No doubt about it
The Keystone football team quiets any naysayers with a dominant 44-14 road win over Union/A-C Valley
By Ryan S. Pugh
CLARION NEWS Sports
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Keystone High School football team's 5-1 record was "how good are they really?"
The Panthers proved Friday night (Oct. 3) they are pretty dang good.
Visiting Keystone put on a dominant performance in all facets to take a 44-14 win over 5-1 Union/A-C Valley in District 9 Small School South play.
"I go out and about and people tell me you haven't played anybody' or you haven't played anybody with a winning record yet' so to play a team with a winning record and to beat them in the way that we did with class and playing good, hard football shows the character of these guys and how much of a work ethic they have," Keystone head coach Ryan Smith said.
The Panthers' rushing attack proved to be almost unstoppable as Keystone piled up 343 yards on the ground. The key reason for the Panthers' potent ground attack was the play of Keystone's offensive line as they controlled the line of scrimmage the entire night.
"Those hogs work together so hard all week to prepare," Smith said referring to the Keystone offensive line. "They work on their techniques. They just get after it. We tell them before every game, own the line of scrimmage' and every game they have done a great job of owning that line of scrimmage."
Nick Weaver led the Panthers' rushing attack with 155 yards on 21 carries and had three touchdowns.
The Panthers' Taylar Altman had 95 yards on 13 carries and a TD while Keystone quarterback Isaak Jones had 10 totes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Jones was especially happy with the way his teammates played in the game.
"My guys work super hard all week long," Jones said. "I love coming out here and put up that many points and play together as a team."
The Panthers' offense was clicking on all cylinders from the opening whistle as Keystone (6-1 overall, 2-1 District 9 Small School South) drove 57 yards in seven plays with Weaver capping the march with a 26-yard touchdown run.
Weaver darted right at the line of scrimmage then cut back left and outraced the Falcon Knights' defenders roll the goal line.
Jones connected with Alex Rapp for the two-point conversion giving the Panthers an 8-0 lead with 9:01 remaining in the opening quarter.
Union/A-C Valley's subsequent drive started off poorly for the Falcon Knights as they were flagged for two-consecutive false start penalties to begin the drive and Union/A-C Valley was forced to punt three plays later.
On Keystone's ensuing drive, the Panthers covered 54 yards in four plays with Jones plunging into the end zone from the 1.
Jones had the key play on the drive when he faked a handoff to Weaver, tucked the ball and scampered 51 yards before being tackled at the Union/A-C Valley 5.
Altman ran in the two-point conversion to push the Keystone lead to 16-0 with 6:19 remaining in the opening frame.
The Panthers defense forced another three-and-out by the Falcon Knights on the following drive with Weaver dropping Gaven Bowser for a one-yard loss on third-and-4.
The Keystone offense responded by putting together a 11-play drive which covered 72 yards and was capped by a Nick Weaver 1-yard plunge.
The Panther ran 10 of the 11 plays on the drive with Weaver gaining 57 of the yards including a 36-yard scamper which gave Keystone a first-and-goal at the Union/A-C Valley 1.
Nick Cosper booted the extra-point for Panthers pushing the Keystone lead 23-0 with 10:34 remaining in the half.
Union/A-C Valley (5-2, 2-1) followed the Panthers' march with another three-and-out and Keystone got the ball back at the Panther 47.
Keystone's defense held the Falcon Knights to a total of 161 yards on the night.
"Last year at this time, we had given up over 200 points and after this game tonight we have only given up 75 so far this season so to give up 180 less points than the year prior shows how hard we have worked and it shows how much the players care that we don't repeat what happened last year," Smith said. "Our guys just fly to the ball. It's not one or two guys making the tackle, it is a group of Panthers flying to the ball."
Three plays after the change of possession, Jones found Logan Sell down the middle and Sell raced down field for a 52 yard touchdown.
Cosper booted the PAT to extend the Panthers' lead to 30-0 with 8:47 left in the half.
The Falcon Knights closed out the half by piecing together their best drive of the game churning out 65 yards in 17 plays. Tony Thompson capped the Union/A-C Valley march with a three-yard TD run.
A key play on the Falcon Knight drive was a 27-yard run by Kylar Culbertson on third-and-9 that gave Union/A-C Valley a first-and-10 at the Keystone 24.
Culbertson was the Falcon Knights' leading rusher picking up 56 yards on eight carries.
The Keystone defense snuffed out the Union/A-C Valley two-point conversion rush attempt to keep the Panthers' lead at 30-6 heading into halftime.
Culbertson opened the third quarter with a 13-yard run on the Falcon Knights first play from scrimmage in the half. But three plays later, Keystone's Alex Rapp intercepted a Luke Bowser pass at the Keystone 37.
The Panthers converted the turnover into points by piecing together a 63-yard, 13-play march which was capped by a nine-yard run by Weaver.
Weaver had eight carries on the march for 49 yards.
Cosper's extra-point stretched the Keystone lead to 37-6 with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
Alex Rapp picked off another Bowser pass on the following Union/A-C Valley drive which gave the Panthers possession at the Keystone 40.
Rapp somehow managed to get a foot down before falling out of bounds on the interception.
"Our secondary has really buckled down the past three weeks," Smith said. "I think we have something like 12 interceptions in the past three games alone."
Keystone turned the turnover into points 10 plays later when Altman burst into the end zone for a two-yard score.
Altman had seven carries on the drive for 70 yards.
Cosper's PAT extended the Keystone lead to 44-6 with 8:54 remaining in the game. The Panthers' score also put the mercy rule into effect.
Union/A-C Valley answered the Keystone score with Bowser finding Tanner Merwin for a 16-yard touchdown which capped a 49-yard, 10-play march by the Falcon Knights.
Merwin had two catches for 23 yards and the touchdown.
Bowser was 5-of-16 passing for 49 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Bowser found Merwin in the end zone for the two-point conversion cutting the Keystone lead to 44-14 with 2:24 left in the contest.
The Panthers took a knee on the following possession to run out the clock.
"Hats off to Keystone," Union/A-C Valley head coach Brad Dittman said. "They played a dominant game. They dominated us on both sides of the football. (Keystone) came out and decided they were going to run the football and we just didn't have an answer for it."
The Panthers are back in action Friday (Oct. 11) at home against 5-1 Smethport. Smith is looking forward to the challenges the remainder of the season will bring.
"Getting a tough stretch of Smethport, Elk County Catholic and Moniteau will be a good test for us heading into the playoffs," Smith said.
Union/A-C Valley is slated to host Cameron County Friday at A-C Valley.
"We have to eat this one, we have to digest it be ready to go back to work on Monday," Dittman said. "We have to watch the film, learn from it and be better next week."
Note: Both the Panthers and the Falcon Knights are still in contention for a share of the District 9 Small School South title. If Union/A-C Valley can upend Redbank Valley on Oct. 18 and Keystone can take care of Elk county Catholic at home on the same night, it would put the teams in a three-way tie for first place in the division.
KEYSTONE 44, UNION/A-C VALLEY 14
Keystone 16- 14- 7 -7 44
Union/A-C Valley 0- 6- 0 -8 14
K - Nick Weaver 26 run (Alex Rapp pass from Isaak Jones), 9:01
K - Jones 1 run (Taylar Altman run), 6:19
K - Weaver 1 run (Nick Cosper kick), 10:34
K - Logan Sell 52 pass from Jones (Cosper kick), 8:47
U/A-C - Tony Thompson 3 run (run failed), 1:44
K - Weaver 9 run (Cosper kick), 3:09
K - Altman 2 run (Cosper kick), 8:54
U/A-C - Tanner Merwin 16 pass from Luke Bowser (Merwin pass from Bowser), 2:24
TEAM TOTALS (Keystone; Union/A-C Valley)
First Downs: 18; 9
Rushes-Yards: 53-343; 24-112
Passing Yards: 63; 49
Comp-Att-Int: 2-5-0; 5-16-2
Total Yards: 406; 161
Penalties-Yards: 4-30; 8-52
Fumbles-Lost: 4-0; 0-0
Rushing Keystone, Nick Weaver 21-155, Taylar Altman 13-95, Isaak Jones 10-89, Tim Baughman 4-12, Team 5-(-8). Union/A-C Valley, Kylar Culbertson 8-56, Tony Thompson 7-18, Gaven Bowser 3-17, Eli Penny 3-5, Tanner Merwin 2-15, Luke Bowser 1-1.
Passing Keystone, Isaak Jones 2-5-0 63. Union/A-C Valley, Luke Bowser 5-16-2 49.
Receiving Keystone, Logan Sell 1-52, Alex Rapp 1-11. Union/A-C Valley, Tanner Merwin 2-23, Karter Vogle 2-12, Colton Hoffman 1-14.