Early turnover sets tone for Karns City's lopsided victory over St. Marys
Karns City's Adam Whited set the tone for Friday's District 9 Class AA playoff game.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, Whited blocked a St. Marys punt and took the ball to the Flying Dutch 4, scoring two plays later to give the Gremlins a quick, 7-0 lead.
Karns City never looked back, rolling to a 55-6 victory in semifinal action Friday night at Diehl Stadium.
The Gremlins (10-1) will try for their 10th District 9 title since 1987 next weekend against Kane at a date, site and time to be determined.
St. Marys concluded its season at 6-5.
“Any time you block a punt, or return a punt for a touchdown, they say that's a game changer,” Karns City coach Ed Conto said. “It's such a momentum thing, especially early. It's kind of like a statement.”
The Gremlins quickly got the ball back after a punt and drove 55 yards in five plays, with Dakota Mohney hauling in a 42-yard pass from Tyler Kepple.
Four plays after the kickoff, Cody Deal recovered a St. Marys fumble, setting up another short, 36-yard drive with Logan Moroney on the receiving end of a Kepple pass that covered 24 yards.
That play gave Karns City a 20-0 lead with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
The Gremlins got the ball back less than a minute later at the Flying Dutch 34. Tristan Rhoades scored on a 25-yard pass play from Kepple to open the second period.
“In the playoffs, everybody comes in with a zero-zero record,” Kepple said. “You've got to come out strong every game. Upsets happen when you don't come out strong.”
Conto was pleased how Kepple handled the St. Marys blitz.
“Especially under the pressure of eight, nine guys coming at his face,” Conto said. “He got if off quickly, and he ran the ball, too.”
Kepple's 20-yard run, zig-zagging from the right side to left, gave Karns City a 34-0 advantage with 7:22 left in the half.
Karns City took the second half kickoff and Zach Moore scored on a 50-yard run on the third play from scrimmage for a 41-0 lead that put the PIAA's continuous clock rules in effect.
Colin Dunmyre's 30-yard punt return to the St. Marys 27 set up Ethan Conto's 3-yard run. Dunmyre later scored on a 4-yard carry to conclude the Karns City scoring barrage.
Five of the eight Karns City touchdowns came on drives that started in St. Marys territory.
“I feel that as the season goes on, we're getting better and better,” Kepple said. “We'll study (Kane) like we do any other week. What we do has been working well.”
Jordan Straub's 12-yard run finally got the Flying Dutch on the scoreboard with 1:48 left in the game, culminating a 14-play drive.
Running back Alex Feldbauer, in his final St. Marys appearance, ran for 127 yards in 28 attempts.
The Karns contest will be a rematch of last year's District 9 final, won by the Gremlins, 33-27.
George Guido is a freelance writer.