CURWENSVILLE – With an opening week win under their belt, head coach Andy Evanko and the Curwensville Area High School football team will pack the bus and take to the road in week two looking for a victory away from the comforts of home. The GPS is set for Emporium where the Golden Tide will battle Cameron County.
The Red Raiders are coming off of a tough 21-18 loss to Brockway a week ago, but hope the echoes of victory will ring true for their first contest on friendly soil.
“This week will be another opportunity for our guys to grow up a little more,” Evanko noted. “It will be a hostile environment with noisy fans, and everyone wants a piece of you. We have to find a way to play our game well and block out the things we can’t control.”
Last week against the Rovers, Cameron County seemed to live and die by the big play. Passing and running for a pair of touchdowns aided by big yardage plays, and also scoring on a 59-yard punt return helped the Raiders stay within striking distance. However, the Raiders also set up Brockway on a failed, fake punt and crucial penalties that either kept Rover drives alive or haulted Raider attempts.
“On film it looked like they win the game if they play it straight,” Evanko shared. “Cameron County’s defense was holding up Brockway, and playing them tough. I think the attempted big play may have actually hurt them.”
Quarterback Tucker Britton moved the offense for the Raiders as he finished the game with 109 passing yards on 9-of-22 effort. He also ran for 95 yards on 15 carries. The top receivers for Britton were John Causer with 46 yards on three receptions with a score and Eric Spehalski with three grabs for 52 yards. Spehalski also returned the punt for a touchdown. Nate Andrus also provided some leg-work with seven carries for 42 yards.
“Their quarterback is very good,” observed Evanko. “He has speed and is a good scrambler out of the pocket. On top of that, he has a strong arm and can go down field on you – he’s a problem.
“The Andrus kid is fast as well and they have guys with good hands to catch the ball. We have to contain them all, stay in our defensive lanes, keep Britton in the pocket, and wrap up tackles.”
Defensively, Evanko noted the play of the Cameron County line. The Red Raiders dared Brockway to run up the middle where they had little success while containing the outside sweep as well.
“They put (Jack) Karsten at the nose, and he just swallows up runners while the rest of the team covers the outside. He is such an athlete in the middle, and the outside guys react quickly to stop the run well.”
Karsten is a 6-4, 300-pound junior who can physically play off would-be blockers until the rest of the young, and average sized line funnels everything to him.
Week one for the Tide also featured some big plays – several on offense by senior Zach Tibbens. Tibbens scored three times last week ; a 19-yard run , an 82-yard kick-off return and a 44-yard run. Tibbens rushed for 180 yards on the night. However, when Curwensville needed to move the ball they were successful as quarterback Travis Lansberry rolled into the end zone from a yard out and Trey McKenzie carried the ball four times for 31 yards including a 17-yard TD jaunt.
“Like Cameron County, we’re pretty young ourselves,” said Evanko, “but we’re coming along. We saw good things from a variety of players last week, and we have to build on that.”
Defensively, the Golden Tide was able to stop the Falcons when they needed a stop. Junior lineman Johnathan Miller was in on 11 stops last week while classmate Jake Stiles added 10 with a tackle for loss. Seniors Bryce McClure and Austin Jacobson totaled eight tackles each while Tibbens posted the team’s lone sack.
One aspect of the game that the Black and Gold hope to improve on is the passing game. In his first varsity start, Lansberry connected on 1-of-5 passes for seven yards.
“I hope we can play with more confidence this week and be more diversified,” said Evanko. “They are very effective on defense with what they have, and we have to be more effective in all aspects of our game.
“We grew up a bit last week when we were able to overcome a 20-20 battle,” beamed Evanko. “It’s not going to be easy to play on the road, but , hopefully, we will execute and be up to the challenge.”
The Golden Tide defeated Cameron County last season by a 46-20 count. Kick-off in Emporium is slated for 7:00