DuBOIS — Curwensville’s Nick Stewart ran for 248 yards and scored a total of five touchdowns, including the business end of a 75-yard hook-and-ladder play, to lead the Golden Tide to a 46-13 victory over Redbank Valley Saturday evening at E.J. Mansell Stadium in the District 9 Class a semifinals.
With the win, Curwensville moves on to the D-9 finals against Ridgway, which routed Coudersport 47-6 in the other semi.
“We’re just glad Nick Stewart was in black and gold tonight,” Curwensville assistant coach Chris Folmar said. “The kid has run hard all year long. He had to come back from an injury early in the year and he’s just poured it on week in and week out. I’m just glad he was running for us tonight.”
“We were trying to stop Stewart, but obviously we didn’t,” Redbank Valley head coach Ed Wasilowski said.”
The Tide rushing attack took control from the onset as Curwensville went 31 yards on six plays on the opening drive to take a 6-0 lead on Stewart’s 8-yard TD run. Stewart set up the short drive with a 52-yard kickoff return.
Curwensville moved deep into Redbank territory on its next possession before the Bulldog defense stiffened and forced a third-and-18 from the 26. Tide QB Bryce Timko was picked off by Brock Barrett on the play to thwart the drive.
But the Golden Tide defense forced a three-and-out Redbank punter Clint Thurston pinned them at their own 12-yard line with a 28-yard punt.
After Stewart ran for 13 yards on the last play of the first quarter, the Tide opened the second with a hook-and-ladder.
Timko hit Noah VonGunden at the 30-yard line. VonGunden then pitched the ball to Stewart, who was trailing the play, and the Tide halfback did the rest, rumbling the final 70 yards for the score.
Blake Passarelli ran in the 2-point conversion and the Tide led 14-0 with 11:46 left in the half.
“That play was all coach (Andy) Evanko,” Folmar said. “We work on that stuff every week. We have it in our offense. We’re not a flashy team, and everybody knows that. But coach saw something on film and that was just a great call at the right time.
“It was only 6-0 and it probably could have gone either way. That was just a great call on his part.”
Curwensville scored one more time in the first half as Timko connected with Stewart for a 9-yard pass with 49 seconds left before the break.
Josh Terry set up the 8-play, 45-yard drive with an interception, his second of the first half.
The Golden Tide picked off Redbank Valley quarterback Kobe Bonanno five times in the game. Terry and Timko each had two interceptions and Caleb Bloom added one.
Bonanno was in for regular starter Keaton Kahle, who was injured on a kickoff return midway through the first quarter.
“Those guys all played both sides of the ball for us and just got after them,” Folmar said. “Them losing their quarterback worked to our advantage, and we hope the kid is alright.
“But our kids on the edges played physical. Josh and (Devan) Barrett and Bryce were all physical. We kind of put it all together.”
“A couple of the interceptions weren’t really his fault,” Wasilowski said. “The last one was tipped, but the other ones he threw down the field, I don’t think our kids even competed for them and let them intercept it. I told them they had to turn into defensive backs. You can’t let them intercept the ball.”
Despite being down 21-0 and not having its starting QB, Redbank Valley opened the second half with a 62-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Bonanno 5-yard run. He was also 4-for-4 for 38 yards on the drive.
The Bulldogs built even more momentum when Brock Barrett intercepted Timko at midfield on the next series.
But two plays later, Timko exacted a measure of revenge with his first INT of the game and Curwensville took control of the game with a clock draining 60-yard drive that culminated with a Stewart 15-yard run with just 1:30 left in the third.
Timko’s second interception and the Tide’s fourth came just three plays later and set Curwensville up at its own 46-yard line.
Avery Francisco capped the ensuing 5-play, 54-yard drive with a 14-yard score with 10:37 left in the fourth. The bruising fullback, who added a 13-yard TD run later in the quarter picked up 69 yards on seven carries.
Bonanno had a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth for the Bulldogs, while Stewart finished off his night with a 4-yard score with 1:58 to go in the game.
Curwensville outgained the Bulldogs 435-190 and had 22 first downs to Redbank Valley’s 10.
Redbank Valley’s Clint Thurston, who came into the game with over 1600 yards on the ground, got banged up during the contest and finished with just 9 on eight carries.
“We had a couple guys who shouldn’t have played and wouldn’t come out,” Wasilowski said. “They said they were OK and they weren’t. We lost Clint for most of the game. Logan (Minich) probably shouldn’t have been out there, but they’re seniors and wanted to play and the trainer said they’re OK. There was no danger, so they went back out.”
The Bulldogs finished the season with a record of 7-5.
Curwensville improved to 9-2 and tangle with Ridgway Friday at 7 p.m. at Mansell Stadium.