BRADFORD — Smethport used its potent ground attack to run past Curwensville, 28-0, Friday night at Bradford’s Parkway Field to reach its first District 9 Class A title game since winning the crown in 1998.
The Hubbers scored on their first possession of the game on a cold, rainy night in Bradford, and that score proved to be all Smethport needed to collect its second playoff win this postseason — and just the school’s second playoff victory since claiming its last district title in 1998.
Curwensville tried to answer right back against the Hubbers on its ensuing possession, but the Golden Tide saw its 10-play drive stall on downs in the red zone. That proved to be Curwensville’s lone scoring threat of the night, as the Tide struggled to get its offense going over the final three quarters.
Smethport finished with a decided advantage in total yards (349-166), including 332-164 on the ground.
Senior Blake Kinner led the Hubber rushing attack as he pounded out 33 carries for 200 yards against the Golden Tide defense. Fellow senior Nathan Hollowell also went over the century mark with 129 yards on 20 totes.
Hollowell found the end zone three times, while senior Grant Ognen added a fourth rushing touchdown in the final minute of the game to help set the final.
Top-seeded Smethport (11-0) advances to play Coudersport for the D-9 Class A title next weekend. The sixth-seeded Falcons upset second-seeded Clarion-Limestone, 22-12, Friday night.
As for Curwensville, the fifth-seeded Golden Tide finished the season with a 7-5 mark.
“They (Smethport) grabbed the momentum right away, and we kind of got what we’ve given to people for a long time with a steady dose of the fullback (Kinner),” said Curwensville assistant coach Chris Folmar. “We just didn’t have the manpower to take them on, and they are undefeated for a reason. Good luck to them down the road. We just got overwhelmed in the box tonight and made too many mistakes.
“But, we couldn’t be any prouder of our seniors though. We only had a small group of guys back who were veterans (to start the season), and we ended up playing 12 games with these guys. The seniors certainly overachieved for us this season, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.
“They could have folded the tent after Week 1 this year, but we came back and we had a real successful year because of them. Everyone of them contributed and put us in the semifinal round of the district playoffs.”
Curwensville got the ball to start the game and picked up a quick first down on a 13-yard run by senior Avery Francisco, who finished the night with four carries for 52 yards.
However, the Tide were then forced to punt, and Smethport promptly put together a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive — all coming on the ground.
Kinner and Hollowell each had five carries on the drive, with Kinner running for 51 yards. Hollowell capped the series with a one-yard TD plunge with 5:04 left in the first quarter. Noah Costa’s extra point made it 7-0.
Curwensville responded with its best drive of the night — marching from its own 27 down to the Hubbers’ 18 on six running plays. Cole Bressler had four carries for 35 yards, while Blake Passarelli had three for 17.
Bressler was then dropped for a two-yard loss at the 18 on a second down play, while a false start put the Tide in a third-and-13 situation. The Smethport defense then forced two incompletions in a row by quarterback Noah VonGunden to end the drive on downs.
Bressler led the Tide with 14 carries for 71 yards, while Passarelli had 12 carries for 49 yards.
The teams then traded possessions going into the second quarter before the Hubbers put together a 12-play, 81-yard scoring march to extend its lead late in the half.
Kinner had a huge 17-yard run on third-and-1 at the Hubbers 47 before the Tide defense stuffed the big fullback two plays in a row to force fourth-and-1 at Smethport 21.
Hollowell then came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, as he burst through the line and sprinted 21 yards for the touchdown on fourth down. Curwensville’s Nick Hobert blocked the PAT, but the Hubbers eventually took that 13-0 lead into the half.
That lead proved too much for Curwensville to overcome in the second half, as the Tide managed just two first downs and 69 yards over the final two quarters.
And, nearly half those yards came on a 31-yard rumble by Francisco on Curwensville’s first possession of the half.
With its defense shutting down the Golden Tide offense, Smethport all but put the game away when Hollowell scored his third touchdown of the game — this time from nine yards out — with 1:34 left in the third quarter. Hollowell then hit Kinner on a two-point pass on a fake extra point to put the Hubbers up 21-0.
The teams traded turnovers in the middle of the fourth quarter, with Smethport’s Michael Tanner coming up with an interception on a tipped pass at midfield.
The Hubbers threatened to score off the turnover, but Curwensville’s Dakota Bloom picked off an Ognen pass in the end zone to help keep it a 21-0 game with 5:32 to play.
Semthport forced a quick three-and-out, and a short punt gave Smethport a short field at the Tide 33. Runs of 11 and 12 yards by Hollowell and Kinner, respectively, promptly made it first-and-goal at the 10.
Ognen powered in from the 1 three plays later with 36 seconds left on the clock, with Costa’s extra point setting the final at 28-0.