KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — On Wednesday, Karns City football coach Joe Sherwin and his staff gathered in his office, tucked away in the corner of the locker room, and brainstormed.
A nightmare scenario was unfolding.
Starting quarterback Eric Booher had a hairline fracture of his right wrist and could not grip the ball to throw. Backup quarterback Mason Martin had just broken a finger on his throwing hand during practice. And leading rusher Luke Cramer was out with a knee injury suffered late in the loss last week to Redbank Valley.
There was one thought on all of their minds.
“What the heck are we gonna do?” Sherwin said. “What can we do to some how, some way move the ball?”
The answer was simple.
The “Gremlin Way.”
Karns City ran the ball 50 times with 13 different players getting at least one attempt in piling up 337 yards on the ground in a 28-0 home win over Ridgway on Friday night.
It was classic Gremlin football. The offensive line moved people and a variety of backs — small, swift ones and big, bruising ones — bit off chunks of yardage all evening.
“No doubt we had some setbacks, but we didn’t hang our heads about it,” Sherwin said. “No one was gonna feel sorry for us. It was the next guy up. That’s why we practice everybody and train everybody to play.”
Booher, with a bulky soft cast and wrap encasing his wrist and forearm, played quarterback, but didn’t attempt a pass.
Instead, he handed off and ran a few times, too.
“Yeah, it was weird,” Booher said, smiling. “I actually found out before our first game that I broke it and played with it in the first game against DuBois. Then I wrapped it up. I went to tailback for some reps. But on Wednesday, we lost our game plan and I tried to take snaps. I told the coaches I could do it and one thing led to another.”
Even though Ridgway knew Karns City was going to run the ball, the Elkers couldn’t stop it.
The Gremlins established their dominance up front on the first drive of the game when they marched 58 yards on seven running plays, capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Cooper Coyle, to take a 7-0 lead.
Karns City scored again on its next drive, a four-play, 56-yard march — all on the ground, of course — culminated by a 10-yard scoring run by freshman Nathan Hess for a 14-0 lead.
That gave the Gremlins confidence that they could stick to the running game — as if they had much of a choice.
There were some wrinkles in the game plan to throw the ball a little — some were designed for Coyle. Karns City didn’t have to use them.
“Maybe was gonna throw the ball today,” Coyle said, grinning. “But didn’t have to. Our line did great.”
Coyle led the way with 62 yards on six carries. Braden Slater added 60 yards on five attempts. In all, six Karns City runners gained more than 30 yards.
Booher raced 26 yards untouched on a brilliant fake in the second quarter to send Karns City into the half up 21-0.
Hess scored from the 1 for his second TD of the night to make it 28-0 with 7:30 on the clock in the third quarter.
The game ended with Karns City at the Ridgway 1 at the end of a 13-play drive that gobbled up more than half of the fourth quarter clock.
“The line is starting to come around,” Sherwin said. “We have a lot of new guys up front there, so I think we’re making progress. You know, we lost two 1,000-yard backs last year, so our backs are feeling a little more comfortable in the offense, as well. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Booher said he expects to be back soon. Every day he’s able to grip the football better.
Karns City was able to avoid an 0-3 start. The last time the Gremlins started the season with three straight losses was in 1995.
Ridgway is 0-3 for the first time since the co-op with Johnsonburg.
The Elkers continue to struggle offensively. Cameron Larkin was 6-of-14 passing for 28 yards and two interceptions. He led Ridgway with 25 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The Elkers managed just 102 yards and were intercepted three times.
For Karns City, it may be a turning point in a season that was starting to spiral.
“It was great after starting 0-2 to boost our confidence,” Coyle said.
“It’s a great way to bounce back,” Booher said. “I mean, look at us. We were 0-2 and this was a good win. We’re going to keep building, brick by brick, and keep going.”