STRATTANVILLE — In a see-saw battle in the quarterfinal round of the District 9 Class A playoffs between Coudersport and Clarion-Limestone, the Falcons made enough big plays on offense while making one more stop on defense to come away with a 44-40 win.
And with it, the Lions’ season ended with a thud at 6-5.
It was a painful loss for the Lions, who led 20-0 after the first quarter but couldn’t hold on as the Falcons won their first playoff game in six years.
“It’s awesome, the past two years I’ve been with the program we’ve lost in this round,” said Coudersport head coach Tom Storey. “The guys came to play. We play Ridgway so whenever that game is played our guys will be ready to go.”
The Lions held advantages in just about every statistical category except the one that matters the most on the scoreboard. The Lions held a 214-204 edge in rushing yards, 256-135 advantage in passing yards, and a 24-10 advantage in first downs.
One area C-L didn’t hold the edge was the turnover margin where the Lions lost a fumble and an interception which both turned into points for the Falcons and turned the tide of the game.
That was huge and something that dogged head coach Davey Eggleton’s team all season. They finished minus-1 in turnover ratio for the game and minus-7 for the season and every one of those minuses cost the Lions dearly this year.
“When you get to the playoffs the turnover battle is going to be the key,” said Eggleton. “You can’t have that and expect to win football games. I’m proud of my guys though. At the start of the season we only had 16 guys dressed so for them to fight and get to this point what can you say. Brenden (Makray), Kyle (Kerle), Riley (Hummell), Christian (Smith), Nate Lawson, Blaine Anthony are our seniors and we’re going to miss those guys. I’m so proud of what they’ve all done for our program.”
Austin Newcomb led the C-L rushing attack with 119 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, Hummell added 75 yards on 13 carries with two scores, and Ayden Wiles added 62 yards on 11 attempts.
Brenden Makray completed 14 of 28 passes for 256 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Kyle Kerle caught six passes for 161 yards while catching both touchdown passes. Hummell added four catches for 52 yards while Newcomb added four receptions for 43.
Stevie Kelly led the Coudersport ground game with 97 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown and Hayden Keck adding 41 yards on seven attempts. Jared Green rushed 10 times for 38 yards with two scores.
Green completed 3 of 6 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Keck completed 1 of 3 passes for 30 yards with a score.
Keck caught one pass which went for a 71-yard score and Green added a 30-yard touchdown reception.
“We mixed in some passing tonight which they might not have been expecting,” said Storey. “We’ve been working on it and we’ll continue to do so.”
Things couldn’t have started any better for C-L as the Lions defense held Coudersport without a first down on their three offensive drives while adding three touchdowns of their own on three drives culminating on Makray’s 53-yarder to Kerle less than 90 seconds into the game, Hummell’s 15-yard run and Newcomb’s 4-yard run to put the Lions up 20-0 with two seconds left in the quarter.
But the Falcons got going in the second quarter, getting on the board on Greens’ 1-yard run to make it 20-8 with 9:32 left before halftime.
Following one of the Lions’ turnovers on a Newcomb fumble at the Falcons’ 25, the Falcons scored three plays later on Green’s 71-yard screen pass to Keck.
Another Lions turnover on a Makray interception eventually set up more points for the Falcons, who tied it at 20-20 on Keck’s 30-yard option pass to Green with 3:36 left before halftime.
At the end of the half, the Lions had a chance to score with the ball at the Falcons’ 6 with seven second left, but three incomplete passes later, they came up empty.
“That first score got our guys going and got our confidence back,” said Storey. “But, turning the turnovers into points also helped.”
The Lions turned Coudersport’s lone turnover into points to re-take the lead at 26-20 less than two minutes into the second half.
Blaine Anthony intercepted a Green pass and returned it 10 yards to the Coudy 28. On the first play after the turnover, Makray connected with Kerle on a 28 yard score. The pass was tipped by a defender into Kerle’s hands for the score. The conversion pass failed and C-L led 26-20 at the 6:14 mark.
But two times before the end of the quarter, the Falcons scored twice and added two crucial two-point conversion plays to go up for good at 36-26.
Kelly ran 38 yards to score for the Falcons at the 5:50 mark with Keck adding the two-point run. Then after a poor Lions punt gave the Falcons the ball at the Lions’ 45, they scored again
Six running plays later, Green capped the drive on a 4-yard scoring run. Keck connected with Burd on the two-point conversion, pushing the Falcons’ lead to 10.
The rest of the game’s scoring came in the first 3:09 of the fourth quarter, with all three coming in a span of less than two minutes.
Hummell scored on a one yard run with 10:04 to play. The conversion run failed and the Lions trailed 36-32.
Keglovits took the ensuing kickoff 71 yards from his own 16 to the Lions’ 13. After a C-L penalty, the ball was placed at the 8 and Green took it from there. Keck added the two-point run for a 44-32 lead with 9:50 to play.
The Lions’ Ayden Wiles then returned the kickoff 67 yards to the Coudy 3. Two plays later, Newcomb scored from the one and also added the two-point run to cut the lead to 44-40 with plenty of time still to play with 8:51 on the clock.
But the only serious threat for the Lions came at the end when they drove to the Falcons’ 44 and faced a fourth-and-10 with 1:06 to play. Makray threw a low pass which Kerle was unable to handle for an incomplete pass, which turned the ball over to the Falcons who were able to run out the clock to seal the victory.
“When we fell behind I didn’t really say anything,” said Storey. “It was actually one of my players who spoke up and it kind of struck a nerve and it got the guys going. Defensively, we were able to figure some things out and we got pressure on their quarterback which took a load off of our defensive backs.”