EMPORIUM — Walking off the field, head coach Andy Evanko and his Curwensville Golden Tide football team were surrounded by fans from the Cameron County Red Raiders. Every fan was cheering and showing appreciation, congratulating the players and coaching staff.
What they had witnessed on Friday night was a smash mouth, very competitive football game between two talented football teams.
The unfortunate part for Curwensville was that bthey were not the victors. After erasing an early 12-point deficit, the Golden Tide took the game to overtime only to have the Red Raiders make a critical extra point to give them the 19-18 victory.
Just outside the locker room, Evanko was emotionally worn out. Having seen his players put on their best performance all year, he was nothing short of proud and honored.
“I’m so proud of these kids, you have no idea,” Evanko said. “As far as I’m concerned, they left everything on that field tonight. I cannot ask for anything more.”
The teams were nearly identical on the field. The Red Raiders went for a total of 268 yards, while Curwensville gained a total of 234. The ground game was the big for Curwensville as they gained 209 yards against a very strong Red Raider defense. Jed Greslick once again led in this category with 105 yards on 26 carries. Alex Holland also had a stellar performance on the ground as he went for 76 yards on 16 carries.
For Cameron County, it was Andy Lippert leading the charge for the running game as he went for 103 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown. No other Raider player had more than 28 yards rushing.
Curwensville got the ball first to start the game at their own 32, and came out with a ground attack that not only wore down the Cameron County defense, but also chewed away at the clock. The drive would go for a total of 16 plays down to the Red Raider 4 yard-line where the defense made a strong stand to keep Curwensville out of the end zone. Greslick would attempt a 21-yard field goal, however his kick went right of the uprights, leaving the Tide with no points after a near eight-minute drive.
Cameron County got the ball following the missed attempt at their own 20. Lippert fumbled the ball on the second play from scrimmage, however did manage to get the ball back. The Red Raiders lost five yards on the play, leaving them faced with a 3rd and 15.
It was then that quarterback Jason Blose, who was 5 for 17, made his biggest play of the game. He found Lippert on a crossing route underneath the Tide defense. Curwensville missed the first tackle and then Lippert used his speed to run past the secondary for the 85-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, leaving the score 6-0 with 2:37 left to go in the first quarter.
Curwensville went three-and-out on their next possession and were forced to punt, giving Cameron County the ball at their own 42. However, the Tide defense held their ground and forced the Red Raiders into a punting situation. The punt was faked to Blose, but the Tide defense held strong and got the ball near mid-field.
Unfortunately, on the very first play from scrimmage, quarterback Sam Gardner, who went 5 for 16, under threw his receiver, Daniel Hess, and it fell right into the hands of Hunter Bardo. The ensuing possession for the Red Raiders saw them drive down the field with their run game. It was Lippert once again making a major statement as he found a gap in the middle of the Tide defense and he raced 54 yards for his second touchdown of the night. The failed two-point conversion kept the game at 12-0.
Just as quickly as Cameron County built their lead, it began to shrink as on the ensuing kickoff, Holland grabbed the ball at the Tide 13, found a gap up the middle, and sped to an 87-yard touchdown return. The Tide failed on the two-point conversion, leaving the score 12-6.
“Holland’s return really got us going,” said Evanko of his running back.
Curwensville tried an on-side kick to catch the Raiders off guard, however the ball did not go 10 yards, giving Cameron County the ball on the Tide 49. Fortunately for the Tide, the good field position did not lead to any points as the Raiders were stopped on fourth down at the Tide 25.
Curwensville got the ball back with 7:32 left in the half, and once again elected to go to their ground attack to milk away the clock and wear down the defense. As the drive continued, it was evident that the defense was getting tired, as Curwensville was able to convert two fourth-down attempts as they drove to the Cameron County 7 yard-line. One play later, Gardner swept right and put the ball in the end zone. Greslick’s extra point was blocked, and the score stayed 12-12 heading into halftime.
In the second half, the teams went back and forth with field position, with both defenses making major stops and forcing punts.
With just under two minutes left in the game, Cameron County had the ball on their own 46 yard-line, but the Curwensville defense was not going to let this one go down without a fight as they held the offense to only one yard, forcing a punt.
With no timeouts at their disposal, the Tide took over with only 59 seconds left. After a long gain by Holland on second down, Gardner went back to pass on a 1st and 10 from the Raider 42. He was swept out of the pocket but found an opening on the right, then cut across the field before being stopped at the 20. Exactly like last year, these two teams went to overtime to settle the score.
Curwensville got the ball first at the 10 yard-line. Both Gardner and Greslick tried running the ball, but were stuffed after only three yards. On third down, Gardner went play action, catching the defense off guard, and connected with Holland for his first passing touchdown of the season. The extra point was blocked, but the Tide had their first lead of the game at 18-12.
With both sides of the stadium loud and rumbling, Cameron County took the field for the chance to tie or win the game. Blose’s first pass went incomplete, and his run on second down only gained one yard. On 3rd and goal from the nine, he finally connected with Hunter Bardo for the touchdown.
Cameron County called timeout, wanting to calm the players down. Finally, they went onto the field for the extra point. Both sides of the stadium were at a fever pitch, making it seem like it was Beaver Stadium. The snap went back, and Bardo’s kick went right through the uprights, and the home crowd went crazy as the Red Raiders remained undefeated.
The emotion could be seen on the players, some in tears as they went to the locker room. But, Evanko was quick to tell his players that they had the ability and were going to use the game as motivation for the rest of the season.
“We had such a great week of practice, we just came up short,” Evanko said. “But, it takes something like this to gain our confidence. It’s a tough one, that’s for sure.”
That confidence will be needed as Curwensville (2-2) will play host to the spread offense of Brockway next Friday night. Cameron County (4-0) will look to continue their undefeated season as they travel to Coudersport. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CURWENSVILLE 0 12 0 0 6 18
CAMERON COUNTY 6 6 0 0 7 19
RED RAIDERS: 85-yard pass from Blose to Lippert (Bardo kick blocked) 2:37
RED RAIDERS: 2-yard run from Blose (2-point conversion failed) 9:05
GOLDEN TIDE: 87-yard kickoff return by Holland (2-point conversion failed) 8:52
GOLDEN TIDE: 7-yard run by Gardner (Greslick kick no good) 0:55
GOLDEN TIDE: 7-yard pass from Gardner to Holland (Greslick kick blocked)
RED RAIDERS: 9-yard pass from Blose to Bardo (Bardo kick)
CURWENSVILLE CAMERON COUNTY
FIRST DOWNS: 14 6
RUSH YARDS: 209 145
PASS YARDS: 25 123
TOTAL YARDS: 234 268
PENALTIES: 5 5
PENALTY YARDS: 30 42
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 5/16/1/1 5/17/1/1
FUMBLES: 2 3
FUMBLES LOST: 0 1
TIME OF POSSESSION: 31:09 16:51
CURWENSVILLE: Greslick-26 carries, 105 yards; Holland-16 carries, 76 yards, 87-yard kickoff return TD; Gardner-7 carries, 35 yards, TD
CAMERON COUNTY: Lippert-13 carries, 103 yards, TD; Blose-7 carries, 28 yards; Frey-6 carries, 14 yards
CURWENSVILLE: Gardner: 5 for 15, 25 yards, TD, INT; Greslick-0 for 1, 0 yards
CAMERON COUNTY: Blose-5 for 17, 123 yards, 2 TD, INT
CURWENSVILLE: Greslick-3 receptions, 10 yards; Kyler-1 reception, 8 yards; Holland-1 reception, 7 yards, TD
CAMERON COUNTY: Grimm-2 receptions, 31 yards; Lippert-1 reception, 85 yards, TD; Bardo-1 reception, 9 yards, TD