CURWENSVILLE — In football, the familiar statement is that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The Curwensville Area High School football team leaned on that theme in the first round of the District IX Class A playoffs last night to hold off a determined Smethport team 29-18.
The Hubbers logged 22 yards more of total offense on the night than the Golden Tide, but couldn’t find a way to pull off the upset against their hosts. It was due to the Tide defense which intercepted three passes and recovered three fumbles to hold Smethport at bay.
“Across the board defensively our guys played very well,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. “Coach (Chris)Fulmar does such a great job preparing the defense for every game. And we are blessed that we have such athletic kids who can play so well.”
The stingy Curwensville defense shut down Smethport in the early going. In the first quarter, the Hubbers could only muster one first down and three plays that netted positive gains. Among those plays, junior linebacker Alex Holland recovered a fumble and as part of the special teams, Jesse Zorger blocked a punt to help give the Tide the advantage.
After Holland’s fumble recovery with 4:50 left to play in the opening quarter, Curwensville used five plays to cover 47 yards for the initial score of the night. Sophomore quarterback Hunter McCracken connected on passes of 25 and 14 yards to Zorger and Shae Best respectively on the scoring drive while Holland finished what he started with a two-yard plunge into the endzone. Taylor Bumbarger added the point after to give the hosts the lead at the 2:50 mark of the first quarter.
Zorger’s blocked punt lead to the second score of the game which came on the first play of the second quarter. With the ball on the Smethport 22-yard line, Alec Starr, a senior quarterback, found tight end Kyle Barrett at the one-yard line on the first play of the drive. The Hubbers held on second down to force the teams to change ends of the field. However, Starr followed center Todd Munchak on the very next play and Bumbarger’s kick put the score at 14-0 with 11:57 left in the half.
“Our defense did come up big when we needed it tonight,” said Evanko. “We had big interceptions, fumble recoveries and solid stops on the goal line. The kids came out tonight to hit hard and really came through for us.”
The defense played so well early that Smethport found themselves down 21-0 after their first four possessions. The Tide put the game out of reach in those possessions as Holland came up with his second fumble recovery, and nine plays later McCracken found Zorger wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard TD pass. Bumbarger again split the posts for the 21-0 lead with 6:34 in the first half.
While the winning points were on the board for Curwensville, no one told Smethport that they should roll over and go home. McCracken pulled in an interception at the Curwensville five-yard line on the Hubbers’ next series, but the great defensive play ended up giving the guests good field position when the Tide offense stalled.
A poor punt and a good run back put the Hubbers on the Curwensville 20. Two plays later Ryan Wells, who ran the ball on both plays, scored on a four-yard run with 3:24 left in the half. Once again the defense flexed its muscle to stop the two-point conversion short.
“We have a tendency to lose focus when we get up on them,” Evanko noted. “Sometimes, if a team is good enough, they can come back on you before you get things back on track.”
Curwensville would take longer to get back their focus than was comfortable for their coach and fans as Smethport scored twice in the third quarter to make the game interesting. On their opening drive of the second half, the Hubbers covered 50 yards on nine plays as Kevin Lord scored on a two-yard run at the 4:50 mark. Once again the two-point conversion was denied for a 21-12 difference.
Two plays later, the Curwensville snap was fumbled and Smethport was back in business. On the play an unsportsman-like flag flew and the ball moved to the Curwensville 25 yard line. It took just five plays for the next score with Kolin Strawcutter scampering the final 10 yards. Lord was stopped short on the PAT attempt, and Tide fans were getting nervous as the score moved to 21-18 with 2:10 left in the third period.
“They threw some things at us that seemed to confuse us for a while,” Evanko admitted. “Smethport played very well tonight, but we didn’t panic. I think this tough game will help us mature and handle things better down the road.”
The Tide offense seemed to be sluggish through the middle periods and needed a jumpstart to find the fire once again. That spark came on the ensuing kick off.
Curwensville drew another 15-yard penalty on the Smethport TD, and the tee was set up on the Curwensville 45 for the kick off. Good coverage was sure to put the Tide deep in their own territory. However, senior Shae Best woke up the crowd and his teammates with a 76-yard return to the Smethport 16-yard line.
Four carries by Holland covered the 16 yards. The score came from one yard out with :07 left in the third period. An off side penalty put visions of two-point conversion in the Tide’s head, and McCracken scrambled to his left and dove in for the 29-18 lead.
The two teams traded punts and turnovers thoughout the forth quarter and the only real threat of a score was an 80-yard run to the house by Holland that was called back for a block in the back.
“We had too many penalties and shot ourselves in the foot on several occasions,” said Evanko. “We were lucky because you can’t usually get away with that many penalties at this level. I’m just so happy to be able to have practice on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday”
NOTES: Curwensville was flagged 10 times in the game for a total of 83 yards. Smethport also had three takeaways including a fumble recovery and two interceptions. Holland finished the game with 131 yards rushing on 28 carries to lead all rushers. He now has 1973 yards on the season.
In other Class A action Friday night, Cameron County defeated Clarion 19-13 and will play the Tide next week at a site and time to be determined. The number two seed Redbank Valley shut out Kane 15-0 and will play Port Allegany who shocked Elk County Catholic 47-40 in a game that took four overtimes to determine the winner.
Score by Quarter
Smethport 0 6 12 0 – 18
Curwensville 7 14 8 0 – 29
Curwensville: 2-yard run by Hollad (Bumbarger kick), 2:50
Curwensville: 1-yard run by Starr (Bumbarger kick), 11:57
Curwensville: 10-yard pass from McCracken to Zorger (Bumbarger kick), 6:34
Smethport: 4-yard run by Wells (run failed), 3:24
Smethport: 2-yard run by Lord (run failed), 4:50
Smethport: 10-yard run by Strawcutter (run failed), 2:10
Curwensville: 1-yard run by Holland (McCracken run) 0:07
SMETHPORT / CURWENSVILLE
FIRST DOWNS: 10 / 12
RUSH YARDS: 167 / 118
PASS YARDS: 58 / 85
TOTAL YARDS: 225 / 203
PENALTIES: 7 / 10
PENALTY YARDS: 61 / 83
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 5-12 -0-3 / 8-15-1-2
FUMBLES: 3 / 3
FUMBLES LOST: 3 / 1
SMETHPORT: Wells – 12 carries, 76 yards, TD; Zetwick- 5 carries, 24 yards; Lord- 11 carries, 37 yards, TD; Strawcutter- 4 carries, 17 yards, TD; Farrell- 2 carries, 13 yards; TOTAL- 34 carries, 167 yards, 3 TD’s.
CURWENSVILLE: Holland-28 carries, 131 yards, 2 TD; Dimmick- 5 carries 11 yards; Starr-4 carries -20 yards, TD; McCracken-3 carries, -4 yards; TOTAL- 40 carries, 118 yards, 3 TD.
SMETHPORT: Lord-5 for 12, 58 yards, 3 INT.
CURWENSVILLE: McCracken- 7 for 11, 64 yards, TD; Starr- 1 for 4, 21 yards, 2 INT.
SMETHSPORT: Wells – 1 reception, 0 yards; Strawcutter- 2 receptions, 27 yards; Paulik – 1 reception, 17; Okerlund – 1 reception, 14 yards .
CURWENSVILLE: Best-2 receptions, 22 yards; Zorger -4 receptions, 38 yards, TD; Hoover -1 reception, 4 yards; Barrett-1 reception, 21 yards.