High School Sports

Scholastic football preview: St. Joseph’s playing numbers game this season

What can you do when you only have 18 players in a physical game like football? What’s more, what is your recourse when your opponent has 51?

St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy has several playmakers at key skill positions, but the problem isn’t talent, it’s numbers.

In the Wolves’ two losses, they trailed Towanda 21-20 at halftime, and were tied with Coudersport 14-14 at the break.

However, in the second halves they were outscored by a combined 45-0. Towanda leaned on its roster of 61, while Coudersport made due with just 34.

So, can the Wolves’ 18 match their first half intensity and overcome second half fatigue to earn a victory?

“I think we have the heart, but we get so much running through our heads that we just lose it,” said quarterback Phil Fenstermacker.

“I mean, you know our numbers,” he continued. “It’s hard with the numbers, but I think this week is going to be different.”

Fenstermacker, a junior, said the problem is mental. Fatigue weakens resolve, which leads to breakdowns and missed assignments.

With that in mind, St. Joseph’s head coach Dave Carson tries to simplify his approach.

“Basically, this whole week has been ‘finish the play, finish your assignment,’” Carson said. “If we just take it like (that) good things will happen.”

Undefeated Curwensville’s power-running approach will be a challenge.

The Golden Tide (3-0) has rushed 122 times and made just 44 pass attempts this season. Running back Zach Tibbins leads the attack. The senior has 77 carries for 550 yards and nine touchdowns in just three games.

Last week, Tibbins had 159 yards and four scores on 24 carries.

“They’re a good football team,” Carson said. “They’re big, they’re physical. …They’re going to try to line it up and run it right down our throats.”

In Week 1, the Golden Tide beat Coudersport 34-26. Tibbins rushed for 180 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

The Wolves faced a similar style when their team speed flummoxed Mercyhurst Prep 46-6 in St. Joseph’s inaugural football game. It’s an experience Carson will use to engender confidence.

“We trying to copy some of the things we did against Mercyhurst, and who knows, (Curwensville) could come out in the spread,” Carson said with a laugh. “But I think we’re going to see a power football team.”

Junior Kahsim “NuNu” Buey is Carson’s best big-play threat. Junior Mike Jabco has size and is a capable possession receiver.

However, Carson believes Buey’s ability to score from anywhere on the field energizes his teammates and instills confidence.

“He’s that kind of kid that you think you’re out of it and one play later you’re back in,” Carson said. “He’s a big play maker.”

Buey and Fenstermacker, both transfers from Bellefonte, point to offensive lineman Zach Stephens as a calming influence and team leader.

So when halftime hits on Friday night the Wolves will have plenty of voices to choose from. Fenstermacker for one, wants the speedy Wolves to turn the tables on the brawny Golden Tide, and reverse the team’s pattern of second half let downs.

“We’re going to be going in winning is what we’re going to be doing,” he said. “(Then), we’re going to come out and pound the ball right down their throats.”