COUDERSPORT — In a game that was eerily similar to the 2006 season opener, undefeated Coudersport continued its mastery over the Curwensville Area High School football team by controlling the first half in building a lead and then doing that was necessary in the last two quarters with a pair of time-consuming drives to repeat as Allegheny Mountain League champion with a 14-6 victory at the Coudersport Area Recreation Park Field Saturday night.
The pad-popping defensive struggle was the fourth battle between the division kingpins in a little over one year. Unfortunately for the Golden Tide, the Falcons have done the celebrating each time.
Coach Paul Simcoe\’s 28th Coudy team rode a pair of second-quarter touchdowns by speedy senior tailback Chris Cavallari, who darted for 142 yards on 28 carries, and another superb effort by the defense to its 10th win of the season, cutting the North Division\’s deficit in AML title games to 5-3.
Cavallari\’s ability to skirt the ends or find seams on cutbacks enabled the Falcons to chew up more than 11 minutes of the second half on two possessions, preventing the Golden Tide from posing a serious threat to their 13th victory in a row on their home turf since losing to Curwensville in the 2004 title game.
\”People don\’t realize how quick he is,\” Simcoe said of the 5-10, 180-pounder who has responded from being moved from wide receiver by accounting for more than 50 percent of the Falcons\’ offense this year. \”He can beat you outside, and if you overpursue, he\’ll cut back on you. He came close two or three times tonight of breaking one on a cutback.\”
Cavallari\’s 1,401 rushing yards are second in District 9 only to Curwensville star Nick Sipes, who really had to work for his yards against an aggressive defense that clogged up the inside and still was able to protect the flanks against the threat of quarterback Shawn Sopic\’s keepers and rollouts. Sipes, who carried 25 times, matched Cavallari\’s 142 yards, padding his totals to 1,577 for the season and 5,553 for his career, and
his touchdown with 7:39 to play ended Coudersport\’s shutout string at 20 consecutive quarters. However, the Golden Tide was limited to 184 yards, slight more than half its average.
\”Our kids have just been playing great defense all the way down the stretch,\” said Simcoe. \”A lot of people told them and a lot of people told a lot of people that we couldn\’t shut them down or stop them. I think, hopefully, they have a little different opinion of that now. They did a good job on that one drive, but for the most part of the game, our kids gave a heck of an effort. Cause Curwensville\’s good. They\’re tough. They\’ve got some size. They\’ve got a hard-running back. Our kids hung tough tonight. They did.\”
Curwensville Coach Andy Evanko also praised Cavallari and the Coudy defense but said the large crowd didn\’t see a quality performance from his team, which will take an 8-2 record, and the No. 3 seed, into its District 9 Class A quarterfinal home game against Ridgway Saturday at 7 p.m.
\”We\’re a better football team than that,\” he said. \”That could have been my fault for not having them prepared well enough to come out here and play. We didn\’t execute as well as we\’re capable of executing in the first. But the second half we executed a little better.\”
Offsides and illegal procedure penalties, 10 in all, plagued the Golden Tide throughout. The tone was set when defensive linemen jumped on two of the first three plays, and they had a difficult time reacting to the changes in cadence by alternating Falcon quarterbacks Boomer Wetzel and Justen Kinder.
Evanko thought the Falcons could have been penalized for head-bobbing by the quarterbacks early on but quickly added, \”After that, there was no excuse for it. The kids were a little anxious . They wanted to get into it, and we got burned by that quite a bit. And that hurt.\”
Another factor was the combination of a strong rush by the Falcons, who tackled Sopic behind the line of scrimmage six times, and dropped passes when he did have some protection made the Golden Tide offense pretty much one-dimensional. The senior signal-caller connected on only two of nine aerials for 24 yards, a surprisingly low output considering the production in recent outings.
\”The ball hits you in the hands, you\’ve got to catch the football,\” Evanko said. \”But some of those guys are young, and that was their first time in a game like this. So, I\’m sure we can only get better. We\’ve got to go back to work on Monday.\”
Most of the first half was played in Curwensville territory. Both offenses struggled in the first quarter, as the teams punted two times apiece and traded interceptions by Falcon Logan Hathaway and the Golden Tide\’s Sopic before the hosts shifted gears after Brandon McDonald\’s pinned them back on their three with a 40-yard kick late in the period.
Cavallari got them out of the shadows of their goal posts with a 23-yard jaunt around right end on third-and-three, and Wetzel was right on the money with two passes in crucial situations as Coudy marched to the game\’s first score in 14 plays, a pair of procedure penalties making them gain 107 yards. On third-and-20 at the Falcon 38, Wetzel dropped a perfect pass over a defender and into 6-5 junior Blair Heimel\’s for 19 yards, and Kinder moved the sticks with a fourth-down sneak. On third-and-10 at the Tide 20, Wetzel fired a strike to Hathaway on a slant pattern for another 19-yard pickup. Following a penalty, Cavallari dashed around left end for a five-yard touchdown to end the 5-1/2-minute drive with 7:57 left in the half. Kinder rolled left and found a wide open Heimel for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
\”That was a great drive,\” Simcoe said. \”Our kids were very patient. They just kept executing what was there. They didn\’t try to force anything. We took advantage of a couple things that we saw. The first time that we played them, we threw that 99-yard pass. There\’s two big drives. One\’s a one-play drive. The other was a dozen plays. But the result was the same. It got us what we needed at the time. Actually, this one was more rewarding because how we did it.\”
On the ensuing Curwensville possession, Evanko decided to gamble on fourth-and-two at the Golden Tide 39, but the Falcons were keying on Sipes. He never had a chance to break the line of scrimmage.
Three plays later, Cavallari grabbed a pitchout and turned left end on a 30-yard sprint to paydirt. He was stuffed on the PAT run, but the Falcons had more than enough points in the hopper with 4:20 remaining in the half.
Curwensville\’s offense perked up at the outset of the third quarter, but a delay-of-the-game penalty on fourth-and-one at the Coudy 45 forced Evanko to opt for a punt. It was more than five minutes before the Golden Tide got the ball back after the Falcons ran out of downs at the 25.
Coudy quickly regained possession when Sopic\’s quick pass was mishandled and ruled a lateral, with Drew Levavasseur recovering at the Tide 27. However, Sopic kept his team\’s hopes alive when he roared through to sack Dirk Cowburn for a nine-yard loss on what was to be a pass off a reverse.
Curwensville then drove 64 yards in 11 plays for its TD. Sipes got the call 10 times and answered with 65 yards, including the final six after yet another procedure penalty for the first scored yielded by Coudy since Week Five. He blasted through three Falcons for his 25th touchdown of the season and the 78th of his career, which is two short of the District 9 record. His PAT kick was just outside the left upright.
\”Nick was not going to be denied,\” Evanko said. \”But that shows the quality of back he is. Nick can just take the whole team and carry it on his shoulders. He\’s that good of an athlete.\”
Coudy responded by keeping the clock ticking for 5:42 with Cavallari carrying on eight of 10 plays before Kinder, in shotgun formation, quick-kicked to leave the Golden Tide inside its 20 with only 1:57 remaining.
On first down, Cavallari raced in from the backside to sack Sopic, who then hit Jesse Hoover for seven yards before two incompletions turned the ball back to the Falcons for two kneeldowns that erased the final 54.5 seconds.
A positive that Evanko took from the game was the way his team battled to the end.
\”They didn\’t quit on me,\” he said. \”And that\’s a big thing in life, too, not to quit, never to give up. They played the whole game. You can\’t ask for more than they displayed out there.\”
One good thing for the Golden Tide is that the players won\’t be able to dwell on the memory of a performance that was as much frustrating as disappointing for very long because of the 9-A Playoffs.
\”We\’ve got to get this behind us,\” Evanko said. \”Here we are. It\’s Ridgway. The hardest thing to do is beat anybody twice. Fortunately, we\’re at home. We\’ve got to go to work. We\’ve got to have a great week.\”
Two good weeks might result in one more crack at No. 1 seed Coudersport, which hosts Clarion Friday.
Ends — McDonald, Olson
Tackles — Horton, Kephart
Guards — Hawkins, Skebo
Center — Russell
Backs — Sopic, Sipes, Hess, Johnson
Subs — Botzman, Hoover, Caldwell, Holland, Kalgren, Michaels, Dell\’Antonio, McGary, Kahl, Starr, Guy
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Curwensville 0 0 0 6 — 6
Coudersport 0 14 0 0 — 14
Cou — Cavallari 5 run (Heimel pass from Kinder), 7:57
Cou — Cavallari 30 run (Run kick), 4:20
Cur — Sipes 6 run (Kick failed), 7:39
First Downs Rushing 8 10
First Downs Passing 1 2
First Downs Penalties 0 1
Total First Downs 9 13
Yards Gained Rushing 192 207
Yards Lost Rushing 32 26
Rushes-Net Yards 42-160 44-181
Passes Att-Com-Int 9-2-1 10-2-1
Passing Yards 24 50
Total Plays-Yards 51-184 54-231
Punts-Average 3-32.7 3-28
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 10-50 5-30
RUSHING — Curwensville: Sipes 25-142, Sopic 13-11, Hess 4-7. Coudersport: Cavallari 28-142, Knight 5-37, Thomas 1-10, Levavasseur 2-8, Kinder 4-minus 4, Cowburn 1-minus 9, Team 3-minus 3.
PASSING — Curwensville: Sopic 9-2-0-1, 24 yards. Coudersport: Wetzel 6-2-0-1, 38 yards; Kinder 6-1-0-0, 12 yards; Cavallari 1-0-0-0, 0 yards.
RECEIVING — Curwensville: Botzman 1-17, Hoover 1-7. Coudersport: Hathaway 2-31, Heimel 1-19.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — Curwensville: Holland 1. Coudersport: Levavasseur 1.
INTERCEPTIONS — Curwensville: Sopic 1. Coudersport: Hathaway 1.