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Kittanning, GCC don't view nonconference clash as meaningless

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Andrew Romanchak, right, breaks up a pass intended for Kittanning's Nick Bowers during first-half action at James Swartz Memorial Field in Freeport on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013.

The knock on nonconference games is that they don't mean anything. Don't tell that to Kittanning or Greensburg Central Catholic.

The Wildcats have a chance to open the season with three straight wins for the first time since 2004, and the Centurions are trying to avoid an 0-3 start when they host their first unranked opponent of the season Friday.

While the game will have no impact on either team's playoff chances, Kittanning believes it still has something to prove.

“They're one of the premier programs in Double-A, and our kids are excited to find out exactly where we're at in our development,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said. “It's high school football, and you only get nine games, so we're preparing like it's any other game.”

On the other side, GCC wants to start moving in the right direction after losses to No. 5 Washington, 26-14, and No. 3 Mt. Pleasant, 19-3.

“Our team is good, but we're just frustrated right now,” GCC coach Dan Mahoney said. “We played two good opponents and had our opportunities, but we didn't take advantage of our chances to score and make those games a little closer.”

Both teams enter the game missing a key offensive contributor.

Kittanning freshman running back Zane Dudek is out after suffering a hip injury on the final play of the first half against East Allegheny. GCC senior quarterback Chase Keller suffered a left-shoulder injury on defense while intercepting a pass in the second quarter against Mt. Pleasant.

The task of replacing Dudek could fall to a number of players. Senior Kyle Hockenberry will be the starter, Fabian said, but the Wildcats plan to use multiple players and formations in Dudek's absence.

“Everybody's going to have to pick up a little more of the load this week,” Fabian said. “It's going to take some time to get things worked out, and we will rotate some guys through there.”

The Centurions will go with sophomore Tom Pellis at quarterback. Pellis entered the game after Keller's injury last week, but the GCC offense managed just 64 yards after its starter went down.

“It's a tough task for any backup to come in with hardly any experience,” Mahoney said. “(Pellis) got some game experience and has a full week to practice now, so that will help him this week.”

The area Fabian sees the biggest challenge for his team is in the trenches. GCC fields one of the biggest lines the Wildcats will see all season. After facing a young Freeport team and a smaller, spread East Allegheny team, the Kittanning will get a taste of smash-mouth football.

“They're the best offensive and defensive line we've see thus far,” Fabian said. “We're going to have our hands full, but we've been preaching technique and fundamentals to our kids.”

The Wildcats still have one of the WPIAL's top 15 rushers in junior quarterback Braydon Toy, who has 297 yards in his first two games as a starter. All-purpose junior Nick Bowers has a team-high six touchdowns — three rushing, two receiving and one interception return.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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