Oh so close
The Keystone High School football team took Karns City to the wire but the Gremlins prevailed 28-22 in the District 9 Class 2A quarterfinals
By Ryan S. Pugh
CLARION NEWS Sports
Keystone had a lot to prove in its District 9 Class 2A playoff clash with visiting Karns City Friday night (Nov. 1) and the Panthers undoubtedly opened some eyes but in the end the scoreboard was in the Gremlins' favor.
Keystone overcame a 21-6 halftime deficit with 16-straight points to take 22-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter but the Gremlins spoiled the Panthers' comeback with a late touchdown as Karns City survived with a 28-22 win.
Even though his team came up short on the scoreboard, Panthers' coach Ryan Smith believes his team made a statement that Keystone football is here to stay.
"We didn't quit tonight and they showed heart," Keystone head coach Ryan Smith said. "I think we proved tonight we are not a small school team' playing a small school schedule.' We are a good team that is one student over the limit that puts us into Class 2A. I hope this is a good foundation for Keystone making the playoffs a perennial thing."
This was the first playoff appearance for the Panthers since the 2009 season.
Karns City will move on to face District 9 Large School champ Ridgway in the District 9 Class 2A semifinals Saturday (Nov. 9) at DuBois.
The play which sent the Gremlins to the district semis was a 55-yard pass play from Anthony Kamenski to Kaden Scherer which gave the Gremlins a first-and-goal at the Keystone 5 with three minutes remaining in the game. Luke Garing paid off the long pass one play later when he stormed into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown with 2:53 on the clock.
Karns City head coach Joe Sherwin knows the Kamenski to Scherer pass connection gave his team the boost it needed at a crucial moment.
"We needed that big time," Sherwin said of the play. "It was a post pattern to Kaden and he made a great catch. Our line gave protection which gave Anthony time to locate Kaden in the middle of the field behind the defense."
Kamenski completed 6-of-9 passes for 96 yards and had 67 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The Gremlins' offense looked like an unstoppable force in the early going. Karns City received the opening kickoff and went on a 75-yard, 12-play march which was capped by a six-yard touchdown run by Hunter Rowe.
Kamenski opened the drive with a 20-yard quarterback run. Later in the drive, Garing had a 12-yard run which put Karns City at the Keystone 28.
The Gremlins ran the ball all 12 plays of the drive converting four first downs.
Owen Collwell kicked the extra-point giving Karns City a 7-0 lead with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter.
The Gremlin defense squashed the Panthers' subsequent drive in short order as Keystone went three-and-out. Karns City's defense dropped the Panthers' Nick Weaver for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-3 rush attempt forcing the Keystone punt.
The Gremlins responded with a 14-play, 81-yard drive that was completed with a four-yard touchdown run by Rowe.
Rowe had 80 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns.
Collwell added the extra-point to extend the Karns City lead to 14-0 with 9:37 remaining in the second frame.
The Panthers got their first first down of the game on the following drive but Keystone couldn't sustain the momentum as the Panthers were forced to punt four plays after the first down.
The Keystone defense stepped up on the following Karns City drive stopping Kamenski for no gain on a third-and-5 at the Gremlin 29.
On the Panthers' first play from scrimmage after the punt, Karns City was flagged for interference giving Keystone a first-and-10 at the Karns City 45. Facing a third-and-9 at the Keystone 44, Keystone quarterback Isaak Jones fired a pass down the left sideline to the Panthers' Alex Rapp. Rapp hauled in the pass at the Karns City 20 and raced into the end zone for the 44-yard touchdown.
Rapp had two catches for 50 yards and the score.
Nick Cosper's PAT kick hit the crossbar and fell short leaving the Karns City lead at 14-6 with 3:13 remaining in the half.
The Gremlins responded by putting together a scoring drive to close the half to take a three-score lead into the break.
Kamenski found Corry Dunmyre for a five-yard scoring strike with two seconds remaining in the half.
Dunmyre's touchdown reception capped a 70-yard, 11-play Gremlins' drive.
Collwell's extra-point kick stretched the Karns City lead to 21-6 at the halftime break.
Karns City (7-3 overall) outgained the Panthers 224-60 in the first half with the Gremlins piling up 14 first downs.
Jones opened the third quarter with a 29-yard pass to Jayden Blazosky which gave Keystone a first-and-10 at the Karns City 38. But Scherer closed the Panthers' promising drive by picking off a Jones pass at the Gremlin 17.
A slew of illegal procedure penalties stunted the following Karns City drive and the Gremlins were forced to punt from their own 35. Karns City punter Ethan McElroy fumbled the punt snap and Weaver scooped up the loose ball at the Karns City 20 and chugged toward the end zone. The Gremlins hauled down Weaver at the Karns City 12.
Karns City's defense stiffened stopping Weaver for a 1-yard gain on first down. On both second and third down, Jones scanned the Karns City secondary for an open Keystone receiver but the Gremlins blanketed the Panthers' pass catchers and Jones was forced to tuck the ball and run for minimal gains. On fourth down, Jones lofted a pass to Blazosky in the end zone and Blazosky outfought the Gremlins' Rowe and came down with the 9-yard TD.
Jones was 7-of-17 for 108 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"Issak has worked so hard and I wouldn't want to put the ball in anyone else's hands but his," Smith said. "He stepped up and made some big passes."
The Panthers ran a trick play on the conversion attempt with Blazosky taking a pitch from Jones then throwing a pass to a wide-open Jones in the end zone for the two-pointer. The Panthers' conversion trimmed the Karns City lead to 21-14 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
Keystone's defense stepped up on the next drive forcing a Karns City three-and-out.
The Panthers took over the next possession at the Karns City 47, Weaver opened the possession with an eight-yard run. Two plays later Blazosky pulled in a 13-yard pass from Jones. Later in the drive, a Karns City pass interference penalty put Keystone at the Gremlin 7. On fourth-and-four, Jones fired a pass to Rapp who hauled in the throw at the Karns City 1. The Gremlins stopped Jones for no gain on three-straight quarterback sneak attempts. On fourth down, Jones took the snap, darted right and fired a pitch to Weaver who went into the end zone for the 1-yard score.
The Panthers lined up in the swinging gate formation on the extra-point attempt with Jones and Cosper seven yards behind the center while the rest of the Keystone extra-point team lined up to the left. Jones took the snap and darted for the end zone for the two-point conversion giving Keystone a 22-21 lead with 7:57 left in regulation.
The Panthers' defense forced a Karns City three-and-out on the next possession and the Gremlins punted back to Keystone which took possession back with a little over five minutes remaining in the game.
The Panthers defense limited the Gremlins to 55 total yards in the second half.
"We didn't do anything different on defense," Smith said when asked what adjustments his team made defensively in the second half. "We told them to go out and execute the game plan properly. They did it and we held (Karns City) except for one big play
The Panthers attempted to run some clock on the subsequent drive but the Gremlins stopped Keystone's Taylar Altman for gains of one and two yards. Jones's third down pass fell incomplete and the Panthers were forced to punt.
Keystone's front seven stopped Rowe for no gain on the first play of the following Gremlins possession. But on second down, Kamenski hit Scherer with a pass over the middle Scherer raced to the Keystone 5. One play later, Garing ran into the end zone. Collwell's extra-point gave Karns City a 28-22 lead with 2:53 left in regulation.
The Gremlins defense sacked Jones on third and fourth down on the subsequent possession giving the ball back to Keystone 31.
It looked like Rowe sealed the Karns City win on the first play after the turnover on downs when he raced to the end zone for an apparent 31-yard score but the Gremlins were flagged for a holding penalty.
Karns City was eventually forced to punt and McElroy's punt pinned the Panthers at their own 2.
Jones fired four-consecutive interceptions giving the ball back to the Gremlins with 53 seconds left in regulation.
Keystone finishes its season with a 9-2 overall record.
KARNS CITY 28 , KEYSTONE 22
Karns City 7- 14- 0 -7 28
Xxx 0- 6- 8 - 8 22
KC Hunter Rowe 6 run (Owen Collwell kick), 5:50
KC Rowe 4 run (Collwell kick), 9:37
K Alex Rapp 44 pass from Isaak Jones (kick failed), 3:13
KC Corry Dunmyre 5 pass from Anthony Kamenski (Collwell kick), :02
K Jayden Blazosky 9 pass from Jones (Jones pass from Blazosky), 4:16
K Nick Weaver 1 run (Jones run), 7:57
KC Luke Garing 5 run (Collwell kick), 2:59
TEAM TOTALS (Karns City; Keystone)
First Downs: 16; 8
Rushes-Yards: 50-183; 27-34
Passing Yards: 96; 108
Comp-Att-Int: 6-9-0; 7-17-1
Total Yards: 279; 142
Penalties-Yards: 11-77; 5-26
Fumbles-Lost: 2-1; 0-0
Rushing Karns City, Hunter Rowe 19-80, Anthony Kamenski 19-67, Luke Garing 9-33, Kaden Scherer 1-3, Team 2- (-2). Keystone, Isaak Jones 14-13, Nick Weaver 7-8, Taylar Altman 5-12, Tim Baughman 1-1.
Passing Karns City, Anthony Kamenski 6-9-0 96. Keystone, Isaak Jones 7-17-1 108.
Receiving Karns City, Kaden Scherer 2-70, Brayden Christie 2-7, Luke Garing 1-14, Corry Dunmyre 1-5. Keystone, Jayden Blazosky 4-52, Alex Rapp 2-50, Keenan Heeter 1-6.