Wildcats Come Back From Twenty Down In Fourth To Down Gremlins, Ethan Burford And Cal German Reach Milestones (Posted 10/12/20)
(Above image) Cal German running around right end.
The Central Clarion Wildcats traveled to Karns City on Friday (October 9th), for the Gremlins’ Homecoming game, and when the fireworks were ended, Central emerged as 43-41 victors, in a game that saw them comeback from a twenty point, fourth quarter deficit. The Wildcats played the game without Head Coach Larry Wiser, who was home with an illness) on the sidelines. Assistant and former Clarion-Limestone Head Coach Dave Eggleton assumed Coach Wiser’s sideline duties on the night.
This game also saw two milestones reached by a pair of Wildcats, as Ethan Burford passed Cody Hearst for first place all-time in receiving yards among players from Clarion Area and Cal German passing the 4,000 yard career passing plateau.
The evening began as football games at Karns City have for decades, with the welcoming voice of Pastor Sam Swick manning public address duties. One of the grand old gentlemen of football in this area, Pastor Swick’s career as a public address announcer dates back fifty-three years, announcing first for East Brady, then doing games for both Karns City and East Brady in the 70’s. He also announces for both Boys and Girls basketball. He is always quick to point out and compliment an athlete on a great play, whether the athlete plays for Karns City or the opponent.
The Gremlins opened the scoring at 9:36 of the first quarter on a 42 yard touchdown run around left end by Kaden Scherer. Owen Collwell’s point after was good and KC led 7-0. Karns City scored again, at 5:27 of the first when on a quarterback keeper by Eric Booher from 23 yards out. Collwell was good on the kick and the score stood at 14-0, Gremlins.
Central cut the lead in half at 2:31 of the first, with German hit Cutter Boggess down the right side at the seven, who took it in from there for a twenty-three yard score. Beau Verdill’s kick was good and the score stood at 14-7.
The drive featured Burford making his first catch of the game, on a throw from German, for a 14 yard gain and a first down, along the right sideline to the Karns City forty-seven. With the catch, Burford became the all-time career reception yardage record for Clarion Area players.
Karns City answered when Jayce Anderson took a pitch around right end for an eight yard touchdown, at 11:54 of the second. The kick was good, putting the Gremlins up 21-7.
The Wildcats answered on their next drive, when German scrambled to his left and hit Christian Simko, who got behind the coverage in the back left side of the endzone, for a 40 yard touchdown. Simko, who is the holder, took a low snap on the on the point after, and rolled left, hitting Breckin Rex for two-points and with 8:15 left in the half, Central was within six, at 21-15.
The Gremlins would go up 28-15, with one minute left in the half when Anderson caught a pass, from Booher at the nine and ran it in for a 31 yard touchdown, with Collwell kicking point after.
Anderson would score on a 16 yard run, at 3:44 of the third, with Collwell again being good on the extra point, giving the Gremlins, a seemingly insurmountable twenty-point, 35-15 lead. The score would remain the same until the fourth quarter.
Before that, on Central’s next possession, with the Wildcats at their own twenty-three, German, operating out of the shotgun, dropped back two his right and found Jason Ganoe coming across from right to left, at the line of scrimmage. Ganoe found a seem and cut back toward the middle and taking the ball to the Wildcats’ forty-five and pushing German over 4,000 yards.
The Cats were stopped by a Karns City interception in the endzone, several plays later, but held the Gremlins on downs.
On Central’s next possession, with 10:33 left in the game, German rolled left and hit Simko crossing right in the front of the endzone from twelve yards out. Simko held on to the ball, in spite of sustaining a hard hit on the bang-bang play and remained down for several minutes, after which Verdill kicked the point after. The Gremlins’ lead was now cut to 35-22. And the toughness shown by Simko in holding on to the ball, seemed to energize the Wildcats.
Then, with 9:04 left on the clock, German lined up under center and took a five step drop and hit Burford across the middle, who made a leaping catch with the ball just across the goal line. Verdill was successful again and Central was within a touchdown and a point after, from tying the game.
And as was the order of the night for Verdill, he sent the kickoff into the endzone for a touchback.
The Cats held on downs and after the punt, took over at the Karns City forty-eight. A swing pass to Boggess netted seven yards. Finding no one open, German ran up the middle to the thirty-six. On the next play, Rex found a nice lane through the middle of the line and with a couple of nifty, almost imperceptible moves, reminiscent of former Bobcat great Damien Slike, took it in for the score. And with Verdills’ PAT, Central had their first lead of the game, 36-35, with 6:05 left.
After another Verdill kickoff sailed into the endzone, the Gremlins set up at their own twenty. After several plays, they were able to move the just across midfield. But at their own forty-seven after a penalty, they tried a halfback pass on fourth down. Boggess got good pressure and leaped high in the air to tip the ball, which fell to the ground.
Karns City held the Bobcats on downs, at the Gremlins’ forty-four. Then Verdill, who had been making noise with booming kickoffs all night, used some finesse in laying down a pooch punt which hit at the twenty, took one bounce to the eleven and then out-of-bounds along the right sideline, pinning the Gremlims deep.
But several plays into the possession, Burford picked off a pass, in the middle of the field, at the Karns City forty-five and angled to the left, picking up a nice block from Rex at the twenty-five and another from Tommy Smith at the twenty. He sidestepped a defender along the sideline at the ten, cutting to the right and into the endzone. Verdill’s kick was good and with 1:28 left, the Cats led 43-35. Twenty-eight unanswered points.
Not so fast. Just as the Wildcats refused to lie down and give up. The Gremlins weren’t about to do so either.
Verdill’s kickoff was fielded at the four and returned to the twenty-eight. Karns City down by eight and needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie, with 1:23 left, went into the two minute drill.
And as the scoreboard clock hit zero, Booher hit Nathan Waltman, over the middle for a fifteen yard score.
Needing the two, to tie the game and send it into overtime, the Gremlins elected to run the ball up the middle.
Left defensive end Hunter Craddock got around a blocker and got enough of the runner to slow him up at the three, allowing Cooper Shall who shot through the middle, to wrap up his legs from behind. Ryan Hummell slicing in from the left was able to get under the runners’ pads from the front with Boggess coming high through the middle and both making contact at the same time, the Wildcats were able to bring the runner down, just before he could stretch into the endzone. Talk about a matter of inches, a split second here-or-there and a total team effort; they were all on display in this one stop.
This was a great victory for the Wildcats, with the last 10:33 seconds being some of the most exciting football I’ve ever seen.
Hats off to the young men on both these teams, what a great job you all did, never giving up and fighting to the end!!!!
Key Wildcats’ stats:
Cal German – 18 completions/39 attempts for 330 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception. (German now has 1478 passing yards on the season and 4150 for his career.)
Ethan Burford – 3 receptions for 50 yards, 1 touchdown. (Burford now has 601 receiving yards on the season and 2069 for his career). He also had 3 interceptions for the defense.
Christian Simko – 6 receptions for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Cutter Boggess – 7 receptions for 88 yards, 1 touchdown and 8 tackles on defense.
Brekin Rex – 10 carries for 44 yards and 1 touchdown.
Beau Verdill – 5 for 5 on PATs. 4 touchbacks on kickoffs.
Kaoz Baker has been stellar all season long and had a great game once again. 13 tackles (9 solo), 2 tackles for loss including a sack, 1 fumble caused, 1 fumble recovered. (Kaoz has 55 tackles (29 solo for the season.)
Kyle Bottarro – 14 tackles (10 solo), 2 tackles for loss including a sack.
Cooper Shall – 8 tackles, 1 interception
Jason Ganoe – 2 interceptions.
Patrick Gulnac – 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss.
Logan Lerch – 2 blocked punts.
This was definitely one of the best football games I have been a part of, so far in my career and that can be said all around the team. It was a tough game. We were down 35-15 going into the fourth quarter, and Coach Eggleton did a great job of keeping us calm. We needed to get some momentum and luckily in the fourth quarter our defense got two fumble recoveries. Our Offensive Line did a great job protecting me all night and the receivers did a great job of flowing with me on busted plays. We will continue to get better and use this momentum to head into Punxsutawney next Friday night.
Getting 4,000 passing yards is definitely something I will remember for a long time. However, all of the credit has to go to the offensive line and the receivers. Offensive coordinators Dave Eggleton and Cam Kirkland have put in countless hours, helping me become a better quarterback and I want to thank both of them and the entire Clarion Wildcat coaching staff.
Ethan Burford is a great receiver, one of the best receivers in Clarion history. He has put in the work and that hard work has paid off in becoming the all-time leading receiver in school history. To do it in three years is truly incredible. Throwing the pass that put him in the record book was special to me. From the pickup games during the Cody Hearst/John Katis years at the stadium, we were always looking up to those players and trying to be like them.
It’s a great milestone for him. I am so happy for my best friend.
We are onto Punxy and will continue to get better each day at practice this upcoming week.
Friday’s game was the toughest challenge our team has faced all year. Being down 20 going into the fourth quarter, is really hard to find hope in winning the game. However, it was only motivation for us. Our offense really came together and got some big stops and we started to pick apart their defense through the air.
Christian holding onto that ball in the end zone was a game changer. With that, we were able to come back and win the game. That was the most exciting game I have played in my high school career and I think my teammates could say that as well.
On top of that, I’m honored to be the record holder at Clarion Area for the most receiving yards of all time. It’s really a blessing and I couldn’t have done it without my best friend, Calvin German, and the boys in the mud protecting him.
It’s crazy to me that I broke the records of the receivers I grew up watching and looking up to. I would also like to thank one of those receivers, Camron Kirkland, for teaching me what it takes to be a great receiver and working with me every day, so I can be an asset to our team.
Our coaching staff always installs a great offensive game plan and they gave me the opportunities to break this record. I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for helping me achieve this goal.
We came out slow in the first half. Everything wasn’t hitting; everyone missing a play here or there. In that second half, I don’t know what it was. We all just got something in our heads that we had to come out here, this was a big game, had to get it done. This was nice.
(On the momentum swing after Christian Simko held onto the ball for the touchdown) We saw him. We knew if he could hold onto the ball, taking a hit like that, we can come out here, finish the game plan, work our butts off the whole time, every play.
We were kind of just doing it for him, we had him in the back of our minds the whole time, wanted to get one for him.
(Coming out at halftime) I felt we had a comeback, brewing up. We really had to do it out there, because nobody likes losing a game, especially on the way home (after) away games. We all felt down because ending the (second) quarter, giving up that score was really awful, especially when it was real close.
Friday night’s game was the best comeback I’ve been a part of since the 2011 4th quarter comeback against Elk County Catholic in the first round of playoffs. It was an incredible TEAM win with extra effort and heart shown by this squad. They grew up big time and played for each other out there. The comeback was sparked by Christian Simko putting his body on the line to secure a touchdown pass and take a big hit.
While the victory was definitely all about a TEAM effort, it’s cool to see some guys hit milestones as well!
Ethan Burford is a gamer, man. He goes out there week in and week out and just makes big plays! He and Calvin have had that connection since 7th grade on the gridiron and it’s just something special. Seeing Ethan take that #1 reception spot after passing myself and Cody Hurst couldn’t make me more proud! He’s coachable, hungry to compete, and he’s really turned into a leader in his senior year!
As far as Calvin goes, he’s got that same competitive mindset. His athleticism and great arm allow him to extend plays and keep his eyes down field to find the open man. He works hard in practice and the film room and it shows on Friday nights and in the record books. It’s been an honor to watch them grow since their sophomore years with us and I am proud of what they are doing for the team! Those two are fun to coach.
Going into the season, we thought this year would be tough for the German – Burford connection with a lot of double coverage. But our receiving core as a whole with Boggess, Simko, Craddock, and Ganoe has been phenomenal with each of them making big grabs throughout the year. That, paired with a smart line that works hard to provide us time, has brought a ton of success to our passing game and has allowed Ethan and Cal to stamp their marks in the record books.
Congrats to both guys!
Coach Dave Eggleton
(On Larry out with illness, not on sideline) First off, we have a fantastic coaching staff. And that’s something we knew. If one of us wouldn’t be able to make it, we all needed to be able to step in and take over. The whole staff just stepped up this week and really just performed great tonight.
We made some adjustments at half. I thought our special teams were fantastic. The offense got it started rolling in the second half, as well. All the credit goes to the staff and the kids, for just putting in a little extra this week.
As far as comebacks go, this is probably the second best (for me). We had a big one against Punxsy, maybe my next to the last year, we were at C-L. I think this was probably the most exciting win, I’ve had, I guess I’d say performing as a head coach tonight. So probably the most exciting win I’ve had performing those duties.
(On Beau’s pinning KC deep with the punt and touchbacks) That last punt, I said to him “Beau, I don’t want them to return this. I want you to kick it out right at the ten and I think that’s what he did; I think it was right out at the ten.
He just kicked the ball phenomenally tonight, with the touchbacks and that punt at the end. When he’s on kicking like that, it’s a big advantage; making a team have to go eighty yards on a drive, a big part for us tonight for the win.
(On Cal going over 4,000 career passing yards) I’m just blessed to coach a kid like Cal. He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve coached. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the area, no doubt.
But he comes to practice every day, wanting to be better. You see so many kids who are at that level, in this area. They are just happy to be one of the better ones. But he wants to be the best and he works like it every day at practice. He’s hard on himself and I try to push him, the best I can, to get him to get better too. It just shows in situations like that.
He wants the ball when the game is on the line; he wants the ball in his hands.
(On Kaos fine defensive play) All summer, during two-a-days, we were running offense and Kaos was playing defensive line, we kept saying is he that good or what is going on there. I think he is that good. We couldn’t block him. And other teams can’t block him either. He demands a double-team every play and if you don’t, he’s going to get you in the backfield. You can’t block him with one guy. He’s just having a great season. I think he has really been coming on the last two weeks.
(On the momentum swing after Christian holding on to the ball) It sparked us. No doubt. I told some of the other reporters, “I think him making that play and just giving up his body (on the touchdown catch)… But it woke our guys up. It was like, “Okay, now we’re ready to play, we’re ready to hit back.” We kind of took some hits early and weren’t giving them. And at that point, we decided we were going to hit back. And when we did hit back, we hit back hard.”
(On the way Karns City came back on the last scoring drive and Central stopping them on the two-point conversion) They killed us on that same play all night, on that two-point conversion. It was just a counter, a cross-trap. They faked the fullback one way, miss direction, give it to the tailback the other way and they gashed us all night. Someone asked me, who made the tackle and I don’t know. I saw someone hit him once and then it just seemed like we had eleven guys on the ball right now, trying to drive him out of the endzone to make the play. Just a great team effort there.
I can’t say how proud I am of these kids. It would have been easy, in the fourth quarter, to just put your head down and be ready to pack it in for the night. They just kept fighting. That just goes to credit to them and their character.
They know how much work they put in all season and they aren’t ready to give up on it that easily.
Coach Larry Wiser
Historic night with historic performances.
This may have been one greatest come backs I have ever seen coaching.
This victory will be one for my players and staff to remember for years to come. To be part of something like this to say the least, is momentous.
This TEAM demonstrated mental toughness beyond their age. To be down 3 scores with 10 minutes left and come back and win with a goal line stand on a 2 point KC try.
This truly was a historic victory for this program and I cannot lavish enough praise for this group of young men!
The Wildcats will travel to Punxutawney, to face the Chucks, on Friday (October 16th).
(Thanks to Laura Burford for her photo. Great Game, Wildcats!!!!)
Some additional photos:
I thought you’d like to get a look just some of the friendly faces that bring the play by play on area sporting contests to you. These men, as well as Chris Rossetti from D9 and D10 Sports.com, among others have done a great service to the area athletes, parents and fans by broadcasting sporting events. If you see them, give them a big thank you!