KARNS CITY, Pa. – It’s no secret when playing Karns City what they want to do and that’s to run the football and wear down the defense, which is exactly what the Gremlins did on Friday evening in their 35-7 District 9 Class 2A playoff victory over Central Clarion.
Karns City finished with 366 yards on the ground on 53 attempts, led by Luke Garing, who rushed 20 times for 170 yards. Jayce Anderson rushed 10 times for 65 yards with two scores. Eric Booher added 66 yards on seven attempts.
Meanwhile, defensively, the Gremlins held the Wildcats to a season-low 44 yards rushing with Jase Ferguson leading the way with 34 yards on seven attempts while Ryan Hummell added 26 yards on five attempts.
“We knew coming in that we wanted to control the clock,” said Karns City head coach Joe Sherwin. “They can be a dangerous team offensively as well. (Ferguson) is a really good quarterback. We wanted to keep the ball out of their hands.”
Karns City (10-1) set the tone right away with its rushing attack by taking the opening kickoff and marching 67 yards on eight plays, all on the ground, with Garing scoring from eight yards out. Zach Kelly made the first of his five PAT kicks for a 7-0 lead at the 8:28 mark of the quarter.
Central Clarion (4-6) appeared headed for a tying score on their opening possession, however on a fourth and short Ferguson was dropped for a loss of two yards, giving the ball back to the Gremlins.
Karns City then chewed up the remainder of the quarter and nearly five minutes of the second when Anderson scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 5-yard run giving Karns City a 14-0 lead at 7:40 after the PAT kick.
“That was a big momentum swing with us not being able to score there on that opening drive,” said Central Clarion head coach Dave Eggleton. “I thought we had something there and Karns City just stuffed it. Then they go down and score again which took a lot out of us.”
The Wildcats then had an interception and a punt on their next two possessions and each time the Gremlins turned those into points. Garing scored his second touchdown of the game on a 50-yard run where he broke loose from several would-be tacklers for a 21-0 lead. Then Micah Rupp caught a 38-yard touchdown pass on Booher’s only completion of the game on just two passing attempts for a 28-0 halftime lead.
“I have to give coach Eggleton and his team credit,” said Sherwin. “They really turned around their season and we were concerned about that coming in. We just stuck to our game and watched film and went about our business.”
Central Clarion was forced to punt on their opening possession of the second half, but Karns City fumbled at the Wildcats’ 34, giving the ball back to Central Clarion. This time the Wildcats would drive 66 yards on 10 plays capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Ryan Hummell. Charlie Franchino tacked on the PAT kick to give the Wildcats their only points of the contest cutting the lead to 28-7 with 3:41 to play in the third.
A 13-play drive by Karns City, which took the rest of the third quarter and the first two minutes of the fourth, was capped by Anderson’s second score of the game, this time from 1-yard out for the 35-7 lead.
Karns City intercepted Ferguson, which resulted in the Gremlins being able to run out the remainder of the clock as they moved from their own 42 to the Wildcats’ 21 before two kneel downs sealed the victory.
“These kids could have packed it in and been focusing on basketball or wrestling after the kind of start we had to the season,” said Eggleton. “But they kept coming back and practicing hard and we were able to get to this point. I’m proud of them for being able to do that.”
Ferguson finished 13-of-24 passing for 110 yards with two interceptions. Ashton Rex caught five passes for 72 yards while Christian Simko added 26 yards on four catches.
Karns City will take on Ridgway in the Class 2A championship game next week at a site and time to be determined.
Ridgway beat Brookville, 26-6, in the other semifinal game Friday night to set up that matchup.
The Gremlins and the Elkers met Oct. 15 with Karns City rolling to a 35-0 victory.