For the second year in a row, the Elk County Catholic Crusaders football team started off their season with a victory over the Cameron County Red Raiders, this time picking up a 19-6 victory. Both teams had plenty of extra time to consider their strategies during Saturday evening’s match-up at Dutch Country Stadium in St. Marys, as the game was delayed for an hour and 15 minutes during the second quarter due to visible lightning from a storm to the north of the county.
“It was a marathon,” said ECC head coach Travis Skrzypek regarding the nearly four-hour game. “When that break was there, we didn’t know exactly how we were going to respond, but we did good coming out of it. But then in the third period after the halftime we weren’t putting it together. We didn’t focus and we just didn’t come out playing the third quarter at all.”
Moving forward, Skryzpek indicated that there are a few key areas that the team will need to work on.
“We just have to identify our wingbacks and our blocks on the outside a little bit. They kind of played games with our wings and our tight ends on the outside run game a little bit, but when they play that game it opened up a little bit inside. We were having some success with the B and C gaps,” Skrzypek said.
The Crusaders were led on the ground by senior Cole Gerber, who finished with 135 yards on 21 carries.
“Cole ran hard,” Skrzypek said. “He puts his head down and he gets north-south still. He gets through the hole and he gets some positive yards and he’s a tough kid.”
In addition to Gerber, Brock McCullough had six carries for 29 yards, Hank Cappiello had 10 carries for 44 yards, Joe McLaughlin had four carries for nine yards, and Joe Georgino had one carry for 10 yards. Quarterback Mitchell Vallone was three-of-10 for 73 yards and a touchdown. Vallone also returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter and rushed 16 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“It was definitely a momentum-changer for our defense,” Skrzypek said of Vallone’s interception return. “ I think our defense played a pretty good game all around.”
For Cameron County, Nick Stuckey and Matt Fragale each had 27 yards on six carries, while Tony Olivett 15 had yards on six carries. Quarterback Zach Austin had -1 yards on nine carries and was one-of-seven for four yards, while Tucker Britton was one-of-three for five yards.
The Crusaders won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
Both teams traded punts for much of the first quarter and neither team was able to make it into the endzone. On their first drive of the second quarter, McCullough returned a punt to the 34-yard-line; however, the Crusaders were backed up 10 yards on a holding call. Gerber picked up 20 yards on two carries before a late hit by Cameron County advanced the Crusaders 15 yards to Cameron County’s 40-yard line. On the next play, Vallone connected with McLaughlin for a 40-yard touchdown pass to put the Crusaders on the board and Scott Krellner added the PAT, after having to rekick because of a dead ball penalty, to make the score 7-0 with 10:03 remaining in the half.
The teams again traded possessions and the game was halted due to lightning as Cameron County was about to begin their second full series of the quarter with 6:33 remaining in the half. After an hour and 15 minute delay, the teams retook the field. A five-yard penalty for illegal motion moved the Red Raiders back to their own 25-yard-line. Following an incomplete pass by Austin, Vallone was ready for the next one, intercepting it at the 45-yard-line and returning it for a touchdown to extend Elk Catholic’s lead. The PAT was blocked, leaving the score at 13-0 in favor of the Crusaders with 6:11 remaining in the half.
Neither team was able to get their offense moving again and the Crusaders held their 13-point lead headed into the half.
Elk started out the second half by returning the kickoff to their own 35-yard line. They then drove all the way to Cameron County’s 30 before turning the ball over on downs. That was the closest either team would come to scoring during the entire third quarter.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, Cameron County was able to convert on fourth down after picking up about two yards to make it to Elk Catholic’s 46 yard-line. Their advance was halted two plays later, though, as ECC’s Pat Brennen came up with an interception to turn the ball back over to the Crusaders.
Elk Catholic had a turnover of their own on the very next play as Hank Cappiello lost his hold on the ball after gaining about a yard. The fumble was recovered by Cameron County’s Zach Austin, who returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. This cut Elk Catholic’s lead to 13-6 with 9:05 remaining, as the PAT failed.
The Crusaders immediately set out driving back down the field, picking up 35 yards in three plays, before Vallone fumbled and the ball was recovered by CJ Markum of the Red Raiders.
ECC’s defense did a good job of preventing Cameron County from capitalizing on the error and the Red Raiders were forced to go four-and-out. The ensuing 25-yard punt went out of bounds and Elk Catholic took over at their own 40-yard line. In eight plays they drove to Cameron’s 16-yard line and Vallone scored on a quarterback keep to extend their lead 19-6 with 1:18 remaining, as the PAT was blocked.
Cameron picked up a pair of first downs to start their final drive; however, following a five-yard pass by Tucker Britton to Nick Stuckey, ECC’s Pat Brennen was able to strip the ball, ending the game with the Crusaders on top 19-6.
“I’m impressed with the team,” Skrzypek said following the game. “At points we had a lot of guys out with cramps and stuff and they came together. It was running back by committee for the most part and that was nice to see. The line did an okay job. We have some work to do with pass protection, but they got the job done tonight.”
The Crusaders are now 1-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Allegheny Mountain League.
Elk County Catholic will travel to Otto-Eldred on Friday for a 7 p.m. game.
Unofficial game statistics
First downs 17 6
Yards gained rushing 227 76
Passes attempted 10 10
Passes completed 3 2
Passes intercepted by 1 0
Yards gained passing 73 9
Total yards 300 85
Punts-average 4-34 7-38
Penalties-yards 2-26 4-28
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
Offensive plays 61 44
Score by quarters
Cameron County 0 0 0 6 6
Elk Catholic 0 13 0 6 19
Second quarter - Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone to Joe McLaughlin, 40-yard pass play. Scott Krellner kicked PAT, 7-0, 10:03.
Second quarter – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone 45-yard interception return. PAT failed, 13-0, 6:11.
Fourth quarter – Cameron County – Zach Austin 21-yard fumble return. PAT failed, 13-6, 9:05.
Fourth quarter – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone 16-yard run. PAT failed, 19-6, 1:18.
Rushing – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone, nine carries, -2 yards; Brock McCullough, six carries, 29 yards; Cole Gerber, 21 carries, 137 yards; Hank Cappiello, 10 carries, 44 yards; Joe McLaughlin, four carries, nine yards; Joe Georgino, one carry, 10 yards. Cameron County – Zach Austin, nine carries, -1 yards; Tucker Britton, three carries, eight yards; Cody Beer, two carries, 0 yards; Matt Fragale, six carries, 27 yards; Nick Stuckey, six carries, 27 yards; Tony Olivett, six carries; 15 yards.
Passing – Elk Catholic – Mitchell Vallone 3-10-73. Cameron County – Zach Austin 1-7-4; Tucker Britton 1-3-5.
Receiving – Elk Catholic – Joe McLaughlin, two catches for 57 yards; Brock McCullough, one catch for 16 yards. Cameron County – Cody Beer, one catch for 4 yards; Nick Stuckey, one catch for 5 yards.