Karns City football team wants to become legendary
Members of Karns City's football team know they're already part of a remarkable group as they defeated an opponent from a different district in the PIAA playoffs for just the second time.
To go any further in the state tournament would not only make these Gremlins legendary among their own kind, it'd represent a historic breakthrough for all District 9 Class AA teams.
Karns City (10-3) faces the tallest of tasks Friday, when it meets WPIAL champion Aliquippa (13-0) in the state quarterfinals at Central Valley. Neither the Gremlins nor any other District 9 Class AA program has advanced to the semifinals, and none has beaten a WPIAL opponent in the tournament.
The Gremlins aren't naïve about their chances. But they understand there's always a possibility.
“We're definitely talking to each other and saying, ‘They're human. They're 18 to 16 years old, just like us. You just have to line up and play ball. They can be beat,' ” senior linebacker Dalton Bly said.
“One thing we definitely have set out to do is make a statement that we came to play, and we gave it our all. Win or lose, we gave it our all.”
This is Karns City's ninth appearance in the PIAA playoffs, and its third in the quarterfinals. In 2008, the Gremlins secured their only state playoff win, as they defeated District 5 champion North Star, 32-14, in the first round and then fell to Aliquippa, 42-14, a week later.
The other time Karns City made the quarterfinals was in 2007, but that season, the District 9 title game served as the PIAA first-round contest.
Another District 5 opponent, Chestnut Ridge, fell in order for the Gremlins to advance this season. Karns City struggled at times in its 35-21 win a week ago but ultimately survived.
Any mistake might prove very costly this week against Aliquippa, which averages 50.6 points per game and allows just 3.8. The Quips thumped previously unbeaten Washington, 34-7, in the WPIAL final.
“They're absolutely loaded; it seems like they're the best Aliquippa team I've seen,” coach Ed Conto said. “So we're excited. If you're going to play somebody, play the best, because it's going to make you better.
“Especially with our sophomore and junior classes, we hope to make it back the next two years; that's what we've been building for. We've got to meet the best sooner or later and find out where we stack up and what we have to do to get better.”
A loss would end the high school careers of eight Karns City seniors — Bly, Brandon Bauldoff, Matt Conto, Garrett Farinelli, Brandon Krumpe, Ryan Pfeifer, Collin Mennor and Glenn Toy.
Toy's playing days actually concluded weeks ago. Hampered by a knee injury in training camp, the standout running back and safety attempted to slowly work back into the lineup by midseason. He appeared in a Week 4 loss, but the knee worsened, so he missed the rest of the year and underwent surgery around playoff time.
Still, Toy remained a fixture on the field at practices and on game nights as he helped advise the Gremlins' numerous junior and sophomore starters.
“I'm just really proud of them,” Toy said. “Nobody really expected us to get this far, and it's just amazing, I think. Everybody stepped up and became leaders — the juniors, the sophomores — so it really says a lot about them.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.