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Ford City searching for 1st win against conference newcomer East Allegheny

| Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, 12:14 a.m.
Ford City senior Ken Bowers (left) fights through senior Kyle Lukehart's block during a drill at practice Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.
Ford City senior lineman Cody Atherton (right) goes through a blocking drill during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.

The morning after Ford City's 27-6 loss to Shady Side Academy in Week 1, senior lineman Cody Atherton visited Lindy's Coffee Shop for his ritual day-after breakfast.

At the restaurant, two older Ford City residents who'd asked Atherton about the football team throughout the offseason dealt the senior left tackle a hard truth: They considered the Shady Side Academy performance about as poor as any they could recall from recent years.

“That's when it really sunk in,” Atherton said. “I've kind of used that as motivation ever since.”

Atherton and the other members of Ford City's offensive line performed far better in a heart-breaking, last-second loss to Freeport last week. They, along with the rest of the Sabers (0-2, 0-2), are on a mission to make even more progress Friday when they host Allegheny Conference newcomer East Allegheny (1-1, 1-1).

“This is going to be a big game for us, a turning point in the season,” Atherton said.

That Ford City faces the potential of a 0-3 start to the season is rare — at no point during the last decade did the Sabers lose their first two games. But coach John Bartolovic believes the back-to-back losses do not spell doom. He actually saw a silver lining in a schedule that opened with two of the conference's perennial powers.

“I think you start playing at a higher level sooner,” Bartolovic said. “You understand what that level, that speed is all about.

“I think we do have potential, and it showed on Friday night. If we keep making progress and don't have those mental mistakes, I think we'll be fine.”

Ford City's most noticeable improvements involved the run game. During the Sabers' Week 1 loss, they managed just 18 yards on 18 carries. Missed assignments and poor blocking angles crippled the team, Bartolovic said. And defensively, Ford City allowed two Shady Side Academy running backs to combine for 262 yards on 32 carries.

Last week, the Sabers gained 99 yards on the ground and scored both touchdowns on runs. And they held Freeport to 190 yards on 39 carries.

“Compared to Week 1, we really stepped it up last week,” senior guard Ken Bowers said. “Nobody made any stupid mistakes.”

Bartolovic emphasizes the need for another satisfactory performance up front this week, as East Allegheny has several players who will turn a small seam into a quick six.

East Allegheny opened the season with a 29-12 win over Summit Academy that included three touchdowns of 64 yards or more. And last week during a 34-13 loss to Kittanning, the Wildcats scored on plays of 46 and 70 yards.

No Wildcat appears more explosive than senior wide receiver Shawn Adair, who scored the touchdowns last week on a catch — that was the 46-yard play — and an interception return. Adair also threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Henshawe against Summit Academy.

“They have that big-play capability,” Bartolovic said. “I think they can be dangerous in open space.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wwest@tribweb.com or 724-543-1303 ext. 1321.

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