HARRIS TOWNSHIP — Trying to keep the ball out of Kahsim Buey’s hands, Elk County tried to catch St Joseph’s off guard from the opening kickoff. And it worked.
Instead of booting the ball downfield on the first whistle, the Crusaders’ Cory Huff squibbed the ball toward his team’s bench and one of his teammates fell on it.
The Crusaders began the game with the football inside the Wolves’ territory and after picking up a first down, it seemed like they were going to march into the red zone and cash in with points. But the drive stalled after a failed effort to convert a 4th-and-16 and it was Buey’s turn on offense.
It didn’t take the junior running back long to get going and he soon found paydirt on the Wolves’ first possession — a 13-yard scamper that gave his Wolves an early lead that they would not relinquish in a 44-12 win over Elk County Catholic on Friday. A stingy defense and the squad’s ability to capitalize on Crusader mistakes, paired with the ground attack of Buey ultimately led to the Wolves second win.
“We executed better this week, much better,” Dave Carson, the Wolves’ head coach said. “That’s what we worked (on) all week, we talked about execution, holding blocks, basic football. There’s a lot of hiccups out there still that we’ve got to get out of the way before we proceed with the rest of the schedule, but a win’s a win and we’re happy for this game tonight.”
Buey paved the way on offense and he carved up the Crusaders for 152 yards on the ground and two scores. Fellow junior Phillip Fenstermacker cashed in on two scores as well and finished the game 5-for-11 for 104 yards. The signal-caller threw touchdown passes on both his first and final attempts of the game and connected with senior wide receiver Dominic Gregory both times.
Gregory also recovered a fumble in the Crusaders end zone that helped to notch a 19-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
While the game plan for this week focused more on running the football, the Wolves utilized their passing attack when necessary and kept the Crusaders defense on its toes on every down.
“We figured out last week against Curwensville (who) we got our butts kicked by, but we relied on a lot of our long passes last week and this week we came in saying that we were going to go short to start out with, just to get comfortable and whenever they moved up we were going to go long,” Fenstermacker said. “Running the ball with (Buey), you don’t get a back like him every day and as you see it worked. This is a good win, we’ve got to move on now, next week.”
On the other side of the ball, the struggles continued for Tony Gerg’s young Crusader offense, which only managed 12 points against the Wolves defense — their second worst offensive game of the season. It wasn’t until the 2:39 mark of the second quarter that Elk County found the end zone, and even then it was thanks to creativity from Mitchell Smith.
The junior quarterback dropped back on what appeared to be a botched screen play and when that broke down, he improvised with his feet and eluded a few tacklers before trucking 55 yards for the score.
As the clock wound down in the fourth quarter, Smith connected with Huff for the Crusaders’ second and final score of the evening — a 22-yard strike.
The loss dropped the Crusaders’ to 0-5 on the season and the Wolves improved to 2-3. Despite the loss, Gerg noted that he is going to take some positives away from the experience and hope that it betters his squad’s growth in the future.
“We’re an extremely young team and we’re just trying to take this one step at a time,” Gerg said. “We met a good team here, it’s refreshing to play a Catholic Academy such as ours. It was a pleasure to come down here, the score certainly doesn’t reflect that, but we’re going to go back to the drawing board (and) keep working hard. We have some good kids, our kids are good kids, it’s just that (St. Joseph’s) is a little faster, a little stronger, a little quicker and that’s what it comes down to.”