KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Bring out the “Hogs.”
It’s a jumbo package that the Karns City football team has dabbled with this season and it paid of big time against Central Clarion at Diehl Stadium Friday night.
It featured 6-foot-3, 225-pound fullback Luke Garing at quarterback in a Wildcat formation, and the senior plowed his way to 144 yards and a touchdown, dragging Central Clarion defenders — and sometimes his own teammates — with him as the Gremlins cruised to a 37-13 win.
“It’s a new wrinkle we put in for this year,” said Karns City coach Joe Sherwin. “We like it and hopefully we can build on it as the season goes on.”
Garing is a load and is rarely knocked backward. He churned through the Wildcats’ defense on 16 carries — some out of the “Hog” formation, as the Gremlins call it. His ability to move piles opened up things for a plethora of his teammates.
“That Garing kid is a heck of a back,” said Central Clarion coach Dave Eggleton. “It just seemed like every time he touched the ball it was a guaranteed five, six yards. That was tough.”
Karns City rushed for 325 yards on 59 carries. Twelve different Gremlins had at least one rushing attempt.
It was quintessential KC football.
“Luke had an ankle injury early in the week and there was some doubt if he was even going to play tonight,” Sherwin said. “People question sometimes why we work so many backs in there. That’s the reason why. You just never know when a back is going to go down. You have guys who have reps at that position and know what they’re doing. We’re going to keep up with that system.”
Early on, though, it was Central Clarion that had the upper hand.
The Wildcats forced a three-and-out on Karns City’s first possession and then on the Central’s third offense play, Breckin Rex raced 69 yards for a score and a 6-0 lead.
Karns City, though, responded with an 11-play, 79-yard drive, culminated by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Eric Booher to Nate Garing to take a 7-6 lead.
Booher finished 4 of 5 for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a little rough start there,” Sherwin said. “On their touchdown, I thought we had guys in position, we just missed a few tackles. When we hit that big pass play for the touchdown, that was a momentum-builder. After that, we were able to get our running game established.”
Karns City went up 15-6 on an 8-yard touchdown run by Jayce Anderson and Garing’s 2-point conversion run out of the “Hog.”
Garing’s 2-yard run made it 22-6 and Booher found Cooper Coyle on a screen pass for a 14-yard score late in the first half for a 28-6 lead at the break.
Central Clarion’s defense played more stout in the second half, but the damage was already done in the first two quarters.
“I thought we did some good things in the second half,” Eggleton said. “We stepped up, had a couple big stops. We moved the ball, just couldn’t convert on a couple of plays. We have stuff to work on.”
Penalties hurt the Wildcats, nullifying a few big plays in the passing game. Freshman quarterback Jase Ferguson had a better night than his stat line of 4-of-14 for 66 yards and an interception suggests.
“I think there were some breakdowns — he had a lot of pressure coming at him sometimes,” Eggleton said. “His development is going well. I think as the season goes, he’s going to keep getting better.”
Central Clarion also didn’t have the ball very much, running only 30 offensive plays.
Rex finished with 101 yards on just five carries. Ryan Hummell capped the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
It was Central Clarion’s first game in two weeks. Last week, the Wildcats were scheduled to play Punxsutawney, but the Chucks canceled because of COVID-related issues at the school.
Central Clarion has yet to play at home.
“We’re gonna get on the film, try to fix things up and get better,” Eggleton said.
Anderson also had a good night for Karns City with 65 yards and two touchdowns. His 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter made it 37-6 after the Gremlins recorded a safety.
Sherwin likes where is team is right now. But like any coach, he still sees areas his team needs to shore up.
“It’s still early in the season,” Sherwin said. “We still have a lot of things we have to fix up and get better with. We want to be playing our best football at the end of the season.”