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Kittanning faces Burrell hurdle in quest for 5-0 start

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 12:16 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
East Allegheny's Praise Garner (6) attempts to cover Kittanning's Nick Bowers (83) as he completes a pass in the end zone for a Wildcats touchdown in the first half Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at Kittanning High School.

Twice this season, Kittanning has picked up a road win over a team it lost to in 2012. If it can do it a third time, the Wildcats will be in the mix for the Allegheny Conference title.

The Wildcats travel to Burrell on Friday with a chance at the team's first 5-0 start in more than a decade. They and Shady Side Academy are the only unbeaten teams remaining in the conference.

Kittanning (4-0, 3-0) has won every game this season, but its opponents' combined record sits at 5-11, which leaves the Wildcats looking for a signature win. Though the Bucs (2-2, 1-2) are mired in the middle of the conference standings, their two losses are to Shady Side Academy and third-place Valley, and the matchup is likely closer than the records indicate.

“They're a well-coached football team with a tailback (Ryan Sowol) that's a downhill runner who runs hard,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said. “We're going to have to wrap him up, and they're very good on the offensive and defensive lines. Basically, it's your typical Burrell team.”

Last year's meeting was an atypical matchup for both teams. Now-graduated Bucs back Cole Bush ran for more than 300 yards, and Kittanning tried to keep pace before falling 56-35.

While offensive fireworks are possible again, largely because of strong quarterback play in spread offenses from Kittanning's Braydon Toy and Burrell's Cody Wolfe, both coaches hope to get better performances from their defensive units.

“It was definitely a long game last year. We hope to be able to change some things we did,” Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt said. “We have to be able to slow the run and passing that they have to be successful and then move the ball and control the clock ourselves.”

Kittanning's biggest weapons are Toy, who is 16 yards short of 1,000 in total offense, and all-purpose threat Nick Bowers, who has 552 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns.

They are the focal point of the Wildcats' spread offense, a look that the Bucs haven't seen this season.

“Valley plays a little bit open, but this will be our first game against a team that really spreads it out,” Horwatt said. “It's a little different than sitting in your base defense. We have to make sure we get the right personnel in there and line up correctly.”

Wolfe also can mix it up for the Bucs. He has 341 passing yards 133 rushing yards.

“I think any time you see a team with a quarterback who makes the kind of reads he does, the goal is to try to confuse him and give the other team some looks that they haven't seen before,” Fabian said.

Both coaches said execution will be important in the matchup, which could play a big role in playoff seeding at the end of the year.

“Our kids have kept a workmanlike attitude, and to be honest, I have not noticed a difference in this week from any of the previous four,” Fabian said. “They do a great job of pushing the reset button each week, coming in Monday and focusing on the task at hand, which this week, is Burrell.”

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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