KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — On a scale of tough losses, the one Karns City suffered last week against Central Clarion was near the top.
(Above photo by Madison McFarland)
The Gremlins took the Wildcats to overtime, only to lose 26-20.
But not all about the loss was gloomy.
“I think we’ll be able to bounce back,” said Karns City coach Joe Sherwin. “We played a pretty good game and I was pleased with our effort. We were right there at the end and we could have won it very easily. We’re just looking forward to finishing up the rest of the year strong and making a good push for the playoffs.
The 3-3 Gremlins will host 3-3 Punxsutawney on Friday in an intriguing matchup.
Both teams have had to deal with some adversity this season.
For Karns City, it was injuries at quarterback that necessitated a very run-heavy approach. The Gremlins managed to win a pair of games by running the ball 110 times while attempting only one pass.
Now, with Eric Booher able to throw again, this is the offense Sherwin envisioned when the season started, an attack that can hurt an opponent in a variety of ways.
“Sometimes plans don’t happen the way you think they will,” Sherwin said. “But you know, that adversity draws a team together. Our biggest takeaway from that situation is we kind of had to figure out a way to win and we were able to do that. I think that’s what good teams do.”
Booher has been strong since shedding the cast on his right (throwing) wrist and forearm that he injured before the season started. He threw three TD passes two weeks ago against Moniteau and had Karns City on the doorstep of handing Central Clarion its first loss.
The running game is as strong as ever with multiple backs getting a crack at carrying the football. The offensive line, young and inexperienced at the start of the season, gelled during the two weeks when the Gremlins were very much one dimensional.
Punxsutawney coach Alan Nichol said Karns City is, well, the same old Karns City.
“What we see on film is pretty typical of Karns City,” Nichol said. “They are a strong team and they are improving every week. That’s kind of been their modus operandi over the years and when you get them Week 6 or 7, you’re gonna have a battle on your hands.”
Punxustawney’s three wins this season are the most since 2017, which was the last time the Chucks made the playoffs.
(Punxsutawney senior Zeke Bennett breaks into the open field for a big run/photo by Maisie Eberhart)
Punxsy is coming off an impressive 23-0 win over DuBois, a team that beat Karns City in Week 1.
“I think is disciplined play, hustling to the ball, and making sure you’re where you’re supposed to be,” Nichol said. “The details. All those little things. That was probably better than we have played since early in the season.”
The Chucks held dangerous DuBois quarterback Cam-Ron Hayes to just 46 yards passing and 15 yards rushing. They also intercepted him once.
DuBois was held to a mere 90 yards on offense.
“We better be ready to play,” Sherwin said. “It’s going to be a challenge. They’ve come a long way and they have a lot of talent over there. They were able to contain DuBois’ quarterback, which we had trouble doing when we played them. That’s what makes them so impressive.”
Zeke Bennett has also been impressive for Punxsutawney.
The senior back has already rushed for 840 yards on 157 carries and 10 touchdowns this season. The all-time leading rusher at Punxsy, Bennett has had back-to-back weeks of 30 rushing attempts.
“He’s probably one of the top backs in the district,” Sherwin said. “He’s very good and they have a good offensive line, so we have to make sure there are no holes because if he finds an alley, he could be gone.”
Punxsutawney has also had to deal with the injury bug.
The Chucks were without several key players during a three game slide after a 2-0 start, but are starting to get healthier again.
“We had some guys that we lost during the week,” Nichol said. “It’s tough when you lose them on Tuesday and have to get the next guy ready, but that’s high school football and everyone else is struggling the same way. You have to find a way to overcome that.
“It’s always tough down there at Karns City,” Nichol added. “We have to play our best football.”