KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Normalcy is a relative term.
There’s been little normal about this football season so far at Central Clarion.
No scrimmage. A Week 1 opponent booked eight hours before kickoff. A Week 2 game canceled.
(Photo courtesy of Alize Sullenberger and Living Proof Productions)
The Wildcats, though, have attempted to make the best of things and have made an effort to return to something close to a routine. They’ve had nearly two weeks to prepare for Karns City, which will host a Central Clarion team eager to get back on the field again.
“It’s been a challenge with the guys, you know,” said Central Clarion coach Dave Eggleton. “I feel bad for them. They’re getting that monotony of practicing every day, but not getting that reward at the end of the week like they should be getting.
“I wouldn’t be honest if I told you it’s been normal,” Eggleton added. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks — really four weeks because we lost our scrimmage.”
The extra time, though, has afforded Eggleton, his staff and team to dive into preparation for Karns City, which beat them in the District 9 Class 2A title game last season.
A rivalry has formed between the two schools over the years. Karns City coach Joe Sherwin said that comes when two programs have had the success the Gremlins and Central Clarion (and Clarion and Clarion-Limestone before the co-op) have had over the years.
The loss last season to Karns City has been an extra source of motivation and provided some additional juice to this matchup Friday at Diehl Stadium.
“They’re a great team,” Eggleton said. “We’ve try to find extra motivation anywhere we can get it. They ended our season last year, so it doesn’t take a lot. You don’t have to search for motivation to play Karns City. It’s always been kind of a rivalry game for us.”
Eggleton and his staff probably didn’t need two weeks to prepare for Karns City — as opposed to the eight hours they got before taking on Slippery Rock in Week 1. The Gremlins have been running a similar offense for decades.
There’s not much secret to what Karns City likes to do: run the ball and use the success on the ground to set up its passing game.
“They’re pretty similar each year,” Eggleton said. “The numbers and names may change, but the X’s and O’s are pretty much the same. They’ve got a good program and they know what works for them and they stick to it. When you play a Karns City football team, they’re always going to be physical. The challenge is to match that physicality. That’s our test Friday night, can we match their physical play on both side of the front?”
That may be a challenge with the idle time the Wildcats have had.
“As much as you try to simulate it,” Eggleton said, “you can’t truly simulate what you see on Friday night.”
That’s why Sherwin is happy his team has played the last two weeks without interruption.
Karns City (2-0, 1-0) has been, well, Karns City out of the gate. The Gremlins have posted dominating wins over Girard (35-17) and Punxsutawney (42-8) and have done it with a slew of players contributing.
Running backs Luke Garing, Jayce Anderson and Zach Blair have already made big impacts.
Sherwin, though, has been most pleased with the play of his special teams.
“Our kickoffs have been good — I was a little worried about kickoffs before the season,” Sherwin said. “And Zach Kelly has missed, I think, only one PAT. I was worried because Owen Collwell did both duties last year and did a great job. Zach and Nathan Lessner on kickoffs have been good.”
Karns City hasn’t had to punt yet this season — always a good stat for a team to have. Sherwin, though, isn’t putting much stock in Central Clarion’s 38-7 loss to Slippery Rock in Week 1.
“Watching film, they drove right down the field on the first drive and it looked like the guy was in the end zone, but they called it a fumble and Slippery Rock recovered,” Sherwin said. “You get that first touchdown and maybe the game’s different.”
Blair was the player in Week 2 who shined for Karns City. The Gremlins, though, have a penchant for having a different standout each week. It’s their philosophy.
Blair, a senior, took advantage of his opportunity against Punxsutawney, scoring twice and also enjoying a big night on defense.
“He had a super, super game on both sides of the ball,” Sherwin said. “He scored a couple of touchdowns, had some nice runs. He did really well defensively, too. We tell the guys, ‘If you’re number is called, do the job you’re supposed to do.’ We just try to keep it rolling.”