BROCKWAY - Curwensville used a heavy dose of Alex Holland and several big plays on offense and defense to upend Port Allegany, 37-21, Saturday at Brockway's Varischetti Field to capture its first District 9 Class A title in six years.
Holland once again was the workhorse for the Golden Tide as he churned out 42 carries for 298 yards, including touchdowns runs of 37 and 58 in the first quarter to get the Tide off a 12-0 lead.
Holland's big title game pushed him past Nate Sipes to break the school and District 9 single-season rushing mark. Sipes ran for 2,511 yards when Curwensville last won a district title in 2004, and Holland now stands at 2,534.
Curwensville racked up 406 total yards of offense (351 rushing) in the game compared to 243 (64 rushing, 179 passing) for Port.
The two long scoring runs by Holland were just a few of the big plays Curwensville made on its way to capturing the district crown. Tight end Kyle Barrett hauled in a 55-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, while the Golden Tide defense forced five turnovers, two of which resulted directly in touchdowns.
Holland made one of those key defensive plays in the third quarter as stripped the football from Port quarterback Matt Bodamer, recovered the loose ball and returned it 13 yards to paydirt.
Teammate Shae Best picked off a Bodamer pass inside the Tide 10-yard line late in the third quarter, while Alec Starr and Jake Pentz teamed up to seal the win late in the fourth quarter.
Starr drilled Bodamer for a sack inside the Gators' 20 with less than five minutes remaining and knocked the ball loose in the process. Pentz eventually tracked down the football and after pausing for brief moment, picked it up and ran into the end zone for the easy 9-yard score.
Curwensville's defense also got a second fumble recovery by Holland and one by Shane Hoover on the Gators' final drive as the Golden Tide won the turnover battle 5-0.
"Big plays made the difference in the game for us today," said Curwensville head coach Andy Evanko. "Alex at the beginning of the game had some big runs for us. The defense also made some big plays, and the two fumble returns for touchdowns were huge. You don't count on things like that going into a game. Then, Kyle Barrett had a big (TD) reception for us.
"We just had to settle down a little bit (after the fast start). I don't know if it was the excitement or what. We let up a little bit. Against a quality team like Port Allegany, you can't do that. They drove right down the field and stuck it in on us. Halftime was a matter of adjusting, making sure we were blocking who we had to block and what we needed to do defensively.
"They (Port) have good quarterback and some great receivers, and that was concerning. They do so much to spread you out and then they just try to run the ball at you. As long as we knew what we were doing, we knew we would be OK.
"It feels great to win (districts) because this is what the kids have worked so hard for all year long."
Curwensville got the opening kickoff and went right down the field on a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Holland carried the ball on all seven plays, ripping off a 37-yard scoring run to cap the drive. Taylor Bumbarger's PAT was no good.
The Tide defense then forced the Gators to punt twice around the Tide being stopped on a fourth-and-1 play at midfield.
Curwensville made out the series as it got the ball at its 41 after Port's Camrin Stuckey shanked a punt for nine yards. Stuckey also had punts of 57 and 50 yards in the game.
Curwensville wasted little time finding the end zone as Holland broke free off right tackle on the second play of the drive and rumbled 58 yards for the score. The Tide's two-point try failed as they led 12-0 with 1:54 left in the opening quarter.
The Tide tried to extend its lead late in the second quarter as they drove from its 45 to the Gator 18. However, a false start penalty on a fourth-and-1 play doomed the drive as Alec Starr threw an incompletion following the flag.
Port took advantage of the defensive stop as it finally got its offense going after not getting a first down on any of its first four possessions. Bodamer jump-started the drive with an 18-yard run, then hit passes of 12, 6, 5 and 12 yards to give the Gators a first-and-goal.
Bodamer capped the drive with a 2-yard TD pass to Tyce Miller with 20 seconds left in the half. Miller had all three of catches in the game on the drive for 19 yards. Kenny Kysor's extra point set the halftime score at 12-7.
The Gators got the ball to open the second half, but Curwensville's defense forced a quick three-and-out after Zach Dimmick nearly picked off Bodamer on third down. The Tide got the ball at midfield after a 31-yard punt by Stuckey.
Holland picked up a first down with three runs and added a seven-yard carry before Starr ripped off a 21-yard run up the middle on a QB keeper. Starr's run gave the Tide a first-and-goal at the Gators' 9 and the senior quarterback capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge on fourth down to give the Tide an 18-7 lead with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
Curwensville's defense came up big on Port's next possession. Holland ran down Bodamer from behind on a third down play, stripped the football before returning it 13 yards for the score. The Tide missed the extra point but took a 24-7 lead on the play.
Port answered right back with a quick five-play, 55-yard scoring drive. Bodamer hit Stuckey and Charlie Buchanan on plays of 25 and 14 yards to get into the red zone. Seth Lowery then ripped off a 16-yard touchdown run. However, Kysor's PAT was wide left and the Gators trailed 24-13.
Not to be outdone, the Tide countered with a short three-play, 546-yard touchdown drive of their own. Hunter McCracken went to the air on a third down play and Barrett made a nice catch behind a diving Port defender and raced into the end zone for the 55-yard score to put the Tide ahead 30-13 with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Port threatened on its next possession, but Best came up with a huge interception at the Tide 9 to end the Gators' drive. However, Port's defense stood tall and forced a Tide punt, getting the ball at its 35.
Bodamer went to the air on first down and hit Stuckey on a go route for a 65-yard touchdown. Stuckey also hauled in the two-point conversion pass to make it a 9-point game at 30-21 with 7:51 left to play.
Curwensville's Garrett LaBorde recovered the ensuing onsides kick after it ricocheted off a couple players, but the Tide could only pick up one first down before having to punt.
However, the Tide defense came up big again as Starr sacked and knocked the football loose from Bodamer, setting up Pentz's 9-yard fumble return for the final score of the game.
Curwensville (11-1) advances to play District 10 champ Farrell this weekend at a District 9 site to be determined. Farrell (12-1) beat Mercyhurst Prep 39-0 Friday night.
Source: The Courier Express