Kittanning's offense opens up against East Allegheny
If Kittanning's Week 1 performance against Freeport typified the team's trouble adapting to first-year coach Frank Fabian's no-huddle spread offense, its Week 2 performance at East Allegheny could be looked at as a breakthrough.
The visiting Kittanning Wildcats broke a fourth-quarter tie via a 21-point outburst and defeated the East Allegheny Wildcats, 34-13, in a Class AA Allegheny Conference matchup at East Allegheny on Friday night. It was Fabian's first victory as head coach of Kittanning.
“The spread, I like it so much better,” Kittanning senior quarterback Kevin Barnes said. “It's so much quicker, so much faster. I feel like it's my type of offense.”
The result could have been different. In past years, perhaps, it would have.
With Kittanning (1-1, 1-1) holding a 13-7 lead and driving just after the midway point of the third quarter, dynamic East Allegheny (1-1, 1-1) senior wide receiver/defensive back Shawn Adair picked off his second pass of the game and returned it 70 yards for his second touchdown, leveling the score at 13-13.
“A kid with skills like his obviously can bring something to the table,” East Allegheny coach Jason Ruscitto said. “He can run, he can catch. We just gotta find ways to shake him free to have him be able to make more plays.”
The ensuing extra point attempt failed, but momentum had shifted.
“We felt, on the sideline, that it was a turning point,” Ruscitto said. “We felt that we were going to take a step forward and take control of the game.
Across the field, it seemed more like déjà vu.
“Last week adversity struck us; we didn't handle it well,” Fabian said. “This week, adversity struck, doubt could've crept in and what not. But we were able to come back and make a couple plays.”
But Kittanning answered immediately when senior running back Zac Croyle scored from 5 yards out to put Kittanning back in front, 20-13. Croyle finished with 134 yards rushing on 22 carries and three touchdowns. After a key stop on the next East Allegheny possession, Kittanning's offense took over.
Key to Kittanning's second-half performance was the emergence of sophomore wide receiver Nick Bowers. After finishing the first half without a catch, he exploded in the latter two quarters, reeling in four passes for 152 yards.
“We feel like we have four guys that can make plays on any given night,” Fabian said. “Tonight, his was the matchup we liked out there and we kept going to it.”
With Bowers effective, the running game opened up for Barnes and Croyle. Barnes, a former receiver who converted to quarterback, was productive despite two interceptions. He threw for 195 yards, ran for 68 and scored a touchdown on the ground.
“It feels good. I mean, winning two games in the last two seasons, it's really exciting,” Barnes said. “We worked hard to win. They're a good team, but we came out and played better than them, I guess.”
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.