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Kittanning football team revels in 4-0 record

| Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Kittanning football players break through the banner on their way onto the field at Freeports James Shwartz Memorial Field on Friday, August 30, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Kittanning football players break through the banner on their way onto the field at Freeports James Shwartz Memorial Field on Friday, August 30, 2013.

The last time the Kittanning football team had a start like this, some of its current varsity players were still in kindergarten.

The Wildcats are 4-0 for the first time since 2004 after a 15-6 win Friday over Summit Academy, and that has the Kittanning players and coaches riding high after seeing an offseason of hard work pay off on the field.

“It's really been a reflection of the work put in by the kids and our assistant coaches,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said. “We looked back at our attendance over the summer, and I don't think we had a workout with fewer than 30 kids. They put in the time over the summer, and it shows.”

Even better for Kittanning is who it has picked up its wins against. The team is 3-0 in the Allegheny Conference —it is tied with Shady Side Academy for first — and is in great position as it seeks its first playoff berth in four years.

“It's really exciting to get this many wins so early,” senior lineman Dave Grafton said. “I feel like we're really confident in our execution, and our coaches are confident in us. It's a huge difference, and it's great to be a part of.”

After a lopsided win to open the year at Freeport, the team came out on top in a high-scoring game against East Allegheny, a defensive struggle against Greensburg Central Catholic and a game with its share of hardship — not all football related — against Summit Academy.

Already playing without running back Zane Dudek, the team lost its first two centers to injury during the game against Summit Academy. Standout receiver/linebacker Nick Bowers also missed a large portion of the game because of illness.

“Last week was a first for me in football. At halftime, we were teaching one of our guards how to snap for the second half,” Fabian said. “Every team goes through things like that at this point in the season, and what we're learning is that we've got a little depth, too.”

“The score last week was real close, but fighting through that adversity will be good for us,” Grafton said. “There was trouble in the game, but it feels good that we came out of it with a win.”

The next obstacle for Kittanning is a road game at Burrell (2-2, 1-2), a team with high expectations entering the year but in need of a win to stay in the playoff hunt.

Going on the road to face the Bucs is something the Wildcats are looking forward to. A win over Burrell likely would be considered Kittanning's best win yet, and certainly its best in conference play.

“I feel like we go into every game with something to prove, whether it's a conference game, a nonconference game, a scrimmage — any time we're on the field,” Grafton said. “There are always doubters somewhere, and we want to prove them wrong.”

Kittanning remains unranked in Class AA in spite of its perfect start, and that largely is a product of its early-season schedule being perceived as weak. But as Fabian pointed out, rankings and playoff seedings will take care of themselves as long as the Wildcats handle their job on Friday nights.

“In high school football, you only get nine games. It's not basketball or wrestling where you get 20 or 30 matches,” Fabian said. “It's tough in our conference to win week-in and week-out, but we're in a position to control our own destiny. That's where any team wants to be.”

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