HARRIS TOWNSHIP — St. Joseph’s wouldn’t blame Friday’s 25-7 loss to Curwensville on the disparity in roster size, but when the opposing team’s cheerleaders outnumber the home team you’re likely in for a tough night.
The St. Joseph’s 18 were outnumbered and overmatched Friday night as the Golden Tide — with a roster of 51 — dominated almost exclusively on the ground for 337 yards on 55 carries.
Curwensville attempted just two passes and were led on the ground by senior running back Zach Tibbens, who rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.
“We have 18, but we can’t blame the numbers on the loss,” said starting quarterback Phil Fenstermacker. “You can’t ever blame the numbers on a loss.”
The Wolves (1-3) were ineffective on offensive, ineffectual on defense and as the game progressed several undisciplined penalties plagued them on both sides.
“I expected better tackling, blocking,” said Wolves’ coach Dave Carson. “We knew they were big, but tonight I didn’t see anything out there we couldn’t handle.”
The Golden Tide (4-0) powered their way down the field much of the night, finishing with 16 rushing first downs and methodical scoring drives of 13 plays for 80 yards, and 10 plays for 57 yards.
The only quick strikes came on Trey McKenzie’s untouched, 44-yard run up the middle that made it 13-0, and a 10-yard run by Tibbens that made it 25-0 after a Jake Stiles interception set up a short field.
Tibbens, who has now rushed for 757 yards and 10 touchdowns on 108 carries this season, frequently shrugged off defenders to the delight of the team’s 19 cheerleaders. Three more on the cheer squad didn’t make the trip.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. “We ride him a lot. He’s a heck of an athlete, a hard runner and we have a bunch of kids like that.”
McKenzie finished with 71 yards on eight carries and a score. Alex Olson added 24 yards on six rushes. Quarterback Kyle Johns went 1-for-2 for 11 yards in the air, but also added a 1-yard touchdown run.
In contrast, the Wolves mustered little offensively and were hurt by two interceptions and a slew of drive-hindering penalties. The team committed six penalties for 40 yards.
Fenstermacker went 5-for-16 for 34 yards. Top offensive threat Kahsim “NuNu” Buey had 105 yards on 13 rushes, but most came late with the game no longer in question. His seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the team’s only score.
The Golden Tide keyed on the junior defensively and refused to provide special teams opportunities, choosing squibbed kicks and angled punts instead.
“It’s really frustrating because I think this is like my fourth game without a kick return,” Buey said. “I know they’re not going to kick to me, but everytime I just get mad. They’re not going to kick to me so I just have to live with it I guess … and play offense.”
The Wolves were dealt a blow late when junior Titus Tice sustained a knee injury and didn’t return.
St. Joseph’s next chance comes Friday against winless Elk County Catholic High School (0-4), which has a roster of 24 and also lost Friday 28-8 to Ridgeway/Johnson.
Fenstermacker said the solution, in part, is developing a short-term memory when things go poorly on the field. Buey concurred and revealed how the two would prepare thier teammates..
“Just go and talk to the guys,” Buey said. “Just tell them not to keep their heads down. Just have to come back out next week and let this game go over our heads and come out and play harder next week.”