Golden Tide Football
CLARION - This deep into the football postseason, it's supposed to get harder. Not so for the Curwensville Golden Tide.
Although not reaching their state-leading points per game or point differential numbers, the Golden Tide dominated their way to a 34-6 win over previously unbeaten District 10 champion Sharpsville in the PIAA playoffs Friday night at Clarion University's Memorial Field.
Now at 12-0, Curwensville faces WPIAL champion Rochester, a 41-14 over Berlin Brothersvalley Friday night, in next week's Class A Western Region final at a site and time to be announced.
Curwensville's first-ever state playoff win came much like the rest of its wins this year. The Tide dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and paved the way for another big night from the Sipes family.
Senior Nate and sophomore Nick shared the first 43 carries while the Tide attempted just two first-half passes. Nate grabbed the biggest spotlight, scoring all five of the team's touchdowns while rushing for 268 yards on 29 carries.
Sipes scored on runs of 34 and 5 yards in the first half as the Tide built a 14-0 lead by intermission. He capped off the Tide's first three possessions of the second half with scoring runs of 74, 11 and 2 yards to turn the game into a rout.
Nick rushed for 110 yards on 14 carries. His 40-yard run late in the third quarter set up Nate's 11-yarder to push the Tide's lead to 28-0.
For the season, Nate stands at 2,400 yards and 37 TDs, not far from the record-breaking 2002 season of Clearfield's Dave Richards, who rushed for 2,506 yards and 41 TDs. Right now, both have played in 12 games. Sipes will get at least one more game to reach those gaudy marks next week.
Both Sipes passed significant milestones as Nate went over 3,000 career yards and now stands at 3,116. Nick, who upped his season total to 1,665, now has 2,002 career yards with two more years to play.
Against Sharpsville, Curwensville rushed for 387 yards, actually below its season average of 412.5 yards per game, but it became apparent in the first half that the Tide were going to dominate the line of scrimmage. The domination eventually led to another blowout on the scoreboard.
Defensively, Curwensville limited Sharpsville to 192 yards of offense, 117 of it coming in the Blue Devils' final two possessions of the game with the Tide first-team defense on the sideline.
The Tide notched seven sacks, three coming from senior tackle Brad Sopic. Bobby Haley had two, Sean Farley had one and a half while Philip Solley had half of a sack.
Curwensville was much sharper than last week's effort (4 vs. Clarion-Limestone) in the turnover department. The only turnover came in the opening possession of the game when quarterback Shawn Sopic was intercepted. The Tide fumbled twice but retained possession on both occasions.
The game started out on a bad note for Curwensville, which lost defensive tackle Cody Ogden to a broken leg on the opening kickoff. Ogden, a key performer on the defensive unit, had two and a half sacks and two forced fumbles in last week's win.
Curwensville made it 34-0 on Nate's final score from two yards out. A botched snap on the extra-point attempt prevented a Mercy Rule finish with 9:05 remaining.
Sharpsville scored Ryan Morris' 5-yard-run with 3:44 remaining, capping a 12-play, 72-yard drive against the Tide's backups.
Despite trailing early, Sharpsville didn't throw much, which defied its season-long approach that saw quarterback Shayne Stiger pass for over 1,000 yards and 15 TDs. Against the Tide, he went 4-for-7 for 48 yards. Stiger was knocked around a bit by the Curwensville defense and left the game following a Farley sack late in the first half. He returned in the second half, but only attempted two passes.
Sharpsville's leading rusher, Jordan Cataldi, was limited to 32 yards on nine carries. Shawn Valenly led the Blue Devils with 77 yards on 17 carries, all but five of them coming in the second half.
Curwensville's venture into the Western Region finals marks the 10th time since the PIAA state playoffs began in 1987 that a District 9 team reached this point. Last year, Bradford reached the Class AAA regional finals only to lose to Pine-Richland. Smethport was the last Class A team to make the Western Region finals, losing to eventual state champion Rochester in 1998.
Smethport (5), Bradford (2), Curwensville, Keystone and East Brady (1) have made Western Region finals. Smethport (1992) and Keystone (1989) are the only teams to get to the state finals.
Curwensville plays a Rochester squad that brings plenty of postseason tradition with it. It'll be the seventh time the Rams have played in the Western Region finals. Rochester won state titles in 1998, 2000 and 2001, losing in the 2002 final. Rochester beat Smethport in the regional finals in 1998 and 1991, losing to the Hubbers in 1992.
CURWENSVILLE 34, SHARPSVILLE 6
Score By Quarters
Sharpsville 0 0 0 6 - 6
Curwensville 0 14 14 6 - 34
C - Nate Sipes 34 run (Nick Sipes kick), 11:50.
C - Nate Sipes 5 run (Nick Sipes kick), 1:41.
C - Nate Sipes 74 run (Nick Sipes kick), 6:30.
C - Nate Sipies 11 run (Nick Sipes kick), :15.
C - Nate Sipes 2 run (conversion failed), 9:05.
S - Ryan Morris 10 run (kick failed), 3:44.
First Downs 18 14
Rushes-Yards 47-387 43-135
Passing: Comp-Att-Int 0-2-1 5-10-0
Passing Yards 0 57
Plays-Total Yards 49-387 53-192
Time of Possession 23:16 24:44
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-30 6-62
Punts-Avg. 0-0 4-34
RUSHING -- Curwensville: Nate Sipes 29-268, Nick Sipes 14-110, Adam Pennington 2-8, Matt Holland 1-1, Jason Null 1-0. Sharpsville: Shawn Valenly 17-77, Aaron Reddix 3-43, Jordan Cataldi 9-32, Ryan Morris 2-9, Tim Findley 1-6, Rick Golus 1-4, Tim Siege 1-1, Shayne Stiger 9-(-37).
PASSING -- Curwensville: Shawn Sopic 0-for-2, 1 Int. Sharpsville: Shayne Stiger 4-for-7, 48 yards; Shawn Valenly 1-for-2, 9 yards; Team 0-for-1.
RECEIVING -- Sharpsville: Jarryd Summers 4-46, Jordan Cataldi 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS -- Sharpsville: Jarryd Summers.
SACKS -- Curwensville: Brad Sopic 3, Bobby Haley 2, Sean Farley 1.5, Philip Solley 0.5.
KICK RETURNS -- Curwensville: Dean Swatsworth 1-15. Sharpsville: Jorrdan Cataldi 4-69, Rick Golus 1-37.
PUNT RETURNS -- Curwensville: Bart McGary 1-3.
pictures by Randy Hutton