CURWENSVILLE — Starting the season 1-1 has ratcheted up the importance of the annual showdown between the Curwensville and Brockway football teams that has produced the Allegheny Mountain League South Division champion five of the last six years.
Two setbacks would make it very difficult for either team to overcome, especially with 2-0 Johnsonburg and several more quality opponents to contend with down the road.
While the Golden Tide takes a 6-1 series lead into the 7 p.m. clash with the defending District 9 Class AA champion Rovers at Riverside Stadium Friday night, history shows most games have been hard-fought, with two scores enough to win in four years, and Curwensville Coach Andy Evanko foresees another tough battle.
\”Brockway games over the years have been some of the biggest games we\’ve played,\” Evanko said. \”They\’re always good. I can\’t think of any time we\’ve played them they were not exceptional.
\”We\’re in the same division, so it\’s very important. This is a huge game for us, absolutely.\”
Brockway shut out Ridgway 12-0 in its first game, with quarterback Anthony Varischetti running for both touchdowns. Last week, the Rovers were jolted 34-6 by a vastly-improved Cameron County team after trailing only 7-6 at the half.
Evanko and his staff scouted the Cameron County game, which got out of hand because of five turnovers by Coach Ray Reckner\’s Rovers, who lost four of seven fumbles.
\”They looked very competitive,\” Evanko said. \”Coach Reckner has been there a long time, and he makes the best use of his personnel than anybody I\’ve seen. He\’s able to adjust to what he has around him. They have decent size up front and they do a lot of things with their Wing-T. They go to double wings and trips.
\”Varischetti is a tremendous athlete. He\’s a tough kid who can run and throw. And they\’ll move him out to wide receiver and have another guy throw to him. They have a good combination at quarterback.\”
Varischetti, one of 13 letterman for Reckner\’s 21st and final season as Brockway coach, became the first Rover to pass for more than 1,000 yards last year. He completed 80 of 160 aerials for 1,280 yards for the 8-4 team that lost 38-22 to Curwensville.
He\’s shown his versatility already, rushing for 69 yards on 21 carries, completing eight of 18 passes for 66 yards and catching four passes from Matt Pentz for 85 yards. Pentz is 6-for-11 for 133 yards in the passing department. A son of Curwensville Area High School graduate Glenn Pentz Jr., the junior quarterback/safety is a DuBois Central Catholic student playing for Brockway through a co-op program.
Dillon Park, who had 294 yards and three TDs rushing and 329 yards, with a 21.7 average, and three TDs in receptions last year, leads the Rover ground game with 147 yards on 27 carries. Armando Fortunato has 13 carries for 64 yards and three receptions for 24 yards, while Aaron Shaffer checks in with four receptions for 50 yards.
Curwensville also relies heavily on its running game, Nick Sipes pounding for 252 yards and four touchdowns on 56 carries and Brandon Hess adding 118 yards on 29 tries. Shawn Sopic has gone to the airways 19 times, connecting on 10 for 142 yards. His main targets have been wideout Jesse Hoover with four receptions for 58 yards and Hess with three for 43.
The Golden Tide rebounded from a 20-12 loss to AML North Division powerhouse Coudersport with a 14-12 victory over Elk County Catholic at St. Marys last Friday, but it was unable to seal the deal in the second half.
\”I thought we played an exceptional first half, except for one breakdown on a pass play,\” Evanko said. \”In the second half, I don\’t think we blocked as well as we possibly could. I don\’t know why we weren\’t able to pick up the adjustments that they made, but we\’re young up there. That\’s only the second time they played as a unit, and I\’m sure they\’re going to get better and better as the weeks go on.\”
\”I thought we played a fantastic defensive game, to hold a team like Elk County Catholic to 12 points. \”The way we play we\’re susceptible to the big play. That\’s what our defense is. We\’re going to stop a lot of things, but we\’re also going to give up a big play now and then. We just can\’t get down when that happens. We\’ve got to keep on playing.\”
What Evanko wants most this week is a complete game from his team, which has been up and down both weeks.
\”I want to see us play four quarters of solid football and hit with some consistency,\” he said.
Evanko noted that junior Derek Johnson, who was moved from running back to the tight end/slot position after two weeks of camp to provide some depth, saw more action last week after senior tight end Matt Newpher left the team for personal reasons.
Evanko added the team also picked up a split end in senior Philip Michaels, who hasn\’t played football since junior high.
\”He participated in our summer passing leagues and performed pretty well out there, but he didn\’t come out ,\” Evanko explained. \”Last week, he called me and said he had decided to give it a shot because he didn\’t want to have any regrets about not playing. That was the selling point for me, because we don\’t want to haven any regrets either.
\”This program is for the kids, and if we can do something for someone like that, I can understand. Of course, the kids voted on it. And it was a unanimous decision.
EXTRA POINTS — Brockway\’s lone win in the series came in 2003, when the Rovers posted the school\’s best record, 11-1. The lone defeat was 13-0 to Slippery Rock in the first round of the PIAA Class AA Playoffs… The co-op program with DCC is the reason the Rovers play in Class AA instead of Class A… Sipes rushed for 161 yards and scored four touchdowns for the Golden Tide last year at Brockway… Since Curwensville joined the AML in 1999, the Golden Tide is 56-21 overall, while the Rovers are 57-19… Reckner\’s teams have won 125 games.