COUDERSPORT – At the end of the third quarter of Friday night’s season opener between Curwensville and Coudersport, Golden Tide fans had to start thinking that they had seen this all before. After all, the Falcons had just taken the lead with no time left on the clock. However, the Tide was not about to have a repeat of last year’s finale and shut down the home team in the fourth quarter with big plays of their own to mount a 34-26 come from behind victory.
“We knew this was a big game; Coudersport is well coached and always plays us tough,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. “But this team of ours has come together so well – we kept going and seemed to get stronger in the fourth quarter.”
Last season, it was Coudersport who ended the Tide’s season with a 28-27 win that included a final score with :16 seconds on the clock. On Friday night, a 96-yard run by Falcon speedster Caden Whitman ran out the clock on the third period to provide a 26-21 lead. Luckily for Curwensville there was one period left this time, and that was the period they chose for some of the best football of the night.
The Golden Tide certainly got off the bus ready to play at C.A.R.P. Park in Coudersport and put the pressure on early. The Falcons won the coin toss and deferred to Curwensville and the Tide found the end-zone in just :43. Senior wide-out Jordan Russell set up his team at mid field after a 34-yard kick-off return. After an initial 5-yard run by tailback Josh Greslick, quarterback Hunter McCracken connected with Russell on a 45-yard scoring pass to take the lead early. Spencer Smeal tacked on the extra-point for a 7-0 advantage.
When the hosts tried to counter the quick score, McCracken ended the threat from his defensive position with an interception of Coudy’s Ethan Hite in the end-zone. Curwensville’s ensuing drive stalled, and after a punt, the Falcons mounted a seven-play drive that covered 72 yards. Caden Whitman covered the last five yards on the ground. Coudersport found the going for the PAT more difficult as place-kicker and lineman Jeffrey McManus was injured on the opening kick-off and the failed run attempt left the score at 7-6.
The lead for Curwensville was extended as Junior Zach Tibbens capped an 11-play drive that pushed the game into the second quarter. Tibbens’ 5-yard burst at the 10:49 mark gave the Golden Tide a 14-6 advantage.
“Tibbens and Greslick played so well in their first opportunity to perform as varsity starters,” said Evanko. “Russell kept us going when we needed him to, and Hunter was just exceptional on both sides of the ball.”
However, the Falcons soared back. The hosts would score twice before the intermission. The first score came on a 40-yard passing connection between Hite and Zac Elenchin. The second came after two Tide mental errors – an unsportsman-like penalty and an interception. Whitman took the hand off after the interception for a 65-yard score. The first PAT failed while Hite ran in the second for a 20-14 halftime lead.
The opening drive in the second half found the Falcons with the ball and the Tide desperate to stop their scoring. Curwensville was able to shut down their hosts as Jake Stiles fell on top of a sloppy hand off that got loose. The turnover turned into a Tide score as Brad Coudriet provided the final 17 yards for a touchdown and a 21-20 advantage.
Curwensville would allow the Falcons just nine snaps in the third quarter – two of which led to fumbles. After Brad Stubbs recovered the second dropped exchange from Hite, the Tide was back in business and moving the ball. However, the drive did stall on the Coudy four-yard line with just four-and-a-half seconds on the clock. Whitman then dashed down the sideline for a 96-yard touchdown that gave the lead back to the hosts at 26-21 after three periods. Coudy would threaten no more.
In the fourth quarter, Curwensville’s defense and offense dominated as Coudersport showed signs of fatigue with cramping. The Tide opened the frame with an 11-play drive that ended on a third-down, one-yard plunge by junior Alex Olson. A failed two-point conversion, however, left the score at 27-26 in favor of the Tide with 7:15 to play.
“We made some mental errors out there tonight,” said Evanko. “They were dropping (with cramps) on almost every play, but we displayed a lot of guts out there. Our desire to win was outstanding. I couldn’t be more excited for these kids.”
The Tide defense came up huge on the next series as it denied the Falcons from getting a first down and took over on the hosts 40-yard line. One play later Tibbens would not be denied and scampered 40-yards for another TD and a Smeal PAT set the mark at 34-26.
With the lead at eight and 4:59 left on the clock, both teams shut down drives – the Tide by forcing another fumble and the Falcons by taking over on downs.
Coudersport would have one last chance to push the ball down field. However, on second-and-one, the victory was sealed for the visitors. Hite found an open target in Alex Hershey for 16 yards, but when Hershey turned for more, Tide senior Austin Pollick separated him from the ball. Stiles swarmed in for his second recovery of the night and Curwensville ran out the clock for the win.
“Austin Pollick hit big all night long. He’s a big hitter,” Evanko beamed. “We all played large at the end of this game. This was just a great high school football game played by two good teams.”
Tibbens finished the game with 19 carries for 127 yards and two scores, while Greslick complimented that with 21 carries and 121 yards. Whitman pounded out 227 yards on 15 hauls and three touchdowns. McCracken was 5-of-8 and threw for 92 yards on the night with one interception and a score. Russell caught all five passes for the Tide.
The Golden Tide will be home next Friday night to take on Cameron County in their home opener. The Red Raiders fell to Brockway in week one 42-8.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Curwensville – 7 7 7 13 – 34
Coudersport – 6 14 6 0- 26
Curwensville: 45-yard pass from McCracken to Russell (Smeal kick), 11:07.
Coudersport: 5-yard run by Whitman (run failed), 3:48.
Curwensville: 5-yard run by Tibbens (Smeal kick), 10:49.
Coudersport: 40-yard pass from Hite to Elenchin (run failed), 5:59.
Coudersport: 65-yard run by Whitman (Hite run), 4:26.
Curwensville: 17-yard run by Coudriet (Smeal kick), 5:38.
Coudersport: 96-yard run by Whitman (run failed), 0:00.
Curwensville: 1-yard run by Olson (run failed), 7:15.
Curwensville: 40-yard byTibbens Smeal kick), 4:59.
Curwensville / Coudersport
FIRST DOWNS: 16 / 9
RUSH YARDS: 292 / 309
PASS YARDS: 92 / 91
TOTAL YARDS: 384 / 400
COMP/ATT/TD/INT: 5-8-1-1 / 5-6-1-1
FUMBLES: 1 / 5
FUMBLES LOST: 0 / 4
CURWENSVILLE: Greslick-21 carries, 121 yards, Coudriet- 9 carries, 43 yards, TD; Tibbens 19 carries, 127 yards, 2 TD’s, Olsen 2 carries 5 yards, TD, McCracken 1 carry, 3 yards; Team 3 carries.
COUDERSPORT: Whitman – 15 carries for 227 yards, 3 TD’s; Furwman – 6 carries for 18 yards; Freeman – 15 carries, 106 yards; McCusker – 10 carries; 19 yards; Elenchin – 5 carries, 1 yard.
CURWENSVILLE: McCracken – 8 attempts, 5 completions, 92 yards, 1 touchdowns; 1 interception.
COUDERSPORT: Hite – 6 attempts, 5 completions, 91 yards, 1 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
CURWENSVILLE: Russell- 5 receptions, 92 yards, TD.
COUDERSPORT: – Freeman – 2 receptions, 22 yards; Elenchin-2 receptions, 56 yards, TD; Whitman-1 reception, 13 yards.