CURWENSVILLE — There\’s no question that Kane, with only two seniors, is the youngest Allegheny Mountain League football team this year, maybe ever. There\’s also no question, however, that the Wolves are better than their 2-3 record and not an opponent to be overlooked.
Making sure that doesn\’t happen and preventing a letdown after five tough, emotional games is something Coach Andy Evanko and his staff have had on their to-do list this week as Curwensville prepares for Kane\’s visit to Riverside Stadium Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The 4-1 Golden Tide capped its one-month surge from last to first in the AML-South Division with an 18-3 road victory over previously-undefeated Johnsonburg last week, and \”There was a lot of emotion spent out on that field,\” Evanko reflected. \”And you\’ve to come right back and do it again, so you\’re always concerned about a letdown. I don\’t anticipate that happening with the seniors we have.\”
The Golden Tide has been warned over and over that the Wolves, who have led or been tied at halftime in every game, have their share of talent, and size, among the junior and sophomores. Coach Jason Barner, in his first season at the helm after 10 years as an assistant, inherited eight starters and three other lettermen. And there\’s a chance Zach Anderson, the No. 3 quarterback in District 9 last year, might be back in the lineup.
Anderson (5-11, 175) had a brilliant sophomore season, completing 113 of 191 passes for 1,494 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushing 61 times for 101 yards and six scores as the Wolves finished 5-5. A broken arm sent him to the sidelines early in the 2006 opener against Sheffield, so a return this week is possible.
\”It\’s purely speculation and rumor,\” Evanko said, \”but we prepare for everybody anyway. He\’s a very good quarterback.\”
Sophomore backup Kennny Kane (6-4, 165) has delivered since he was pressed into service. He has 30 completions in 64 passes good for 359 yards and three touchdowns, including a scoring aerial that helped the Wolves beat Sheffield 14-7.
\”He\’s confident and runs the offense very well,\” Evanko said. \”And those two running backs, (Matt) Mix and (John) Bizzak are big kids and hard runners.\”
Mix (6-1, 190) leads the Wolves with 66 carries for 356 yards and a pair or TDs, while Bizzak (6-3, 205) has 238 yards and four TDs for 49 totes. Both are juniors. Bizzak was moved to the backfield from tight end after ranking second in District 9 last year with 36 receptions for 693 yards and four scores.
Kane has spread the ball around to his receivers, including sophomore tight end Ross Nicholson (6-1, 200), switched from running back, junior wideout D.J. Horton (5-10, 150) and junior running back Dustin Moran (5-9, 170). As a defensive back, Horton has intercepted five passes to share the District 9 lead.
Anchoring the line are seniors Andy Eckstrom (6-4, 275) and Chad Gustafson (6-3, 270).
Kane\’s offense is a lot like those Curwensville has faced recently, but is even more varied, according to Evanko.
\”They run everything, any formation you can imagine and some you haven\’t seen,\” he said. \”They have more formations than I have hairs on my head.
\”And they play great defensively. They just play hardnosed, good defense.
\”I know their record doesn\’t indicate it, but they\’re a pretty good team,\” Evanko said. \”Halfway through the season, you\’re not young any more. We have got to come out and play.\”
Kane\’s other win was 18-6 over Port Allegany two weeks ago, snuffing out three threats with red zone fumble recoveries. Losses were 25-6 to Johnsonburg, which capitalized on seven turnovers by the Wolves, 14-6 to Elk County Catholic and, last week, 13-12 to Ridgway, which was led by Jerico Weitzel\’s 28 carries for 263 yards and touchdown runs of 44 and 72 yards.
Weitzel\’s career game doesn\’t bode well for the Kane defense since Curwensville, as usual, will be leaning heavily on all-time District rushing king Nick Sipes. The senior back has 143 carries for 826 yards, tops in the district, and is 198 yards away from becoming the 40th Pennsylvania schoolboy to reach the 5,000-yard milestone. Sipes also ranks as one of the state\’s top scorers with 87 points.
The Golden Tide utilize quarterback Shawn Sopic (46-268, 3 TDs) and fullback Brandon Hess (53-222, 2 TDS) enough to keep defenses honest, rarely going to the air unless necessary. Sopic is 17-for-37 for 282 yards.
Evanko took one last look back at the Johnsonburg win by lauding Sopic for his play in the secondary against Rams\’ standout quarterback Calvin Grumley.
\”Shawn came up with some big tackles on him, not an easy thing to do with that kid when he was scrambling and got pass the line of scrimmage,\” he said. \”We had quite a few kids miss him, but Shaw just formed up and got him.\”
In addition to Johnsonburg, Curwensville also has defeated Elk County Catholic (14-12), Brockway (29-0) and Cameron County (46-29) since losing to Coudersport (20-12).
Last year, the Golden Tide thumped Kane 68-12 for a 6-1 lead in the series since joining the AML in 1999.