CURWENSVILLE – The District IX Class A Football Championships move into semifinal action this week with a pair of crossover games as the Allegheny Mountain League meets the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference. Both games will be played at DuBois High School. At 1:00, the Curwensville Area High School team will face Redbank Valley while Clarion and Brockway face off at 6:00.
The Golden Tide (9-1) earned its spot in this week’s game with a 56-28 win over Sheffield, and the Bulldogs (7-3) downed Ridgway 31-26. Clarion (11-0) ousted Union 49-0 with Brockway dumping Smethport 53-28 in other quarterfinal action.
“It’s that time of year when you have to get accustomed to being unaccustomed,” said Tide head coach Andy Evanko of the unfamiliar opponent. “We want to be right where we are. This is what we’ve worked all year for, and there can be no excuses.”
Looking at the Redbank squad, it appears that they have run a fairly balanced offense with 1600 yards on the ground and 1435 yards through the air. The Bulldogs’ stats show nine different rushers and as many receivers who have at least one touch on the season.
Junior quarterback Jake Dougherty has completed 99-of-194 passes for 1432 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Dougherty’s favorite target has been senior Mitch Blose. Blose has pulled in 26 balls on the season for 509 yards and four scores. Other aerial threats include senior Kyle Shrecengost with 281 yards on 21 catches with four TD’s as well, Connor Shoemaker with two scores in 21 catches for 251 yards, and Quentin Brocious with 145 yards on 15 grabs.
While the passing game has been strong, the true bite of the Bulldogs comes on the ground. Through the air RBV has scored 12 times, but on the ground they have punched it in 30 times. When its time to carry the ball, the load falls on the shoulders of senior Mark Strothers. Strothers has taken 101 hand-offs on the season for 998 yards and 18 scores. Blose is the second leading runner with 208 yards on 38 carries.
“They really do spread the ball around quite a bit,” Evanko said. “They have a very good receiver, a strong quarterback, and the Strothers kid is a tough back. Last week we got up early; then took a breath and were suddenly up by only seven points. We really have to come out and play every down this week.”
Defensively, the seniors play a big part in the game as well. Six of the Bulldogs’ top tacklers are all playing for one more game in their high school career. The defense has been tough all season with 12 interceptions, eight sacks and seven fumble recoveries. To be successfull, the Tide must take care of the football.
“All of their seniors contribute, and they have a nice combination of a big line and athleticism,” Evanko noted. “We have to battle the size, diversity and experience of this big, explosive team.”
The only common opponent for the two squads came in the form of Ridgway last week. Redbank and Smethport were supposed to battle on the final week of the regular season, but the game was cancelled. Curwensville bounced Ridgway 27-24 in the regular season.
Curwensville will try to counter the Bulldog offense with a defense that has come up big since week one and seems to be getting stronger each week. The Tide pass rush has upended opposing quarterbacks 20 times thus far while posting 31 take-aways with 14 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries. Jonathan Miller with six-and-a-half sacks leads the team as Bryce McLure has added five and Trey McKenzie four. Austin Jacobson has stepped in front of six passes while Jake Stiles comes in with three interceptions. Stiles also leads the team with 68 total tackles. Alex Olson has pounced on four loose balls with nine other players recovering fumbles. The team can boast that 36 different players have been involved in tackles this season.
The Black and Gold offense has moved the ball on the strength of the district’s top back in Zach Tibbens. Tibbens has been the workhorse out of the back field with 2,126 yards on 275 totes for 28 touchdowns. Olson backs the rushing effort with 415 yards on 51 totes and seven scores. Hunter Johnson and Trey McKenzie have gained 208 and 171 yards respectively.
The passing game has come out when necessary as Kyle Johns has thrown for 239 yards on a 26-for-54 effort with no touchdowns and six interceptions. Travis Lansberry’s five receptions for 88 yards leads the team while Jacobson has seven catches for 77 yards.
“It’s time to be ready to take on anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said Evanko. “We just have to peek and be ready for every game.”
The road to the district championship now travels through DuBois with a 1:00 kick-off to see who earns the next trip.
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|
|10/25||SHEFFIELD||38 – 14||8 – 1|
|District 9 A Playoffs|
|11/8||vs. SHEFFIELD||56 – 32||9 – 1|
|11/16||vs. Redbank Valley|