Kittanning playing for program's 2nd-ever playoff victory
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For the first time since 2001, playoff football will be played in Kittanning.
Fresh off winning the Allegheny Conference title and clinching its first undefeated regular season in 37 years, the Wildcats were handed the No. 3 seed in Class AA and a first-round matchup Friday with 14th-seeded Yough, the third-place team out of the Interstate Conference.
Kittanning (9-0) has only one playoff win in its school's history — a 1975 semifinal victory over Union in what was then a four-team Class AA playoff. If the Wildcats are to get the second this season, it will have to do it by beating a Yough (5-4) team that, in many ways, mirrors Kittanning.
“We're very similar. They have a scary offense and a great quarterback, probably one of the better ones we've seen all year,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said. “They have a good running back and receivers on the edge who can make plays, so they're similar to us in that way.”
Even the coaches' comments were similar in assessing what both expect to be a fairly even matchup.
“Offensively, they're a handful,” Yough coach Mark Crovak said. “They have a number of kids that can handle the ball well, and (Nick) Bowers is a very special athlete that they ask to do a lot of things for them. Even though we play an odd defensive front and they play an even front, our philosophies are the same on defense, too.”
Yough quarterback Tyler Donahue has thrown for 1,259 yards and run for 553 yards, while his favorite target is also his team's top rusher, Clayton Waldron.
Waldron has 736 yards rushing, but he also has 47 receptions for 522 yards and 16 total touchdowns.
Likewise, Kittanning continues to get excellent play from quarterback Braydon Toy, who has 1,515 yards passing and another 795 rushing.
Bowers is Toy's favorite target with 782 yards on 44 catches, but his rushing contribution is third behind Toy and Zane Dudek, who has 611 yards rushing on just 60 carries this season.
For all the impressive numbers on offense, it's in other areas both coaches hope to find an advantage.
“We've spent a lot of time prepping defensively, because it could be the team that gets some stops and creates a turnover or two that will win,” Fabian said. “Both offenses have been at a high level all year, and Yough certainly has our attention.”
The Cougars hope they will be able to create some problems up front for a Kittanning line that has been exceptional, especially on offense.
“The strength of our team starts up front,” Crovak said. “Our center, Shaun Phillips, has done a tremendous for us, and we have a number of seniors on our offensive line. On defense, Tom Sever has been a handful for teams up front, and (the line) has led our defense.”
One small edge Kittanning hopes will pay off is the home-field advantage it earned this season.
“The one thing we've done all year is treat every game the same,” Fabian said. “The edge of being at home is that you get to do your pregame meal, you get to do your walkthrough, and it's the same as you always do. Our stadium is unique, but I think it's that normalcy that will help us be comfortable.”
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