CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Central Clarion football team is leading all of Pennsylvania in points per game at 61 through five weeks.
While that may be a shocking number to many who see it, it’s not all that surprising to Wildcats’ coach Dave Eggleton.
(Pictured above, Central Clarion senior Dawson Smail races away from several Bradford defenders during the Wildcat’ win last Friday night/photo courtesy of Kirkland Photography)
He had seen the wealth of offensive talent all offseason, and it wasn’t as if the offense was stagnant last year — Central Clarion put up nearly 38 a game on the way to the District 9 Class 2A title.
But this season has certainly been special thus far. Historical, even.
“The way (quarterback Jase Ferguson) is playing and our receivers — everyone is just playing phenomenally in both phases, run and pass,” Eggleton said. “We saw it developing at the end of last year and over the summer. We sought out some very challenging 7-on-7s to go to and performed well against great talent. So, I mean, you never really expect to do what we’re doing … but, honestly, I’m not overly surprised.”
Ferguson has been playing in a different stratosphere so far during his junior campaign.
He’s been nearly flawless, completing 57-of-81 passes — that’s an efficient 70.4% — for 1,119 yards and 20 touchdowns to just one interception.
He’s also the leading rusher for the Wildcats at 362 yards.
Ferguson didn’t have to run against Bradford in the 86-0 win last week. Instead, when he was in the game, he stood in a clean pocket and delivered strikes to his plethora of weapons.
Dawson Smail had a big game and the senior receiver is also having a big season.
Smail leads the team with 18 receptions for 391 yards and seven touchdowns. Seven Central Clarion players have at least one receiving TD.
Mason Burford, a sophomore with blazing speed, has hauled in 14 passes for 285 yards and seven scores.
And senior receiver Tommy Smith hasn’t even gotten going yet. He’s been banged up and missed a game due to injury.
“I mean, (Ferguson) is just in a different kind of zone,” Eggleton said. “He’s different than most. The game just kind of slows down for him and he’s getting a lot of time from the offensive line. He’s just finding the open guy and making a good throw. It’s all three of those things. He has time. He’s making the right read. And his delivering a good throw to the receiver. He’s just doing everything right right now.”
That is a scary thing for Central Clarion’s opponent this week, Karns City, which has won three in a row after starting 0-2.
The Gremlins (3-2), who will host the Wildcats at Diehl Stadium on Friday night, have been galvanized around the emotion of the serious injury suffered by senior quarterback/safety Mason Martin on Sept. 1 against Redbank Valley.
Martin continues to fight in a Pittsburgh hospital after suffering a brain bleed and collapsed lung. Recent news has been encouraging about Martin’s recovery.
“I can’t imagine being in that position,” Eggleton said. “The way (Karns City coach Joe Sherwin) and his staff have responded and the way the kids there have responded has just been phenomenal. A lot of credit goes to them for the way they have handled this tragedy.
“Continued prayers for Mason,” Eggleton added. “I’ve been hearing good news coming out. Just praise for that whole community for how they have handled this.”
On the field, Karns City has won those three games in a row doing what the Gremlins have done best for more than two decades.
Strong running game. Staunch, hard-nosed defense.
The Gremlins rushed for 343 yards in the 48-15 win over Moniteau last week and shut down the Warriors’ for the most part on defense.
“They play a physical concept of football,” Eggleton said. “When you play Karns City on a Friday night, you know that’s what you’re gonna get. They have some big backs in (Luke) Cramer and (Hunter Scherer). They have several running backs who can run the ball well. That’s kind of always been their calling card — a lot of different guys touching the football.”
Cramer rushed for 104 yards last week and Scherer added 45 on just five carries.
Braden Slater and Owen Heginbotham also combined for 120 yards on the ground.
Karns City has played well against Central Clarion in the past.
The Gremlins are 3-2 against the Wildcats — including two playoff wins — since Clarion-Limestone joined the Clarion/North Clarion co-op to form Central Clarion.
Last year, Karns City fell 26-20 to the Wildcats in overtime, breaking a three-game winning streak.
The first meeting, back in 2020, ended in a 43-41 Central Clarion victory.
“I think we’ve improved these last three games,” Sherwin said. “But this is like going from taking some small quizzes to a final exam. We’re gonna find out. We’re gonna do our best to prepare and find out where we’re at. I’m excited for the opportunity to see.”
Lost in just how good the Central Clarion offense has been is how strong the Wildcats have been on the defensive side of the ball.
Since Week 1, Central Clarion has scored points on defense in four consecutive games.
“Outside of Week 1, our defense has scored more points than they’ve given up. That’s just a phenomenal stat,” Eggleton said. “They scored a touchdown against Port Allegany, two against Union/A-C Valley, one against Punxsutawney and they got a safety last week. They’ve been playing really well.
“Against Punxsy we had to make some adjustments and get better in the run game,” Eggleton said. “We’re gonna see that physical brand this week. We have to be ready and be stout and tighten up against the run this week.”