FOXBURG - If the old saying "defense wins championships" rings true, the Union/A-C Valley football team might be hoisting some hardware if the Falcon Knights can replicate what their defense did against Curwensville Friday night (Sept. 6).
Union/A-C Valley's defense held the visiting Golden Tide to a total of five yards rushing and in the second half the Falcon Knights defense did a number on Curwensville holding the Golden Tide to zero yards and no first downs on the way to a 24-0 win.
"Our front seven fought hard and they tackled well and that was the key," Union/A-C Valley head coach Brad Dittman said. "We didn't tackle well last week so we really got after it in practice."
It is the second win in a row for the Falcon Knights as they move to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the District 9 Small School South standings.
"We wanted to come and play a solid football game tonight for 48 minutes and I thought we did that," Dittman said. "We're ecstatic about this win."
A key member of the Union/A-C Valley win was sophomore Caden Rainey who caught a 43-yard touchdown, made an interception on defense and had a scintillating punt return which set up a Falcon Knight score.
"What can you say about Caden?," Dittman said. "He just makes plays for us. We always want to put the ball in his hands and he just has a nose for that football."
Union/A-C Valley went three-and-out on its opening drive and was forced to punt. Curwensville put together a solid drive converting four first downs with three of those conversions coming on passes from Dan McGarry to Jake McCracken.
McGarry and McCracken hooked up on four passes on the drive for 39 yards.
The Golden Tide (1-3, 0-2) drove to the Falcon Knight 23 but a holding penalty changed the complexion of the Curwensville march. The Golden Tide went for fourth-and-long at the Union/A-C Valley 35 and McGarry fires a pass down the left sideline. Rainey got position on the receiver and batted the ball up in the air and grabbed the ball as he was tumbling to the ground for an interception at the Golden Knight 23.
"It was fourth down and we needed momentum," Rainey said. "So we got that pick and momentum was on our side."
On the ensuing drive, Union/A-C Valley put together a tidy drive picking up three first downs with Eli Penny grinding out 11 yards on three carries while quarterback Luke Bowser connecting with Colton Hoffman for an eight-yard gain and running for seven yards.
Unfortunately for the Falcon Knights, Curwensville's Thad Butler intercepted a fourth-and-four pass by Bowser at the Golden Tide 22.
Curwensville was whistled for a false start on the first play of the ensuing possession and got flagged for another false start before the second play of the drive.
Pre-snap penalties were a problem for the Golden Tide the entire game as the Curwensville offense was nabbed for 10 pre-snap fouls in the game.
On the third play of the Golden Tide drive, Hoffman picked off a McGarry pass near the sideline setting up Union/A-C Valley at the Curwensville 19.
"That was a great play by (Hoffman)," Dittman said. "It got the momentum going for us and we got to take it in for a score.
Union/A-C Valley capitalized on the turnover six plays later when Tony Thompson charged into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown.
Thompson had four carries for 33 yards and a score.
A key play on the abbreviated drive was an 11-yard pass from Bowser to Rainey on third-and-10.
Bowser's two-point conversion pass fell incomplete keeping the A-C Valley lead at 6-0 with 6:15 remaining in the half.
The Falcon Knight defense forced a three-and-out on the following Curwensville drive and got the ball back at the Union/A-C Valley 42.
Penny opened the ensuing Falcon Knight drive with a two-yard blast and Kylar Culbertson followed with a nine-yard dash for a first down at the Curwensville 43.
Penny had seven carries for 23 yards.
On the next play, Bowser faked right and rolled to his left and flung a pass down the left sideline where Rainey snagged the ball, broke a tackle and raced for a 43-yard touchdown.
"The (Curwensville) safety went deep on that play," Rainey said. "(The safety) just turned his hips, I cut and I was wide open."
Rainey caught five passes for 96 yards and a score. Bowser's two-point conversion pass fell incomplete keeping the Union/A-C Valley lead at 12-0 with 2:48 left in the first half.
The teams traded punts as the half expired.
The Falcon Knights defense opened the second half by stifling Curwensville limiting the Golden Tide to rushes of 3, 1 and 2 yards and Curwensville was forced to punt.
The Golden Tide's Duane Brady got the lion's share of the Golden Tide carries and he was held to 15 yards on 13 carries.
A bad snap on Union/A-C Valley's first play of the subsequent drive put the Falcon Knights behind the chains and they were forced to punt after three plays.
Union/A-C Valley's Layton Stewart and Culbertson dropped Brady for a two-yard loss on the first play of the Golden Tide's ensuing drive and on the next Curwensville play, the Falcon Knights' Mikey Card penetrated the Curwensville line and swooped in to tackle Collin Jacobson for a six-yard loss. The Golden Tide never recovered from the two negative plays and was forced to punt.
Rainey hauled in Jake Mullin's punt at the Union/A-C Valley 45, darted right, broke a tackle and followed his blockers before being hauled down at the Curwensville 10.
"My teammates put up good blocks, I read the blocks and got where I did," Rainey said about the punt return.
Culbertson opened the following drive with a five-yard gain but Penny was stopped for no gain on second-and-goal. Bowser's third down pass fell incomplete. On fourth-and-goal, Bowser rolled right and fired a laser to Tanner Merwin in the end zone. Merwin hauled in the pass just before falling out of bounds for the touchdown.
The Falcon Knights' Thompson was stopped on the two-point conversion run as Union/A-C Valley held an 18-0 lead with 4:57 remaining in the third quarter.
After another Curwensville three-and-out, Union /A-C Valley got the ball back at its own 10.
The Falcon Knights responded by putting together its best drive of the night traversing 90 yards in 11 plays for the score. Bowser capped the drive with a one-yard plunge.
Bowser connected on passes of 39 and 25 yards to Merwin and Rainey, respectively.
Bowser was 8-of-15 for 148 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Falcon Knights' two-point conversion attempt failed but Union/A-C Valley held a 24-0 lead with 9:47 remaining in the game.
The Golden Tide offense couldn't muster anything the remainder of regulation as the Falcon Knights sealed the shutout.
Union/A-C Valley's Gaven Bowser had seven carries for 39 yards.
The Falcon Knights are scheduled to host Otto-Eldred in a cross-division clash at Union High School Friday (Sept. 13).
Curwensville is slated to travel to Smethport to face the Hubbers Friday in a non-conference tilt.
UNION/A-C VALLEY 24, CURWENSVILLE 0
Curwensville 0- 0- 0 -0 0
Union/A-C Valley 0- 12- 6 -0 0
U/ACV Tony Thompson 6 run (pass failed), 6:15
U/ACV Caden Rainey 43 pass from Luke Bowser (pass failed), 2:48
U/ACV Tanner Merwin 5 pass from Luke Bowser (run failed), 4:47
U/ACV Bowser 1 run (run failed), 9:47
TEAM TOTALS (Curwensville; Union/A-C Valley)
First Downs: 6; 13
Rushes-Yards: 28-5; 31-112
Passing Yards: 84; 148
Comp-Att-Int: 11-14-2; 8-16-1
Total Yards: 89; 260
Penalties-Yards: 10-55; 4-30
Fumbles-Lost: 0-0; 1-0
Rushing Curwensville, Duane Brady 17-15, Chris Fegert 3-(-6), Dan McGarry 2-6, Thad Butler 1-1, Jake McCracken 1-1, Collin Jacobson 1- (-6), Carson Spencer 1-(-1), Michael Lezzer 1-(-1), Team 1-(-4). Union/A-C Valley, Gaven Bowser 7-39, Eli Penny 7-23, Tony Thompson 4-33, Luke Bowser 5-5, Kylar Culbertson 2-14, Tanner Merwin 2-8, Team 4-(-10).
Passing Curwensville, Dan McGarry 11-14-2 84. Union/A-C Valley, Luke Bowser 8-18-1 148, Tanner Merwin 0-1-0 0.
Receiving Curwensville, Jake McCracken 6-65, Duane Brady 2-6, Collin Jacobson 2-3, Michael Lezzer 1-3. Union/A-C Valley, Caden Rainey 5-96, Tanner Merwin 2-44, Colton Hoffman 1-8.