If momentum is the key ingredient in football, then the Curwensville Golden Tide certainly has it on its side. After losing two games early in the year, the Tide went on and won the last five games of the regular season. Then last week, they culminated a successful regular season by defeating previously unbeaten Cameron County 6-0 to win their first AML Championship in three years.
Now, the focus is on a new task. The Tide must turn their attention to the District 9 playoffs as the first round begins this week for Class A. Standing in their way is the No. 8 seed, KSAC conference’s Redbank Valley Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are going to have a tough time against the Tide. After starting their season 2-2, they lost four of their remaining five games. A majority of those losses were blowouts, so the Bulldogs have a lot to prove with this opportunity.
Leading the way for Redbank Valley’s run game is running back Pat Goheen. He has shined despite the team’s record, rushing for 618 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He will certainly be on the mind of head coach Andy Evanko.
However, Redbank Valley poses a threat that Curwensville has not faced all season, which is a dual-quarterback system. Junior Brandon Bain and Senior Shiloh Buchleitner have been tough to deal with for all the KSAC opponents the Bulldogs have faced. Bain has completed 46 percent of his passes, going 40 for 88 and passing for 668 yards and eight touchdowns.
Buchleitner has thrown the ball on a limited basis, going 13 for 29 and 256 yards, including one touchdown.
The problem with Redbank Valley in either category is the turnover ratio. As a team, Goheen, Bain and Buchleitner have fumbled the ball 12 times, losing nine of them. Bain and Buchleitner have also had their problems with interceptions as they have a combined 12 picks. When looking at their defense, they only have eight total interceptions and recovered seven fumble recoveries. The Bulldogs will need to improve on this to stay competitive with Curwensville.
That will not be an easy task as they are going against the No. 1 team in the Allegany Mountain League. Curwensville counters the Bulldogs’ dual-quarterback threat with their own duo on the ground. The running game for Curwensville this year has been nothing short of spectacular, rushing as a team for nearly 2700 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Leading the way for the Tide is their senior running back Jed Greslick, who has been brilliant running the ball. Greslick is just two yards shy of 1400 on the season and has 15 touchdowns. He has also been very important in the passing game, catching 15 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Greslick scored the only touchdown last week against Cameron County that game Curwensville the AML title. Expect Greslick to be really involved in the game plan.
The other back for Curwensville that has done exceptionally well when Greslick has not gotten the ball has been sophomore Alex Holland. Rushing for 727 yards on 134 carries, including eight touchdowns, Holland has complemented his senior teammate very well.
The dual-running back system for Curwensville has worked well, but the player that could be the game-breaker could quite possibly be quarterback Sam Gardner. Whether he is passing the ball or running out of the backfield, Gardner has shown he can be dangerous.
On the ground, the Tide quarterback has 326 yards on 68 carries, plus seven touchdowns. Through the air, he has gone 34 of 70 for 468 yards and four touchdowns. Passing or running, Gardner will be on the mind of the Bulldog defense.
It will only be the first round of the playoffs, but both teams will be playing as if it was for the championship. Riverside Stadium will play host to this first-round matchup Friday night, with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.