CURWENSVILLE – A week ago the Sheffield Wolverines were celebrating their first Allegheny Mountain League – North Division Championship. On Friday night they were feeling the dominance that the Southern teams have had over them this season as the Curwensville Area High School upended them in a one-sided 38-14 contest that ends the regular gridiron season.
In earning their AML-North title, the Wolverines (5-4) have now beaten just one South team - winless Elk County Catholic. The Golden Tide (8-1) finished in second place in the South Division behind unbeaten Kane. Kane will host Sheffield next week in the AML Championship game.
Curwensville will be idle next week before entering the District IX, Class A playoffs as either the second or fourth seed. Their fate will ironically be determined by Sheffield’s outcome next week. And, in a further piece of irony, the Wolverines may miss the playoffs completely depending on what they and other teams do in the district’s final contests.
On Friday night, the Tide may have helped make the final pairings for district play more confusing by making short work of the Wolverines. Curwensville would score on their first two possessions of the game with the defense forcing a turnover to aid the opportunities.
The hosts took the ball first after Sheffield won the toss, and deferred their choice to the second half, and senior running back Zach Tibbens, behind his hard-working offensive line, methodically pushed the ball down field for the score. Tibbens ran the ball nine straight times and finished the drive with a 16-yard jaunt for the score. The point after sailed right into a stiff early game wind for a 6-0 start.
On their ensuing drive, Sheffield started with an 11-yard pick-up by Jereek Jackson. However, on the next three plays, the Wolverines gained a minus 17 yards. The final play of the visitors opening drive was a 17-yard loss on a Trey McKenzie sack and fumble recovery.
“Honestly, our defense has been strong all year,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. ”Coach (Chris) Folmar sets up good schemes, and the kids perform well.
“Trey has come up big time-and-time again, and each week the ‘D’ finds someone that makes the big play for us.”
The offense pushed the ball down field in 10 plays to set up Thorp for a field goal attempt. With the wind leaving the flags limp, Thorp drilled a 30-yard kick with plenty of leg to spare to up the advantage to 9-0; a score that would hold up through the first quarter.
The visitors continued to find the going tough as Curwensville forced two punting situations in the second quarter and allowed the Wolverines just three offensive series in the frame. One of those series was aided by a bad snap from the Tide that fumbled an opportunity away. However, it was the hosts who took advantage of a turnover, as senior Austin Jacobson upped his team leading interception count and returned the ball to the Curwensville 45-yard line.
Curwensville used just six playes to cover the 55 yards to the end zone with Tibbens covering the majority of the distance. Tibbens ran the ball five times around a 24-yard pass play from quarterback Kyle Johns to Travis Lansberry. Tibbens covered the last eight yards with 1:03 left in the half. Fullback Alex Olson pounded his way to pay-dirt on the two-point conversion to take a 17-0 lead into the locker room.
Sheffield mounted an attack in the opening drive of the third quarter by moving the ball to the Tide 31. However, the defense stood firm again, and an incomplete pass on fourth down put the ball back into the host’s hands.
That turnover ignited the offense again as Tibbens and Olson powered the ball down field in 12 plays. Tibbens broke the plain for the third time of the night on a five-yard stroll with Thorp adding the PAT for a 24-0 mark.
“That’s our offense. We knew they were going to put 10 people in the box, and that’s what we do – pound it out,” said Evanko. ”It all starts up front, though. If the guys don’t block, nothing happens. We have to give a lot of credit to the line and the wideouts who block well to open things up.
Again, the defense forced a punt which only yielded nine yards to the Wolverine 44. It took just three plays to score on the drive. Olson picked up 16 yards on the second play to set the ball at the 22-yard line. Tibbens covered the distance on the next snap as he followed his leads down the Tide sideline for his fourth score of the night. Thorp’s kick was good, but a roughing call shortened the kick-off with :42 on the third quarter clock.
A second consecutive roughing call was made on the kickoff to set the ball at the 10 after the touch-back. On the first play from scrimmage, Olson corralled Jackson in the backfield and jarred the ball loose in the end zone. Senior lineman Nick London, in pursuit of the play, found and recovered the ball for a score and a 38-0 count that would bring about the mercy rule in the final seconds of the third quarter.
“That was great. I feel good for Nick,” Evanko smiled. ”That’s a lineman’s dream – to get his own touchdown. Olson was a man on a mission there in forcing the turnover.”
The Wolverines picked up two fourth quarter scores as Curwensville’s reserves were gaining important experience. Brandon Kipp strolled in from 15 yards out at the 6:03 mark. The game’s final score came as time ran out on a nine-yard pass from Adam Higby to Nic Confer.
“This was a good way to end the regular season, Evanko noted. ”Sheffield is a good team and good competition – we needed that. The kids responded well at the time of year when you want them to play their best.”
Curwensville will now await the outcome of next week’s AML Championship to allow the seedings to become official. They are likely to hold the second or fourth spot and will play at home in two weeks on a day and time to be determined.
NOTES: Tibbens carried the ball 32 times in the game for a total of 238 yards and four scores. He now has 1,850 yards and 23 touchdowns for the season…Jackson ran for nearly 180 yards last week against Smethport in a game that both teams needed to win for the North crown. He finished with 27 yards on Friday (21 yards in the fourth quarter)…Sheffield lost to Kane, their AML championship game opponent, 34-6 in week one of the season…Other scores in the district on Friday included: (9-0) Kane 28, (4-5) Coudersport 20; (3-6) Otto-Eldred 22, (0-9) Elk County Catholic 15; (4-5) Ridgway 8, (5-4) Smethport 0; (5-4) Brockway 49, (3-6) Port Allegany 24; (9-0) Clarion 55, (0-9) A-C Valley 0; (4-5) Union 16; (1-8) Keystone 12; (6-3) Redbank Valley 68, (2-7) Clarion-Limestone 37…After the top four seeds are set in Class A brackets, the best record determines who is in…Brockway travels to Moniteau next week and a win would set them at 6-4 where a Sheffield loss would find them at 5-5…Smethport is home against Redbank Valley next week with a chance to be 6-4 as well…Ridgway hosts St. Joseph’s, and Union will visit Cambridge Springs to make the choices for districts tighter.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sheffield - 0 0 0 14 – 14
Curwensville – 9 8 21 0 – 38
Curwensville: 16-yard run by Tibbens (kick failed), 7:46.
Curwensville: 30-yard field goal by Thorp, 1:06.
Curwensville: 8-yard run by Tibbens (Olson run),1:03.
Curwensville: 5-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 3:58.
Curwensville: 22-yard run by Tibbens (Thorp kick), 00:42.
Curwensville: fumble recovery in the end zone by London (Thorp kick), 00:34.
Sheffield: 15-yard run by Kipp (Higby pass to Confer), 6:03.
Sheffield: 9-yard pass from Higby to Confer (no kick attempt), 00:00.
Sheffield / Curwensville
FIRST DOWNS: 11 /14
RUSH YARDS: 46/278
PASS YARDS: 88 / 24
TOTAL YARDS: 134 /302
PENALTIES: 5/ 6
PENALTY YARDS: 60 / 60
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 10-20-1-1/ 1-3-0-0
FUMBLES: 4 / 1
FUMBLES LOST: 1/1
SHEFFIELD: Jackson – 14 carries, 27 yards; Kipp - 4 carries,6 yards, TD; Higby -2 carries, (-18) yards; Holden – 6 carries 44 yards; Team – 1 carry, (-13) yards.
CURWENSVILLE: Tibbens – 32 carries, 238 yards, 4 TD’s; Olson - 4 carries, 30 yards; Johnson – 1 carry, 0 yards; Johns – 1 carries, 7 yards, TD; McKenzie – 1 carry, 0 yards; Lancaster – 4 carries, 4 yards; Team – 2 carries, (-1) yard.
SHEFFIELD : Higby – 20 attempts, 10 completions, 88 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
CURWENSVILLE: Johns – 3 attempts, 1 completion, 24 yards, 0 TD’s, 0 INT.
SHEFFIELD : Heeter – 1 receptions, 13 yards; Kipp – 2 receptions, 11 yards; Jackson – 1 reception, (-7) yards; Reeves – 1 reception, 2 yards; Holden – 1 reception, 0 yards; Vile – 3 receptions, 47 yards; Confer – 2 receptions, 22 yards.
CURWENSVILLE: Lansberry – 1 reception, 24 yards.