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The Elk County Catholic Crusader football squad was handed their first loss of the season on Friday evening, falling to the Coudersport Falcons 12-7 in a match played at Dutch Country Stadium.
"We never really got the offense going," said ECC coach Travis Skrzypek. "I thought we had a nice drive in the third and again in the fourth. We had to punch in at the end of the game and we didn't get the job done."
The Crusaders were led on the ground by Cole Gerber with 52 yards on 11 carries. Brock McCullough added 45 yards on 16 carries and returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for the team's only touchdown.
"That was a good start," Skrzypek said of McCullough's kickoff return. "Brock motored down the sideline."
Quarterback Mitchell Vallone was 3-of-8 for 22 yards and an interception. McCullough caught one pass for seven yards; Gerber caught a pass for five yards, and Montana Schneider caught a pass for 10 yards.
For Coudersport, Caden Whitman finished with 108 yards on 23 carries. Quarterback Tim McCusker was 5-of-13 for 81 yards and two interceptions. Clayton Wilson had a 41-yard touchdown catch.
For the Crusader defense, Pat Brennen and Clayton Housler both had interceptions.
Elk Catholic won the coin toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff.
McCullough fielded the kick and returned it about 80 yards for the team's sole touchdown. Scott Krellner added the PAT to give the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead with 11:45 remaining in the quarter.
Hank Cappiello's ensuing kickoff unintentionally seemed more like an onside kick, but the Crusaders ultimately benefitted from the miscue as Coudersport fumbled the ball and Elk Catholic was able to recover.
"Hank miskicked the kickoff," Skrzypek explained. "We recovered the onside there. It really wasn't an onside kick, but we jumped on it. We were off to a good start but we just couldn't get that offense going."
The two teams traded punts, and on the following ECC drive the team looked to be gaining some momentum when Vallone's pass was intercepted by Tim McCusker. From there, the Falcons needed just three plays to find the endzone as McCusker connected with Clayton Wilson on a 41-yard pass for a touchdown. Coudersport was only able to cut into the Crusader lead, but not tie it, as the PAT failed, making the score 7-6 in favor of Elk Catholic with 5:23 remaining in the quarter.
The teams each traded a pair of possessions before Coudersport took back control of the ball just before the end of the first half. This time the Falcons needed 12 plays to drive 54 yards to the endzone and take over the lead on a 2-yard run by McCusker. The PAT again failed, giving Coudersport a 12-7 lead with 6:36 remaining in the half. McCusker's touchdown would be the final score in the contest.
"We had a little talk at halftime, and I thought we came out in the third quarter and we started to move the ball," Skrzypek said. "We were looking a little better and hitting the holes harder, but we couldn't punch one in."
The Falcons tried to extend their lead at the end of the third quarter, putting on a 15-play, 71-yard drive that saw them ultimately turn the ball over to the Crusaders at their 17-yard line after they failed to pick up enough yards on fourth down.
Elk County Catholic tried to get back into the game on their ensuing possession as they drove 49 yards in nine plays; however, they lost ground on their next three plays and turned the ball back over to Coudersport.
Coudersport picked up a pair of first downs and then McCusker took a knee to let the clock run out and give the Falcons the 12-7 victory.
"The Coudersport team [is] well-coached and classy," Skrzypek said following the game. "They're a classy group of guys and they played their hearts out tonight. It was a good game."
With the loss, Elk Catholic is now 2-1 on the season and 2-1 in the Allegheny Mountain League.
Elk County Catholic's varsity cheerleaders held a cheer clinic for 31 participants in kindergarten through sixth grade. The youngsters assisted the varsity squad throughout the first quarter of the game by cheering and performing a dance.
Elk Catholic will travel to Port Allegany to take on the Gators next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Unofficial game statistics
First Downs 9 12
Yards gained rushing 100 148
Passes attempted 8 13
Passes completed 3 5
Intercepted by 2 1
Yards gained passing 22 81
Total yards 122 229
Punts-average 4-31 2-44
Penalties-yards 1-10 3-15
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Offensive plays 44 56
Score by quarters
Coudersport 6 6 0 0 12
Elk Catholic 7 0 0 0 7
First quarter - Elk Catholic - Brock McCullough returned opening kickoff 80 yards. Scott Krellner kicked PAT, 7-0, 11:45.
First quarter - Coudersport - Clayton Wilson caught 41-yard touchdown pass. PAT failed, 7-6, 5:23.
Second quarter - Coudersport - Tim McCusker 2-yard run. PAT failed, 12-7, 6:36.
Rushing - Elk Catholic - Cole Gerber, 11 carries, 52 yards; Brock McCullough, 16 carries, 45 yards; Mitchell Vallone, 7 carries, -2 yards; Hank Cappiello, 2 carries, 5 yards. Coudersport - Caden Whitman, 23 carries, 108 yards; Mitch Freeman, 8 carries, 10 yards; Jason Gibson, 3 carries, 7 yards; Tim McCusker, 7 carries, 3 yards; Alex Furman, 2 carries, 20 yards.
Passing - Elk Catholic - Mitchell Vallone 3-8-22. Coudersport - Tim McCusker 5-13-81.
Receiving - Elk Catholic - Brock McCullough, 1 catch for 7 yards; Cole Gerber, 1 catch for 5 yards; Montana Schneider, 1 catch for 10 yards. Coudersport - Alex Hutcheson, 1 catch for 11 yards; Clayton Wilson, 1 catch for 41 yards and a touchdown; Caden Whitman, 2 catches for 10 yards; Ethan Hite, 1 catch for 11 yards.