CURWENSVILLE — Curwensville used a strong defensive effort, while capitalizing on a pair of short Union/A-C Valley punts, to pull out a hard-fought 14-13 victory at Riverside Stadium last Friday night.

The loss dropped the Falcon Knights to 1-2 going into this Friday’s trip to Otto-Eldred.

“These kids haven’t been in a tight game like that for a long time, and that’s what we stressed to them, to not hang their heads,” Union/ACV head coach Brad Dittman said. “These guys are a bunch of fighters and we need to learn from the missed opportunities we had. If we clean those up few details, we’re a football team to be reckoned with.”

Curwensville’s defense forced a quick three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, and Cole Bressler partially blocked the Falcon Knight punt. The Golden Tide got the ball at the Union/A-C Valley 30.

Bressler then ripped off a 16-yard run to set up an 11-yard touchdown rumble by senior Avery Francisco. Jabob Mullins’ extra point put the Tide up 7-0 just 3:31 into the game.

Curwensville found the going tough from there against the Falcon Knight defense, recording just seven first downs after its first drive.

Union/ACV struggled just as much against the Tide defense though but managed to tie the game early in the second quarter. The game then remained knotted at 7-7 going into the fourth quarter before the Tide “D” backed up the Falcon Knights early in the fourth.

A sack by Cole Bressler on the first play of the fourth, coupled with a facemask penalty on the Falcon Knights set up a second-and-25 situation at the Union/AVC 10.

After an incompletion, Francisco dropped Nolan Cumberland for a one-yard loss on a middle screen that forced Union/AVC to punt. Curwensville pressured Cumberland, who only got off a 15-yard kick to his own 24.

Bressler ran for seven yards on the second down, but Curwensville soon found itself in a fourth-and-3 at the 17. The Tide went to their senior back again, and Francisco broke free off the left side for a 17-yard touchdown — his second of the game. Mullins kick put Curwensville up 14-7 with 8:56 to play.

Francisco and Bressler ran for 61 and 81 yards, respectively, to account for 148 of the Tide’s 194 total yards on the night. Francisco had nine carries and Bressler 11. Both also had big games on the defensive side.

“We thought we matched well with them up front, and felt our front seven could play with their front seven all day long,” Dittman said. “We knew they had a couple big backs and worked hard all week long on our tackling. We still missed some tackles tonight, but we got hats to the football and they were playing hard and physical.”

Union/ACV countered with its best drive of the night following Curwensville’s score. The Falcon Knights, who started on their own 23 went to the air. Qurterback Luke Bowser hit Carson Snyder for 11 yards on first down, then found Kylar Culbertson for 18 yards on third-and-10.

Snyder then hauled in a 14-yard catch before tanner Merwin made a nice catch on a back shoulder throw near the sideline for 29 yards down to the Golden Tide 5.

Cumberland scored from three yards out two plays later to pull the Falcon Knights within a point (14-13) with 5:20 to play. However, Cumberland’s extra point went just wide right.

Curwensville picked up a first down on the ensuing possession on a 29-yard catch by Bloom, but the the Tide had to punt following a a holding penalty.

Union/ACV got the ball back at its own 16 following a 24-yard pooch punt by Francisco with 1:42 remaining down a point.

The Curwensville defense came up with one more big play then, as Blake Passarelli hauled in a tipped pass for what proved to be a victory-sealing interception.

Francisco broke for 12 yards on the ensuing play, allowing the Golden Tide to take a knee twice to run out the clock and improve to 2-1 on the season.

After Francisco’s initial score early in the game, the remainder of opening quarter was a battle of punts and field possession.

Union/ACV took over at the Curwensville 45 late in the quarter, but a a 12-yard sack put the Falcon Knights in a third-and-22 situation. They managed to covert as Caden Rainey hauled in a 23-yard pass from Bowser.

Four plays later it was rainey again, as his 31-yard catch on fourth-and-8 put Union/ACV at the Golden Tide 1. Cumberland powered in from there for the score, then booted the extra point to even things at 7-7 with 10:15 left in the half.

Curwensville was forced to punt on its next possession but got prime field position was Cumberland dropped the snap on a Falcon Knight punt. The Tide got the ball at the Union/ACV 27. However, they gave it right back four plays later on a fumble by Passarelli at the 5 that was recovered by Gaven Bowser.

Bloomed picked off a pass on the ensuing Union/ACV possessions, but Curwensvilel couldn’t capitalize as the teams eventually went to the break tied at 7-7.

A huge punt return by Rainey early in the third quickly put Union/ACV in the red zone at the Curwensville 19. The Falcon Knights got as close as the four before Luke Bowser fumbled the ball rolling out on fourth down, with the Tide’s Hayden Walnock falling on the loose pigskin.

Union/ACV forced a quick three-and-out and got the ball near midfield. The Falcon Knights picked up two first downs before the Golden Tide defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 23.

That defensive stop late in the third set the stage for the final quarter, where the Tide made enough plays to come away with the victory.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys, though,” Dittman added. “We fell short on the scoreboard, but we’re a heck of a team, and we’re going to continue to get better as we progress here.”

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