbled to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown. Another extra point by Thorp, and it was 14-0 just past halfway in the first quarter.
The Crusaders managed to get a first down on the next drive on a run by Smith, but immediately afterwards had a false start, and that killed their momentum. Again, the Crusaders punted to Curwensville, knowing that they had momentum.
They didn’t stop Curwensville again, as for the third time in just one quarter, it was one play and done for the Tide. Once again, Olson broke into the open field, and the foot race was on. This time, after 75 yards, he would have yet another touchdown on his stat sheet. The extra point was blocked, and it would be 20-0 heading into the second quarter.
“We were expecting their standard 4-3 defense with the middle linebacker over the center,” Evanko said. ”We kind of got some of that, but also we saw their tackles were lined up a bit wider, so we were able to run some gut plays up the middle. I guess they were guessing.”
Curwensville’s opening drive in the second quarter would be their longest of the night to that point. Tibbens got a bulk of the carries, rushing four times on the drive. After breaking into Crusader territory, it again was a case of deja vu as he bounced the run outside and to the left, putting up a third touchdown on the night, this one from 45 yards out. Olson would punch in a two-point conversion, making the score 28-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the quarter.
Finally it seemed like Elk County Catholic would get a drive going, getting themselves into Tide territory. Unfortunately, thanks to a penalty and some tough defense, they were forced to punt yet again. The Tide were able to corral Elk County Catholic, holding them to 170 yards of total offense on the night.
The punt put Curwensville back at their own 20, and it seemed like they would finally be stopped as they were 4th and 1 at their own 29. Rain by this time had begun pounding the field, and the players, making it hard to see anything other than the body in front of the line. Unfortunately, Elk County Catholic jumped the gun and hit the line before the snap, giving a fresh set of downs for the Tide. Two plays later, Tibbens made them pay as he would again get the handoff and roar to the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown. Thorp this time nailed the extra point, and with 3:22 left in the half, the score was 35-0, ensuring a running clock in the second half.
Elk County Catholic managed to put together a 10-play drive that nearly lasted the entire remaining time, but were stopped on fourth down when Andy Gerbauer’s pass fell incomplete.
In the second half, the weather decided to let up a bit as the rain stopped, but the field was still a mess. Evanko decided to let his stars run for a few plays on the opening drive, but then give them a rest for the next week. There would be no scoring in the third quarter, as the clock rolled for the duration.
The lone score in the second half came with 2:59 remaining in the game when Conner O’Leary scored from eight yards out. By that time the junior varsity squad was getting some playing time, but the drive was impressive for Elk County Catholic, with strong runs and intelligent play.
Now sitting at 7-1, Curwensville has one more regular season game to close out the year, one that Evanko is ready for, and grateful for in that he got his star players some necessary rest. It will be back to business for him and his staff, but it will be a bit of a rush due to when this week’s game was played.
“It’s getting late in the year, late in the season. Fortunately we haven’t had any real bad injuries (knocks on wood), so we’ve been staying pretty healthy,” Evanko said. ”But we also have a short week.
“The bad thing about playing on a Saturday night, you go from a real long week, which is real pronounced and it’s longer, then we have to turn right around and get back into our regular routine. We’re gonna have just one day to get ready to go. Saturday night games are really difficult.”
Despite the short week, Evanko said they will be ready for the final game against Sheffield, and already knows what his team must do in order to win.
“Honestly we have to stop their offense. They have a real good running back in Jackson, and they also have a very aggressive defense, so we have to get prepared to block 10 guys in the box, which we got lucky in getting some of that tonight,” Evanko said.
Kickoff at Riverside Stadium next Friday night is at 7 p.m. Sheffield is coming off their own Saturday game, a 29-26 victory over Smethport.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Curwensville 21 14 0 0 – 35
Elk County Catholic 0 0 0 8 – 8
GOLDEN TIDE: 97-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 9:40
GOLDEN TIDE: 51-yard run by Olson (Thorp kick), 5:50
GOLDEN TIDE: 75-yard run by Olson (Thorp kick blocked), 2:32
GOLDEN TIDE: 45-yard run by Tibbens (Olson run), 10:27
GOLDEN TIDE: 61-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 3:22
CRUSADERS: 8-yard run by O’Leary (Brennan run), 2:59
Curwensville/Elk County Catholic
First Downs: 7/8
Rush Yards: 465/148
Pass Yards: 0/22
Total Yards: 465/170
Time of Possession: 20:12/27:48
Curwensville: Tibbens-13 carries, 270 yards, 3 TD; McKenzie-6 carries, 7 yards; Olson-4 carries, 133 yards, 2 TD; Lancaster-4 carries, 21 yards; Johnson-4 carries, 19 yards; Gardner-2 carries, 18 yards; Junod-1 carry, 2 yards; Peters-1 carry, 0 yards; Terry-1 carry, (-2) yards.
Elk County Catholic: Dippold-14 carries, 27 yards; Smith-9 carries, 62 yards; Werner-8 carries, 25 yards; Gebauer-3 carries, 4 yards; Brennen-2 carries, 33 yards; O’Leary-1 carry, 8 yards, TD; Wolf-1 carry, (-1) yards.
Elk County Catholic: Gebauer-1 for 6, 11 yards; Smith-1 for 1, 11 yards.
Elk County Catholic: Huff-1 catch, 11 yards; Werner-1 catch, 11 yards.
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|
|10/11||@ Ridgway||27 – 24||6 – 1|
|10/19||@ Elk County Catholic||35 – 8||7 – 1|