Pennsy wins 44th Big 30 Charities Classic

Lori Chase
August 10, 2017

Saturday’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic was billed as a matchup between two old-school, run-heavy offenses. Instead of a low-scoring slugfest, though, observers at Interstate Parkway Field were treated to the third-highest offensive output in the series’ 44-year history.

With the Pennsylvania defense making a slew of big plays and the offense scoring on six of seven possessions once they started rolling, the Keystone State squad erased an early two-touchdown deficit to roll to a 48-30 victory over New York on a gorgeous, if cool, summer evening in Bradford.

“I just told the kids, do what you do best and make plays,” fifth-year Elk County Catholic head coach Tony Gerg said. “The coaches weren’t gonna win this game, it was the kids. Let them go out and let ’em do what they know how to do, and they did.”

The 78 total points trailed only the 2003 (56-40) and 2010 (46-37) contests, a pair of New York shootout wins, and Pennsy’s 48-point outburst finished just behind their 2013 (53-12) and 2005 (49-22) counterparts for bragging rights as they narrowed the Empire State’s lead in the series to 22-20-2.

Quarterbacks Nate DaCanal (ECC) and Kyle Kirk (Bradford) combined for 264 yards and a trio of touchdown passes, with their point production matched by the power-running tandem of Seth Drummond (Otto-Eldred) and Matt Marconi (St. Marys).

Most of those Pennsy touchdown drives were set up by turnovers – including a pair of takeaways by Coudersport grad Aaron Wolfinger and a fourth-down stop by his Falcon teammate Brock Wilson – and a late pick-six by Ridgway’s Jacob Anderson capped off the scoring, beginning the celebration in earnest on the home team’s sideline.

“We just needed to settle in and get a good stop, get a chance for our offense to make a big move, and that’s what we did,” Wolfinger said. “All game long we were having a little trouble with the defense, but we found it and we came out on top.”

Gerg, who noted the athleticism of the Coudy duo during a post-practice interview last week, tabbed Wolfinger’s third-quarter interception as the key play on a night chock-full of momentum swings. With Pennsylvania clinging to its first lead of the game, the Falcon linebacker stepped in front of a pass attempt at his own 32-yard line to halt New York’s potential go-ahead drive, and DaCanal found Bradford receiver Dawson Ambrose for a 38-yard catch-and-run score shortly thereafter to open up a 34-22 margin.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Gerg said of the two-time Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star. “To come up and pick that off to stop the drive, because if they score on that drive … It’s a different game, maybe, because our strategy has to change from that point. So I really think that play meant a lot.”

Pregame preparation was the key for Wolfinger, who also made sure to credit the offense for cashing in on the opportunity he gave them.

“We had been doing a lot of flats coverage in practice, a lot of routes like that, and I just made a move on it,” he said. “It was definitely one of them (a momentum-changer), but we’ve got to give props to the offense to make a move on that. If they don’t do anything on that play, it really doesn’t mean much.”

If his pick wasn’t the defensive play of the game, a strong argument could be made for his earlier takeaway. Already down 14-0 and facing fourth-and-long early in the second quarter, Pennsylvania punted the ball away, but Wolfinger’s well-timed downfield coverage forced a muff that he recovered at the New York 26. On the next play, Kirk found tight end Parker Smith (St. Marys) open at the goal line to put Pennsy on the board.

“I had to check a couple times and make sure he wasn’t fair-catching it. I didn’t want to get any penalty like that. As soon as I saw that he didn’t, I took the opportunity,” Wolfinger said.

New York’s next possession came to an abrupt end at the Pennsylvania 42, with Wilson flashing into the backfield on fourth-and-an-inch to drag down Gowanda back Jason Gauthier for no gain.

“He had a great game, he really did,” Wolfinger said of his Falcon running mate. “Coming off-tackle and making those really good stops, he was a vital part of that defense.”

Added Gerg, “He’s going on to play at Alfred U, and I’m telling you what, they’re getting a gem up there. That kid is one of the smartest football players, football smarts, that I’ve ever met. He gets it. He’s going to be an outstanding college player.”

Pennsylvania took advantage of the turnover on downs to pull into a 14-14 tie on Marconi’s nine-yard touchdown run, but New York answered with a highlight-reel play. Randolph quarterback Jake Beaver completed a 10-yard out to Cordell O’Brien, who deftly flipped the ball to his Frewsburg teammate Caleb Caldwell for a 60-yard sprint past a stunned Pennsylvania sideline to finish off the successful hook-and-lateral.

After forcing another punt, the blue-clad New Yorkers were in position to reclaim control, but the first of two interceptions by Ridgway cornerback Josh Raubenstrauch gave Pennsylvania the ball back at midfield with just 1:08 remaining in the half.

That proved to be just enough time. Kane’s Davis Gardner made a leaping 41-yard grab to put Pennsy in the red zone, and DaCanal followed with a five-yard slant to Ambrose for the score with 8.1 seconds left on the clock to make it 22-20 at the break.

The second half belonged to the Keystone defense and running game, with the other two Potter County players in the game, Coudy guard Corey Thompson and O-E tight end (and Oswayo Valley grad) Grant West helping open holes for the Pennsy backs. Taking direct snaps out of the single-wing set, Drummond pounded out 84 of his game-best 98 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final 30 minutes, including 10 carries and a catch on a backbreaking 15-play, 71-yard drive which chewed up almost half of the fourth quarter after New York had scored on a 46-yard catch-and-run by O’Brien to cut the margin to 34-30.

“It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?” Gerg said, smiling. “You’ve got two big bowling balls in there with Marconi and Drummond. That’s what we’re designed for, even back at Elk County, that kid that can take the ball and just drive down the field and have the faith that they can handle the ball, not turn it over. They took over the game. Once you can manage that clock at the end with that lead, you’ve won it. They were outstanding.”

On the other side of the ball, the Pennsy defense settled in after its early-game jitters, forcing a total of five turnovers in the final three quarters while allowing just the two big-play scores.

“The first quarter was a little iffy, because we didn’t know what they were going to be running, they didn’t know what we were going to be running. We were a little rough in some patches,” Port Allegany tackle TyDel Green said. “Once we straightened it around, though, we just pretty much overcame it. “

Afterward, players and coaches mingled with their families and posed for pictures on the Parkway Field turf, promising each other to keep in touch with their newfound friends.

“When it came down to it, everybody executed when they needed to. Really fun game,” Green said. “Everybody did what they were asked in practice, and it showed on the field. Great group of guys, some memories that all of us can take forever. Just a great experience.”

Wilson added, “It’s once in a lifetime, it really is. The whole process, going through it, is fantastic. It’s a lot of fun, and to show out like we did is even better. Icing on the cake.”

-The Pennsylvania defense tied a pair of game records, matching New York’s four-interception night in 1978 while Raubenstrauch joined six other players, including Port Allegany’s Kerry Hawver (2001), with a pair of pickoffs. Raubenstrauch also broke up two passes, as did Bradford’s Mitch Vleminckx.
– Beaver put his name in the record book for his three touchdown passes (including the hook-and-lateral), a feat previously accomplished by Gator quarterbacks Tom Nasto in 2001 and Matt Bodamer in 2013 as well as New York’s John Ditcher in 1986.
-Kane kicker Joe Johnson missed an early field-goal attempt but finished with six successful extra-point attempts, one short of the mark set by Bradford’s Kyle MacFarlane in 2005.
-Smethport defensive end Akete Kindle notched a pair of sacks, while Gowanda passrushers Ethan Francis and Marcus Jones each recorded a takedown for New York. Each team also made seven tackles for loss, including one by Green and two by Ridgway’s Justin Kasmierski.

At Bradford, Aug. 5:

New York 14 8 8 0 30
Pennsylvania 0 20 14 14 48

Scoring Summary
First Quarter

New York – Cordell O’Brien 10 pass from Jake Beaver (6 plays, 58 yards); kick blocked, 6-0
New York – Devin Carr 2 run (12 plays, 60 yards after Chris Johnson fumble recovery); Jason Gauthier run, 14-0
Second Quarter
Pennsylvania – Parker Smith 26 pass from Kyle Kirk (1 play, 26 yards after Aaron Wolfinger fumble recovery); Joe Johnson kick, 14-7
Pennsylvania – Matt Marconi 9 run (3 plays, 58 yards after turnover on downs); Johnson kick, 14-14
New York – Caleb Caldwell 60 lateral from O’Brien after 10 pass from Beaver (3 plays, 74 yards); O’Brien pass from Beaver, 22-14
Pennsylvania – Dawson Ambrose 5 pass from Nate DaCanal (7 plays, 50 yards after Josh Raubenstrauch interception); pass failed, 22-20
Third Quarter
Pennsylvania – Seth Drummond 12 run (8 plays, 79 yards); Johnson kick, 22-27
Pennsylvania – Ambrose 38 pass from DaCanal (6 plays, 68 yards after Wolfinger interception); Johnson kick, 22-34
New York – O’Brien 46 pass from Beaver (7 plays, 64 yards); Beaver run, 30-34
Fourth Quarter
Pennsylvania – Drummond 4 run (15 plays, 71 yards); Johnson kick, 30-41
Pennsylvania – Jacob Anderson 30 interception return; Johnson kick, 30-48

First downs 19 23
Rushes-Yards 49-197 48-182
Passing Yards 188 264
Comp-Att-Int 8-20-4 14-21-0
Total Yards 385 446
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Punts-Avg. 2-32.5 3-31.0
Penalties-Yards 8-61 4-35
Total Plays 69 69

Individual Statistics
NY – Kameron Alexander 9-82; Jason Gauthier 18-72; Devin Carr 13-47; Casey Williams 5-17; Alexander Edstrom 2-(-1); Jake Beaver 2-(-20). PA – Seth Drummond 18-98, 2 TD; Matt Marconi 14-66, TD; Kyle Kirk 5-15; Brendon Mattson 3-14; Jared Braun 3-2; Tristan Reed 1-(-3); Nate DaCanal 4-(-10).
Passing: NY – Beaver 6-12-1, 165 yards, 3 TD; Carr 2-7-2, 23 yards; Gauthier 0-1-1. PA – DaCanal 10-12-0, 143 yards, 2 TD; Kirk 4-9-0, 74 yards, TD.
Receiving: NY – Cordell O’Brien 5-94, 2 TD; Caleb Caldwell 1-71 (60 on lateral), TD; Ryan Schlosser 2-23. PA – Dawson Ambrose 4-92, 2 TD; Davis Gardner 3-68; Parker Smith 2-34, TD; Braun 1-27; Mattson 2-23; Drummond 1-13; Marconi 1-7.

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