Karns City football takes advantage of turnovers to oust Kane
Karns City was on its way to another back-and-forth district final before its defense took matters — and the football — into its own hands.
Senior defensive back Wyatt Everetts recorded three of the four takeaways by the Gremlins' defense to help Karns City pull away from Kane and win its second straight District 9-AA title over Kane, 49-21, on Friday at Clarion Memorial Stadium.
Everetts had two interceptions and a 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and Evan Stitt added a third interception for Karns City (11-1), which will face District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge in the PIAA Class AA first round next week at a District 5 site to be determined. The title was Karns City's 10th District 9 crown.
“We knew we had to find mistakes and capitalize on them, because they don't make very many mistakes,” Everetts said. “We knew they had a great quarterback and a great receiver, and they like to pass in the flats. Those (interceptions) were just right in my drop zone.”
Karns City was on its heels in the second quarter when Kane (11-1) recovered an onside kick after taking a 14-7 lead.
The Wolves moved the ball to the Karns City 12, but instead of attempting a short field goal, Kane threw a fade to star receiver Jeff Kocjancic and was denied on fourth-and-10. Karns City responded by tying the game on its next drive on a screen pass from Tyler Kepple to Zach Moore that covered 45 yards.
Kane got the ball back with 1:34 left before halftime, but on its first play, Everetts undercut an outside route and intercepted the pass from Kevin Cleer.
Everetts returned the ball 32 yards to the Kane 2-yard line. Everetts scored on a 1-yard run to give Karns City a 21-14 halftime lead.
“It seemed like we started out flat, but once we got that, everyone started rolling and playing well,” Everetts said.
“The momentum swung,” Karns City coach Ed Conto said. “If I could figure out what it was that changes momentum in a football game and give a kid an antidote for it, I'd make a million dollars.”
After halftime, it was all Karns City.
The Gremlins took the opening kickoff, went 60 yards in nine plays and finished the drive with a 14-yard pass from Kepple to 6-foot-3 receiver Logan Moroney — their second touchdown connection in the game.
“Coach, when he'd send the play in, would even say look to Logan because of the advantage he had,” Kepple said. “He's faster than a lot of guys, and he can go up and get the ball.”
Kepple finished the game 13-for-19 passing for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
The majority of that went to Moroney, who had 123 yards and two scores on eight catches.
Kane cut the lead to 28-21 in the third quarter, but Karns City quickly regained the advantage by scoring on a 5-yard run by Ethan Conto and forcing turnovers on the Wolves' next two possessions.
For Kane, Cleer finished 12 for 27 passing for 142 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Kocjancic was the Wolves' only receiver to really get going. He finished with 105 yards on seven receptions.
The Gremlins' focus turns to the PIAA tournament, where they reached the quarterfinals last year before losing to WPIAL champ Aliquippa.
“We're taking it step-by-step, week-by-week, like we've been doing it all year,” Kepple said. ”