JOHNSONBURG – The formula for the District IX Class A seeding is simple for the Curwensville Area High School football team – a win equals number one. In order to get that top seed the Golden Tide will have to travel to Johnsonburg Friday night to take on a pesky Ram squad who is desperate for a win to seal its own playoff future.
“This is an important game for us,” head coach Andy Evanko noted. “We want to hold onto that top spot in the districts. Johnsonburg is going to go after us because it’s a big game for them to set up their position for the playoffs.”
The Tide is currently 7-1; one game ahead of Elk County Catholic and Cameron County at 6-2. Curwensville defeated the Crusaders a week ago 28-6, and the Crusaders bested the Red Raiders 34-12 in week one of this season. However, while all three teams are favored to win this week, the toughest game will probably run through Johnsonburg. ECC plays Ridgway who hasn’t won a game, and Cameron County battles Sheffield, a 26-0 winner over the Elkers for their lone victory in 2010.
The Rams are currently 4-4 and in a five-way tie for the rest of the D-IX bracket. Clarion and Redbank Valley should both have easy wins out of the KSAC this week while Coudersport battles Port Allegany as the remaining 4-4 schools. Smethport (3-4) is holding out for the final spot in the bracket and will meet with Otto-Eldred this week. Smethport defeated Coudersport earlier in the season, and defeating the Terrors and a Port A. win may oblige them.
Curwensville was able to put themselves into the top district spot with a dominant performance over the Crusaders last week. The Tide offense piled up 312 total yards of offense led by junior running back Alex Holland who carried the ball 32 times for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Senior fullback Zack Dimmick turned in a stellar performance on the ground as well with 72 yards on 15 carries including a one-yard score. Senior quarterback Alec Starr finished the scoring with a one-yard plunge as well.
Defensively for the Tide, Kyle Barrett and Starr both recorded sacks last week to compliment several other tackles for losses by the defensive line. The run defense had its hands full with 1000-plus yard rusher Ricky Pearsall and held him under 100 yards in the game. ECC quarterback Kyle Schneider’s rushing stats hurt the overall outcome as the two sacks and a fumble amassed him a negative 31 yards for the game.
This week’s headaches for Curwensville on the road include seeing perhaps the most balanced offensive attack since Brockway realized its running potential in week six. Johnsonburg posted 38 points against unbeaten Brockway last week – the most points scored against the Rovers this season.
Quarterback Andrew Nortum poses as a two way threat with his arm and his legs. Last week Nortum ran for touchdowns of 77 and 63 yards and threw for a 32-yard score to Mitchell Holmberg. Nortum also returned a kickoff 88 yards for the final score of the game.
“The Johnsonburg quarterback is an exceptional athlete,” said Evanko. “Both Holmbergs are good targets for him, and on defense, Shuey is one of the better linemen we’ll see this season.”
Nortum has thrown for 771 yards on the season and has run for 332 yards. Max Zimmerman has carried the ball 108 times for 540 yards on the season while Mitchell Vallone and Holmberg have dashed for 139 and 134 yards respectively.
Joe Holmberg, with 37 receptions leads the Rams with 537 yards while Mitchell Holmberg has pulled in 8 catches for 156 yards. Vallone also has over 100 yards of receiving for the season. Nortum has thrown the ball 56 times for most of the team’s 905 yards, however, four other passers have accounted for 136 yards through the air.
“We always have to be ready for the halfback pass,” Evanko said. “They throw a lot of different formations at you, and, as a defense, you need to do what needs to be done, or they can make you pay.”
The Golden Tide has found its own way to make defenses pay for missing assignments – a very strong run game. Holland has toted the ball 183 times on the season for 1585 yards. Dimmick’s strong game last week sets him at 359 yards on 67 carries while Josh Greslick has totaled 247 yards on 34 carries.
The passing game for the Tide has been a solid compliment to the run. Sophomore Hunter McCracken has completed 22 of 51 passes for 394 yards with Starr adding 16 of 30 for 222 yards. On the other end of most of those passes has been Shae Best and Shane Hoover. Best has 12 catches for 293 yards while Hoover has pulled in 13 passes for 242 yards.
Friday’s 7:00 p.m. start in Johnsonburg finds the Rams with the most to lose. A loss to the Tide could leave the seeding committee to make a decision about the final spot for the District IX Class A bracket. If the Tide wants to avoid a tie at the top, they need to stay focused against their hosts who are trying to avoid being part of the tie at the bottom.