BROCKWAY — Back on the same field where they walked off a last-second victory one year ago, the Karns City Gremlins defend their District 9 Class 2A title Friday night at Varischetti Field.
Unlike last year’s underdog label before edging Brookville on a last-second field goal, the 10-1 Gremlins go into this one against 8-3 Ridgway as the favorite. Back on Oct. 15, the Gremlins blanked the Elkers 35-0.
Can the Elkers cut into that margin and flip the result? Clearly, they’ll need to stymie a Gremlins running game led by Luke Garing and Jayce Anderson. The two combined for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with Garing running for 106 yards on 16 carries as the Gremlins rolled up 269 yards overall on the ground.
The Gremlins led 21-0 by halftime as they stuck mostly with the running game as usual. The Elkers managed 198 yards against the Gremlins, with Domenic Allegretto and Camron Marciniak rushing for a combined 92 yards.
Last week, both teams won semifinal games, the Gremlins a 35-7 win over Central Clarion while Ridgway downed Brookville 26-6.
Karns City rolled up 372 yards of rushing against the Wildcats as Garing and Anderson each scored two touchdowns, Garing rambling for 175 yards on 20 carries while Anderson added 63 yards on 11 tries. Quarterback Eric Booher also added 66 yards on the ground with one of his two passing attempts going to Micah Rupp for a 38-yard touchdown.
For the season, the Gremlins average 381 yards per game — 283 yards rushing, 98 passing. Garing (128-955, 23 TDs) and Anderson (109-905, 9 TDs) account for nearly half of that yardage themselves along with 32 of the team’s 62 touchdowns. Booher has been efficient when he has to throw, completing 54 of 93 passes for 955 yards and 10 TDs against four interceptions while also rushing for 249 yards. Cooper Coyle (28-259, 1 TD) also gets carries.
Rupp is Booher’s top receiving target with 21 catches for 453 yards and 6 TDs.
Garing, the District 9 Large School Division Defensive MVP, leads the Gremlins’ defense in tackles per game at 7.6. Other leaders are Luke Cramer (6.7), Anderson (6.4), Coyle (5.1) and Zach Blair (4.7). Rupp leads the team with three interceptions.
Zach Kelly and Coyle are the returners. Kelly has returned two kick returns for touchdowns.
The Gremlins opened the year with five straight wins over Girard, Punxsutawney, Central Clarion, Moniteau and Brookville. Their only loss came in a 35-28 last-minute loss to St. Marys that decided the Large School Division title. Since then, they’ve marched to wins over Kane, Ridgway, Bradford and DuBois before last week’s second win over Central Clarion.
The Elkers beat the Raiders for the second time in four weeks. After holding on for a 14-13 win at Brookville on Oct. 22, the rematch in Ridgway. The rematch wasn’t as close, although the Elkers only led 3-0 at halftime before pulling away in the second half.
Domenic Allegretto ran for a touchdown and threw for a 52-yard score, connecting with tight end Tyler Merritt. His 1-yarder and Camron Marciniak’s 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter put the game away for a 26-6 win over the Raiders.
For the season, the Elkers average 303 yards per game offensively — 171 rushing and 132 passing. Allegretto’s move to quarterback (17-for-36, 365 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.) — he’s been the quarterback since the Karns City loss — late in the season has gotten the ball in his hands more. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 774 yards and 13 TDs. His 18 TDs lead the team, three of them coming on a fumble, punt and touchdown return.
Marciniak (97-559, 7 TDs) and Eric Salberg (70-410, 4 TDs) also get carries while Will Howard (23-395, 3 TDs), Marciniak (22-348, 4 TDs) and Merritt (12-251, 1 TD) are Allegretto’s top targets. When he wasn’t at QB, he’s caught 20 passes for 297 yards from two QBs, Jonathan Hinton and Cam Larkin who have combined for 1,070 yards and 10 TDs).
Defensively, Hunter Wall (12.6), Salberg (8.4), Marciniak (6.2), Dan Park (6.1) and Allegretto (6.0) are the leading tacklers per game. Park has 7.5 sacks while Allegretto leads the unit with three interceptions.
The Elkers started the season 4-0, opening with an impressive 24-7 win over St. Marys before routs over Kane, Moniteau and Bradford. A 21-6 loss to DuBois started a stretch with three losses in four games — win over Punxsutawney and losses to Central Clarion and Karns City followed — before beating Brookville and Philipsburg-Osceola to finish the regular season.
Some other odds and ends:
— Ridgway’s four-year run at district titles ended last year with a semifinal loss at Brookville. The Elkers won the Class 2A crown in 2019 and 2018 after taking the Class 1A titles in 2017 and 2016.
— The last time Ridgway and Karns City met in the playoffs was the 2019 Class 2A semifinals with the Elkers winning, 34-27.
— Karns City beat Brookville, 16-14, last year for the district title with a last-second 27-yard field goal from Owen Colwell. The Gremlins then lost 42-14 to District 10 champion and eventual state runner-up Wilmington.
— Friday’s winner faces the winner of Saturday’s Westinghouse vs. Farrell winner next week at a site and time to be announced. Farrell is the District 10 champion while Westinghouse is the District 8, or Pittsburgh City League, champion.