CURWENSVILLE – The final week of the regular season finds the Curwensville Area High School football team in a somewhat comfortable position – win or lose, and the spot in the District IX Playoffs doesn’t change. However, finding incentive to win should be easy when Sheffield invades Riverside Stadium.
The Wolverines (5-3 overall, 4-1 league) claimed their first ever Allegheny Mountain League – North Division title by bumping off Smethport 29-26 last week. A Sheffield football team hadn’t won a title of any kind since 1964 before out-playing the Hubbers in the second half a week ago. The Golden Tide now has the chance to dampen the celebration with a win over the North Champs. The only AML-South team that has fallen to the Wolverines this season has been a winless Elk County Catholic.
Sheffield will now face Kane, the AML-South representative, next week for the AML Championship contest. The game will be played in Kane on either Friday or Saturday.
While none of the coaches involved in any of these game is looking past Friday night, Curwensville’s fate in the district bracket will be determined by the AML title game. Regardless of this week’s outcome, the Golden Tide will either be the number two or four team at districts. A Kane win over Sheffield puts the Tide in the second spot; a Wolverine win in the AML game sets Curwensville as the fourth seed. Kane defeated Sheffield earlier this season by a 34-6 count.
“Regardless of the situation, we don’t want to have any kind of a let down at this point in the season,” said Tide head coach Andy Evanko. “They’re the champs of the North. That had to be a good win for them; a positive statement for their program, but that was last week.
“Our season played out exactly how you would want it to – you want to play a quality team before you get into the playoffs because there are no easy games past this point.”
Last Saturday’s match-up in Sheffield was a winner-take all game as Smethport held an identical 3-1 record in the North Division. The Wolverines trailed 18-7 at halftime before Jereek Jackson broke loose in the third quarter for a pair of touchdowns to give his team the lead. However, the game winning score came with 1:51 remaining when quarterback Adam Higby connected with Noah Heeter for a 35-yard pass to spoil the Hubbers celebration.
Higby was 8-of-12 on the afternoon for 100 yards through the air while Jackson finished the game with three rushing touchdowns for 173 yards on 24 carries. Heeter caught three balls for 54 yards on the day.
“They have a pretty balanced offense,” noted Evanko. “Jackson has great speed and vision when he runs. He might well be the best runner that we’ve seen to this point in the year. Higby runs well out of the passing sets and throws the ball pretty well when he does pass. They are a good team, and it works out perfectly for us, because there are no cake walks left in the season.”
Curwensville (7-1 overall, 3-1 league) will look to take its second four-game winning streak of the season into the post-season. The Golden Tide’s only blemish on the season was the loss to AML-South Champ Kane. Kane will move into Class AA in districts allowing the Tide the possible second seed.
Last week against Elk County, Curwensville ran wild to gain 474 yards on the ground with Zach Tibbens and Alex Olson combining for all five touchdowns. Tibbens has run 217 times on the season for 1,612 yards and 19 touchdowns. Olson has six scores on 42 jaunts and 340 yards. Other ground game contributors include Hunter Johnson with 194 yards on 35 carries and Trey McKenzie with 23 carries for 163 yards.
Quarterback Kyle Johns didn’t need to throw the ball once against ECC, but has 209 yards on the season with a 23-for-49 effort. Austin Jacobson has pulled in six passes for 64 yards to lead the team.
The defense continues to play big for the Tide as Jake Stiles leads the team in tackles with 57. Bryce McClure and Jacobson have recorded 47 and 42 knockdowns respectively. Jacobson has picked off four passes while Stiles has three grabs for the defense. Jonathan Miller has recorded six sacks while McClure has added four-and-a-half.
Kicker Jason Thorp will also look to continue to help the team. Thorp, in his first season in a gridiron uniform, will be able to focus a bit more on his duty as his soccer season has ended, and he recently concluded a golf season placing 25th in the state tournament. Thorp has handled most of the kick-off duties this season and has converted on 19-of-24 extra-point attempts.
“This season has been a lot different than the other sports I play,” Thorp pointed out. “It’s been an awesome experience to be able to contribute to the team, but every time I go out to kick is still a nerve-racking experience.”
The Tide’s team effort on the season has secured them a home game in the district playoffs, however, ironically, their opponent will be determined by Sheffield in next week’s AML Title tilt.
“Every time we take the field, we want to play our best,” Evanko added. “This is another game that we will come out and hit, and scrap, and do our best to win the game. If we have to root for Kane next week – go Kane.”
Curwensville will look to start what they hope is a two-game losing streak for the Wolverines going into the playoffs on Friday night. Kick-off is set for 7:00 at Riverside Stadium.
Golden Tide Scoreboard:
|08/30||COUDERSPORT||34 – 26||1 – 0|
|09/06||@ Cameron County||21 – 20||2 – 0|
|09/13||SMETHPORT||42 – 13||3 – 0|
|09/20||@ St. Joe’s Catholic Academy||25 – 7||4 – 0|
|09/27||@ Kane||8 – 42||4 – 1|
|10/04||BROCKWAY||42 – 22||5 – 1|
|10/11||@ Ridgway||27 – 24||6 – 1|
|10/19||@ Elk County Catholic||35 – 8||7 – 1|