SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – In a game it dominated statistically from the outset, Karns City scored 21 unanswered second-half points to rally past previously unbeaten Hickory, 35-17, Saturday afternoon at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
(Photo of Chandler Turner of Karns City. Photo by Mike Schnelle. Check out more of Schnelle’s work here)
The Gremlins (10-2) outgained Hickory (11-1) 526 to 234 including 356 to 166 on the ground while racking up 20 first downs to the Hornets 15.
Chandler Turner and Cullen Williams both scored twice for Karns City with the duo combining to rush for 178 yards led by Turner’s 97 on just nine carries. Williams had 81 on 14 carries.
Turner talked about the Gremlins’ offensive dominance.
But despite the Karns City statistical edge, the Gremlins trailed 17-14 at halftime because of a myriad of mistakes in the opening 24 minutes.
A bad snap punt, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a touchdown called back because of a penalty, two turnovers inside the 10-yard line and a missed field goal all amounted to Karns City being down at the half despite outgaining Hickory 316 to 124 in the opening half.
But the last of those turnovers, an interception thrown by Williams, who was subbing at the time for an injured Jacob King – King returned in the second half -, led to one of the turning points in the game.
Hickory’s fabulous senior running back Chuck Carr, who picked off the pass at the Hickory 8-yard line and returning it to the 10 with 53 seconds to go in the half, ended up getting hurt on the last play of the half and didn’t return to the game.
Already down its starting quarterback, the Hornets offense without Carr, who rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown in the first half on 17 carries, was limited in the second half gaining 101 yards in the half, 34 on the final drive after Karns City had put the game away.
The Gremlins, meanwhile, faced no such limitations putting together scoring drives of 79 and 70 yards in the half with a short 35-yard drive sandwiched in between.
Karns City grabbed the lead back with 3:45 to play in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Chandler that capped a 10-play, 79-yard drive that saw Karns City overcome a 15-yard personal foul penalty midway through the drive.
A 41-yard run by Eric Dodd, who was one of four Gremlins over 80 yards on the ground with 83 yards, on second-and-19 from the Karns City 24 was the big play of the drive that put KC up 21-17.
The Gremlin defense then forced a three-and-out, and Karns City got great field position when a Will Gruber punt went just 14 yards to the Hickory 35.
A 32-yard run by Kaiden Power, who finished with 93 yards rushing, put the ball at the 3-yard line, and Williams ran in from the four two plays later to make it 28-17 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hickory mounted its best drive of the second half on the ensuing possession moving from its 24-yard line to the Karns City 27. But a fumble on third down followed by an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Gremlins the ball back at the KC 30 with 10:03 to play.
Karns City then salted the game away with a 9-play, 70-yard drive that took 5 ½ minutes off the clock scoring on another 4-yard Williams run with 4:30 to play.
Ed Conto, Karns City’s head coach, talked about the victory.
Hickory grabbed an early 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game after a snap on a Karns City punt sailed over the head of punter Chandler Turner, who was forced to kick the ball from the ground for an 11-yard loss setting the Hornets up at the 13-yard line. Two Carr runs covered that distance giving Hickory a 7-0 lead.
It took Karns City all of a 1:32 to answer back when King hit Jimmy Thompson in stride for a 55-yard touchdown pass that knotted the game at seven.
Another 55-yard touchdown, this time an amazing run by Turner, who broke numerous tackles and did a Houdini-act along the way, put the Gremlins ahead 14-7 with 4:36 to play in the opening quarter.
But Will Gruber returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to knot things right back up.
Undeterred, Karns City got a big kickoff return of its own from Turner out to the Gremlin 47, and quickly moved to the Hickory 2-yard line thanks to a 17-yard King to Thompson pass and a 23-yard Williams run.
However, on first-and-goal from the two, Dodd was hit by Carr forcing a fumble at Carr recovered at the five.
Karns City’s defense held forcing a punt, and the Gremlins went right back to work using a 57-yard King to Dodd pass to move into prime real estate at the Hickory 15-yard line.
Williams then found daylight for what appeared to be a 15-yard scoring run, but an illegal block called the play back, and the Gremlins had to eventually settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt by Powers that fell just short.
Hickory took advantage of the miscue and drove from its 20 to the Karns City 9-yard line thanks to runs of 23, 17, 17, 7 and 7 from Carr. But the drive stalled at the 8-yard line, and Jacob Scarton came on and booted a 25-yard field goal to put the Hornets back up, 17-14.
With 3:56 to play in the half, Karns City went on the march again and had a first down at the Hickory 13 after King, who was 6 of 9 passing for 170 yards and the score, hit Thompson, who had four catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, with a 35-yard pass. But on the play, King took a hard shot and remained down before being replaced by Williams, who split time at the position with King a year ago and also made a start this season when King was hurt.
Two runs put the Gremlins at the Hickory 9-yard line facing third-and-6 but within Powers’ field goal range.
Powers never got the chance to try the kick, though, as Williams, on third down, was forced out of the pocket and was picked off by Carr.
Karns City will play the winner of the Juniata-Central-Martinsburg game at a site and time to be determined.
KARNS CITY 35, HICKORY 17
Score by Quarters
Karns City 14 0 14 7 – 35
Hickory 14 3 0 0 – 17
H – Chuck Carr 4 run (Jacob Scarton kick), 9:50
KC – Jimmy Thompson 55 pass from Jacob King (Kaiden Powers kick), 8:18
KC – Chandler Turner 55 run (Powers kick), 4:36
H – Will Gruber 98 kickoff return (Scarton kick), 4:21
H – Scarton 25 field goal
KC – Turner 4 run (Powers kick), 3:45
KC – Williams 4 run (Powers kick), 0:29
KC – Williams 4 run (Powers kick), 4:30
20 First Downs 15
47-356 Rushes-Yards 39-166
170 Passing 68
6-10-1 Passing 7-14-0
57-526 Plays-Yards 53-234
3-1 Fumbles-Lost 2-1
6-65 Penalties-Yards 3-29
1-(-11) Punts-Avg 4-27.8
RUSHING – Karns City: Chandler Turner 9-97, Kaiden Powers 7-93, Eric Dodd 15-83, Cullen Williams 14-81, Jacob King 1-2, Team 1-0. Hickory: Chuck Carr 17-104, Caleb Gagliardi 9-48, Will Gruber 4-14, Nate Marchand 3-11, Hayden Gallagher 6-negative 11.
PASSING – Karns City: Jacob King 6-for-9, 170 yards, 1 touchdown. Cullen Williams 0-for-1, 1 interception. Hickory: Hayden Gallagher 7-for-14, 68 yards.
RECEIVING – Karns City: Jimmy Thompson 4-107, Eric Dodd 1-57, Kaiden Powers 1-6. Hickory: Cameron Pica 3-44, Nate Marchand 2-4, Will Gruber 1-10, Caleb Gagliardi 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS – Hickory: Chuck Carr.