CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – For much of the season the Central Clarion Wildcats limited their mistakes but on Friday evening in their Semifinal District 9 Class AA playoff game against Karns City they had three interceptions along with a lost fumble which really hurt their cause in a 34-9 setback at Memorial Stadium at Clarion University.
(Article by Steve Smail. Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)
Karns City was able to get revenge from their 43-41 heartbreaking loss from just two weeks ago.
“We just made too many mistakes tonight,” said Clarion head coach Larry Wiser. “We started off well moving the ball in the first quarter as our offense was on the field more than our defense, but we just couldn’t cash in.”
Karns City used a heavy dose of their rushing attack as the Gremlins rushed a total of 50 times for 275 yards.
Luke Garing was the workhorse with 22 carries for 137 yards with three touchdowns. Jayce Anderson added 65 yards on 10 carries while Cole Coon chipped in with 41 yards on nine carries with a score.
“I told our offensive line before the game that it was up to them tonight,” said Karns City head coach Joe Sherwin. “They came out and controlled the line of scrimmage which allowed Luke Garing who is our hammer to go out and run over people.”
Cal German paced Central Clarion with 54 yards rushing on nine attempts. Breckin Rex added 26 yards on seven attempts.
German completed 21-of-40 passes for 244 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Ethan Burford caught 10 passes for 143 yards. Hunter Craddock added three catches for 59 yards with a score.
“We really didn’t change too much from the last time we played them,” said Sherwin. “Give a lot of credit to our defense, to hold a team like that to just nine points is something special. Despite the score I still didn’t feel comfortable until the end though.”
Things seemed to start off well enough for Central Clarion as they took the opening kickoff moving the ball from their own 20 to the Karns City 32 in 10 plays. However, German would throw his first interception of the game which Kaden Scherer picked him off in the end zone.
The Wildcats defense stopped the Gremlins on a three and out forcing a punt on their first series.
Central Clarion took over at their own 44 following the punt. Another nine-play drive moved the ball to the Gremlins six before stalling and forcing the Wildcats to settle for a Beau Verdill 23-yard field goal to give Central Clarion what would amount to their only lead of the game of 3-0 with 4:30 to play in the opening quarter.
“After moving the ball those first couple drives if we punch those two in the end zone who knows what type of game it was going to be,” said Wiser. “Unfortunately, we only got a field goal out of it and that was pretty much to story of the game for us.”
Karns City answered quickly with a five-play 80-yard drive which included quarterback Eric Booher completing all three of his passes for 24, 17, and 48 yards which the last turned out to be a scoring pass to Gage Cowoski. Owen Colwell would tack on the PAT kick giving the Gremlins a 7-3 lead after one quarter.
Central Clarion used another long drive which took up the end of the first and ran into the second. The Wildcats moved from their own 24 to the Gremlins 16 before a fumble turned the ball back to Karns City.
A nine-play drive with eight of the plays coming on the ground, the Gremlins would finish the drive on a one-yard touchdown plunge by Garing. The PAT kick sailed just wide leaving the score 13-3 with 4:05 to play in the half.
The two teams traded turnovers on their next possessions with another Scherer interception while Central Clarion recovered a fumble. The score remained 13-3 at halftime.
Karns City would make quite a statement by taking the opening kickoff of the second half and using just six plays, all on the ground to extend their lead on a two-yard touchdown run by Garing. Colwell made the PAT kick for a 20-3 lead with 9:41 to play.
The Wildcats would run just three plays before punting on their opening possession of the second half.
The Gremlins methodically moved the ball from their own 30 to the Central Clarion four-yard line in 15 plays taking nearly seven minutes off the clock. However, Colwell would miss a 23-yard field goal turning the ball back to Central Clarion.
Scherer would intercept his third pass of the game on the first play for the Wildcats giving the ball back to the Gremlins at the Central Clarion 25.
Five plays later which moved the game into the fourth quarter, Coon scored from three yards out. The PAT by Colwell extended the lead to 27-3 with 10:14 to play.
After returning the kickoff to their own 45-yard line, the Wildcats would use just three plays to score their lone touchdown of the game when German connected with Craddock on a 50-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 27-9 with 9:41 to play.
The Wildcats then recovered an onside kick, but they would be unable to capitalize on that and ended up turning the ball over on downs.
Karns City appeared headed to another score moving from their own 43 to the Central Clarion 10 before turning the ball over on downs themselves.
Central Clarion was whistled for a pair of penalties while recovering their own fumble on their next to last possession and ended up turning the ball over on downs at their own 19.
The Gremlins took advantage of the field position with the final touchdown of the game coming on a two-yard run by Garing to set the final score of 34-9.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said Wiser. “I felt we had a good week of practice, but it didn’t happen for us. Not sure where we go from here.”