Golden Tide Football
CLARION -- Apparently, punting was not in the Curwensville Golden Tide's game plan against Clarion-Limestone in the District 9 Class A Championship game Friday night.
Early in the second quarter, the Tide went for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 37. The result? A 63-yard run untouched around the right end by Tide sophomore quarterback Shawn Sopic.
"I just have confidence in these kids," Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko said. "It wasn't a matter of whether we were going to punt or go for it, it was a matter of what play we were going to run."
Sopic's run set the tone for what would be a another big night for Curwensville as it romped over another opponent in a 41-8 win over two-time defending champion C-L at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium.
The Tide amassed 484 yards of offense, all of it on the ground. Curwensville did not punt and the only times it didn't score was because of its four turnovers and it running out the clock on both halves.
Curwensville notched the most lopsided win in District 9 Class A Championship game history and improved their record to 11-0. Next up is District 10 champion Sharpsville, which improved to 11-0 with a 21-14 win over Linesville also on Friday night.
"This is a special group of kids," Evanko said of his team. "They've worked so hard during the season, day in and day out. We're here and trying to take care of business one day at a time trying to get better each day in practice. … They just work so gosh darn hard."
The big names shined again. Senior running back Nate Sipes rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 5, 45 and 21 yards. Sipes went over the 2,000-yard milestone for the season and stands at a district-leading 2,132 yards and 32 TDs.
"Its very exciting. Just making it into the district finals is quite an accomplishment," Sipes said. "Then winning it, that's a whole new level. Experiencing the state playoffs and what football is like against other District 10 teams, it's going to be quite an experience."
"That's big," said Evanko of his 2,000-yard rusher. "We look at any individual award as a team award. You can't run unless you have guys blocking for you. You can't catch the ball if you don't have someone throwing for you. You can't have great defense unless everybody is doing his job that needs to be done. We think it's absolutely fantastic. It's a great team award. It's an achievement for our offensive line as well as it is for our backfield and receivers."
Nate's younger brother Nick, a sophomore, also piled up big numbers as he rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns, one of them an 80-yarder for the Tide's first score of the night. Not to be overlooked is Nick's season rushing total that's up to an impressive 1,545 yards along with 21 TDs.
Curwensville came into the game averaging 405 yards rushing per game. Evanko made sure the unsung heroes got their due.
"Our offensive line across the board -- tight end Philip Solley, J.D. Skebo, Sean Farley, Brad Sopic, Steve Pentz, and on the other side, Sam Kephart and our slots (Brandon) Nelson and (Zach) Baer … they do fundamentals every day," Evanko said. "They never get tired … It's always trying to get better and improve and when you do that, you're going to get a hat on somebody out there. They're a nice group of kids."
"The line was blocking well and the backs were running really hard getting those extra yards. It just worked really well tonight and it's great to come out on top," said senior center Brad Sopic, the older brother of the sophomore QB.
The Tide's 2,000-yarrd rusher weighed in on his teammates as well.
"Two-thousand yards in 11 games is quite an accomplishment, but I wouldn't be able to get half of it without my line and receivers blocking downfield," the older Sipes said.
Curwensville was almost as successful on the defensive side of the ball, especially against C-L's running attack. The Tide limited the Lions to 26 yards on 26 attempts, which included five sacks of C-L quarterback Scott Davis totaling 59 yards.
The sacks helped offset a decent passing attack by C-L as Davis completed 11 of 19 passes for 149 yards. He was intercepted at the Tide 4-yard line by Bart McGarry midway through the first quarter. Two plays after that, Nick Sipes blasted up the middle for 80 yards to put the Tide up for good.
The Tide put pressure on Davis and the C-L offense all night long.
"Every game we say leave no mercy and leave no doubt and try out best and not to get down if we do something bad," said Tide senior defensive tackle Cody Ogden, who turned in a big game with 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Curwensville went up 22-0 on Nate Sipes' first TD from five yards out with 5:51 left in the first half. On C-L's next possession the Lions advanced to the Tide 22 before Davis was hit and sacked by Ogden, who knocked the ball loose. Nate Sipes picked up the fumble and advanced to the Lions' 37.
The Tide didn't capitalize on the 23-yard sack and turnover because two plays later Sopic was intercepted by Nate Tote in what would be one of only two Tide attempted passes.
Curwensville marched 74 yards on the opening possession of the second half to go up 28-0. The Sipes brothers shared ball-carrying duties with Nate dashing 45 yards for the score at the 7:06 mark.
Curwensville came close to enacting the Mercy Rule -- 35-point lead or more in the second half -- with a touchdown on its next possession on Nate Sipes' 21-yarder, but missed on the two-point conversion pass. The Tide led 34-0 with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
The Tide would fumble the ball away on their next two possessions, the second one resulting in a wild C-L return for a touchdown.
On first-and-goal from the Lions' 7, Nate Sipes was hit for a 1-yard loss. He fumbled on the play and the loose ball was picked up by Kaleb Klosky, who returned it to the Lions' 39 before fumbling on a hit made by Nick Sipes. However, Tote picked it up and went the remaining distance for a 61-yard return for a score. Davis hit Erik White for the two-point conversion pass with 7:53 remaining in the game.
Curwensville responded with a 61-yard drive using eight plays to find the end zone. Nick Sipes scored on a 19-yard run with 3:22 remaining.
C-L finished the year at 10-2.
CURWENSVILLE 41, CLARION-LIMESTONE 8
Score By Quarters
C-L 0 0 0 8 - 8
Curwensville 8 14 12 7 - 41
CW - Nick Sipes 80 run (Nate Sipes run), 5:46.
CW - Shawn Sopic 63 run (Nick Sipes kick), 11:10.
CW - Nate Sipes 5 run (Nick Sipes kick), 5:51.
CW - Nate Sipes 45 run (run failed), 7:06.
CW - Nate Sipes 21 run (pass failed), 1:04.
CL - Nate Tote 61 fumble return (Erik White pass from Scott Davis), 7:53.
CW - Nick Sipes 19 run (Nick Sipes kick), 3:22.
First Downs 10 20
Rushes-Yards 26-26 57-484
Passing: Comp-Att-Int 11-19-1 0-2-1
Passing Yards 149 0
Total Plays-Yards 45-175 59-484
Fumbles-Lost 6-3 5-3
Penalties-Yards 10-65 9-72
Punts-Avg 5-33.8 0-0
Time of Possession 19:50 28:10
RUSHING -- Curwensville: Nate Sipes 28-207, Nick Sipes 18-190, Shawn Sopic 9-79, Dean Swatsworth 1-8, Team 1-0. Clarion-Limestone: Erik White 5-55, Scott Davis 17-(-19), Neil Reynolds 2-(-7), David Brooks 2-(-3).
PASSING -- Curwensville: Shawn Sopic 0-for-2, 1 Int. Clarion-Limestone: Scott Davis 11-for-19, 149 yards, 1 Int.
RECEIVING -- Clarion-Limestone: Erik White 5-81, David Brooks 2-32, Neil Reynolds 2-31, Kaleb Klosky 2-5.
INTERCEPTIONS -- Curwensville: Bart McGarry. Clarion-Limestone: Nate Tote.
SACKS -- Cuwensville: Cody Ogden 2.5, Sean Farley 1.5, Nick Sipes.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES -- Curwensville: Shawn Sopic 2, Sean Farley, Nate Sipes, Bobby Haley. Clarion-Limestone: Neil Reynolds 2, Nate Tote, Kaleb Klosky, Scott Davis, Kenny Rossey.
KICK RETURNS -- Curwensville: Derek Caldwell 1-0, Josh Kephart 1-0. Clarion-Limestone: Erik White 3-43, Scott Davis 2-29.
PUNT RETURNS -- Curwensville: Bart McGarry 2-23.
pictures by Randy Hutton