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JOHNSONBURG â€“ Visiting Coudersport set the tone early with a punishing rushing attack Friday that the Rams had no answer for as the Falcons cruised to a 48-13 win on junior running back Caden Whitman's four rushing touchdowns.
"We were manhandled-- our defensive line, both sides of the ball-- we were just manhandled," said Johnsonburg head varsity football coach Jesse Schreiber. "Coudersport had a very aggressive offensive line and they manhandled our defense. We were in a 5-2 and then went to a 4-4 defensive scheme in the second quarter, and that helped us a little bit defensively.
"Either way, Coudersport's offensive line is tough. We had a lot of fresh faces out there and I really think they were shell-shocked in the first quarter."
The Falcons came out strong in the first half and put 28 unanswered points on the board. Whitman scored two minutes into the game from 20 yards for the early 6-0 lead. The Rams followed with a 3-and-out and Coudersport took over at the Johnsonburg 48-yard line and marched down the field in four plays highlighted by a 21-yard run from Whitman. Coudersport junior running back Mitch Freeman would later trot into the endzone from three yards out for the 14-0 lead after a 2-point conversion run from Whitman.
The Rams were frustrated again by the Falcon defense as Johnsonburg junior starting quarterback Quinn Luhr was sacked for a 15-yard loss on 3rd-and-10. After a decent punt return gave the Falcons the ball at the Rams' 25-yard line, back-to-back rushing plays of 12 and 13 yards by Freeman gave the visitors a 21-0 advantage.
A third-down interception by Luhr gave Coudersport excellent field position on their own 43-yard line with 1:34 to go in the first quarter but a sack from Johnsonburg senior defensive lineman Steve Zimmerman forced the first Falcon punt of the night. Howver, another Luhr interception, this time to Coudersport senior defensive back Garrett Russell, was returned to the Johnsonburg 25-yard line after a 26-yard return. Whitman crossed the plane from two yards out with 9:28 to go in the second quarter for the 28-0 lead and his second score of the game.
"We played better football throughout the second quarter and we had to get a bit more accustomed," Schreiber said. "We're not making excuses as far as numbers are concerned but we can't always go full strength [in practice] so it's all about the speed of the game and we got more accustomed to it.
"We eventually got some first downs, saw some positive plays but then we turned the ball over."
After trading possessions in the second quarter, the Rams caught a break on a personal foul to move the ball 15 yards to the Coudersport 30-yard line. The Falcons forced 4th-and-10 but Luhr found junior wingback Frank Kocjancic for a 24-yard pass to give Johnsonburg 1st-and-goal at the 6-yard line. After a 2-yard run from sophomore running back C.J. Herbstritt, Luhr found Kocjancic in the endzone for a 4-yard touchdown catch. Junior Kyle Sheldon split the uprights to cut the lead to 28-7.
"I thought [Luhr] threw some good passes but also did a great job running the ball when he had to," Schreiber said. "In the first quarter, he forced it a bit too much but as he got accustomed to the game, he got better and better."
But with 1:20 left before halftime, the Falcons took advantage of the time with good field position after a 28-yard return to the Johnsonburg 43-yard line and two aerial plays.
On first down, Coudersport senior starting quarterback Tim McCusker hit senior Jason Gibson for a 27-yard completion. After moving the chains, McCusker dumped off a 30-yard catch-and-run to senior split end Alex Hutcheson to take a 35-7 lead.
"We were able to put some points on the board and scored one against their first-string so that was nice for us, something positive to take out of it-- we weren't shutout by their first-string team," Schreiber said. "Our rushing attack was OK and we made some [defensive] stops when we had to so those are things that we have to build on.
"We moved the ball a little bit and put some points on the board."
The Rams' defense fared a little better in the second half as senior defensive lineman Jaryd Servidea pinned McCusker to the ground for a 9-yard loss. McCusker followed with a 15-yard pass to Freeman before punting the ball away.
After a 3-and-out, the Falcons regained possession and needed just four plays to hit the endzone. McCusker broke free on a quarterback keeper for 25 yards to set up Whitman from five yards out for his third touchdown of the night with 5:22 to play.
The Rams would fumble the ensuing kickoff and Coudersport needed just four plays again to cash in. This time, Whitman capped off the drive with a 12-yard trek to take a 48-7 lead.
Johnsonburg would add a score in the fourth quarter starting at the Falcon 46-yard line. Luhr dumped a 17-yard pass to senior tight end Troy Padasak and after consecutive runs of 13 and 5 yards by senior tailback Mike Shuey, Luhr crossed the plane on a quarterback keeper to cut the deficit to 48-13.
Despite playing against a power-running team, Schreiber said his team will have to improve its tackling ability throughout the season.
"That's the weight room right there, the summer workouts in the weight room, that's where it starts," Schreiber said. "Coudersport just showed that they're a stronger football team and many times we were out there trying to arm-tackle. We have to get stronger on that."
NOTES: This was Schreiber's first game as varsity head coach for Johnsonburgâ€¦ Players wore a stick on the back of their helmets that said "TL" as a way to pay tribute to former head coach Tom Launer who died earlier this yearâ€¦ The Rams travel Friday, Sept. 9 for a 7 p.m. game at Cameron County.
Coudersport 21 14 13 0 - 48
Johnsonburg 0 7 0 6 - 13
C â€“ Caden Whitman 20 run (Joel Pepper kick failed), 9:55, 6-0
C â€“ Mitch Freeman 3 run (Whitman 2-pt. conversion run), 5:12, 14-0
C â€“ Freeman 13 run (Pepper kick), 2:36, 21-0
C â€“ Whitman 2 run (Pepper kick), 9:28, 28-0
J â€“ Frank Kocjancic 4 pass from Quinn Luhr (Kyle Sheldon kick), 1:20, 28-7
C â€“ Alex Hutcheson 30 pass from Tim McCusker (Pepper kick), :37, 35-7
C â€“ Whitman 5 run (conversion failed), 5:22, 41-7
C â€“ Whitman 12 run (Pepper kick), 3:11, 48-7
J â€“ Luhr 7 run (conversion failed), 9:33, 48-13
C Team Stats J
36-221 Rushes-Yards 22-80
83 Passing Yards 64
304 Total Yards 144
Passing: Coudersport: Tim McCusker 5-7-83-1-0. Johnsonburg: Quinn Luhr: 6-19-64-1-2.
Rushing: Coudersport: Caden Whitman 21-132, Mitch Freeman 7-59, Tim McCusker 5-35, Alex Furman 1-0, Jason Gibson 1-(-2), Alex Hutcheson 1-(-3).
Johnsonburg: C.J. Herbstritt 8-29, Mike Shuey 7-29, Eric Bevacqua 1-16, Quinn Luhr 4-5, Frank Kocjancic 2-1.
Receiving: Coudersport: Jason Gibson 3-38, Alex Hutcheson 1-30, Mitch Freeman 1-15. Johnsonburg: Frank Kocjancic 3-28, Troy Padasak 2-21, C.J. Herbstritt 2-7, Shane Bickford 1-8.