PUNXSUTAWNEY — When facing a big play, high-powered offense in sports, you have to be able to take a punch, hold your ground and fight back. The Punxsy Chucks will need this type of resilience tonight when facing the DuBois Beavers' potent squad.
“It has been a good week of practice. The players are determined to play well, which makes really makes it enjoyable coaching them,” proclaimed Chucks head coach Alan Nichol. “We will have to be a resilient squad as we will have to be able to come back and focus on our job after DuBois makes a play and take good care of the ball on offense.”
The high-powered Beavers (2-0) have combined to score 101 points in their first two contests. DuBois started the season with a comeback, 34-24 road win at Mifflin County before a home trouncing of Franklin, 61-21, a week ago.
Following a successful home opener over Brookville, 26-23, Punxsy found the road a tough place last week on both sides of a lightning extended game at Union where it fell, 21-6.
Punxsy (1-1) will try to even its recent record against DuBois at Jack F. LaMarca Stadium. The Chucks have found their only success in the series with the Beavers at home in the past decade and a half. The red and white has claimed three wins in the last seven meetings at home including a convincing, 27-7 season-opening win as part of Punxsy’s perfect 10-0 regular season 2010 campaign.
The 2010 victory was the Chucks’ last victory they have enjoyed since 2002, also at home, with a 34-0 shut out. The other win came in a close 14-12 win in the 1998 matchup while the Beavers narrowed escaped town with a 21-20 decision in 2006. DuBois has captured the last seven contests in its stadium.
The Chucks will be attempting to even their home mark to 4-4 over the last eight games in their home stadium.
The team’s weekly improving defense unit will face its stiffest test to date with the Beavers squad averaging 50.5 points per game over the opening two weeks.
“They have the ability to score in bunches and have been very impressive,” said Nichol. “DuBois has a lot of good skill position players, with all having good speed.”
It will be up to the home defense which has been led by senior strong safety Garrett Zimmerman, the team’s leading tackler, and defensive end Brandon Wingert, who has received great praise from the coaching staff thus far.
The DuBois offensive attack is not a one-dimensional group. The Beavers’ spread offense have amassed 823 yards (411.5 yards/game) with 512 yards coming through the air and a solid 311-yard total on the ground.
“We will do all we can to stop the (DuBois) big plays and that has been an area of concern the first two weeks for us (on defense) anyway,” commented Nichol. “It will be whether we can handle their skill positions as they want to get you in one-on-one situations with their best athletes.”
Wingert, Zimmerman and fellow senior linebacker Jamie Bush will lead a unit that will have to be able to wrap up their tackles and keep the DuBois offensive momentum to a minimum for success.
Punxsy has allowed an average of 22.0 points per game but has three quarters not allowing any points and only one of eight frames giving up more than one score.
“With their big-play offense, we will have to be able to come back and focus on our job after they make (a big play),” added Nichol. “We have to concentrate on being resilient and be ready to go on the next snap."
The highly-touted Beavers offense is led by sophomore Gabe French. The 6-2, 180-pound quarterback has completed 21 of 36 passes (.583 completion percentage) for 312 yards with four scores and two interceptions. He has five main targets who have all grabbed at least four passes in the opening two weeks.
The receiving corps is led by fellow sophomore Bryson Paulinellie who has five touchdown catches of his eight receptions covering 198 yards. Garrett Miles (6 rec. for 64 yds.), Derek Hillebrand (5 rec. for 67 yds.), Chandler Davis (4 rec. for 41 yds.) and Ian Hine (4 rec. for 50 yds.) round out the group.
“DuBois is by no means one-dimensional as they can run as well as pass,” said the Punxsy coach.
In the opener, Garrett Brown, who missed last week but is expected back in the lineup tonight, rushed for 170 yards on 19 carries with three scores. Seniors Ben Mayro and Shane Marshall have contributed 110 and 53 yards on a combined 39 carries to make up a strong backfield trio. Punxsy will look to get back in a good offensive flow against DuBois tonight which it was unable to accomplish last week.
"Certain phases of the game just weren’t in sync as they should have been last week for us,” said Nichol. “We also need to improve upon our field position.”
The Chucks offense could not have started the 2012 season any better. The unit converted on its first three possessions to find the endzone two weeks ago. Punxsy moved the ball to a tune of 256 yards of total offense but saw the efficiency flounder last week. The offense was able to drive the ball but execution in the end fell short along with committing four turnovers in some key situations.
“There were little execution lapses in some areas against Union,” noted Punxsy’s coach. “We need to keep developing on those areas and should be able to finish the sustained drives we have with touchdowns.”
The execution will be up to quarterback Zimmerman who has completed just 13 of 30 passes for 173 yards with two scores but four pickoffs in two contests. His top target continues to be wideout Clayton Dale, who has four catches for 62 yards, while Alex Bevak and Matt Burkett pulled in their first two balls apiece last week for a combined 40 yards.
Senior fullback Bush continues to team with junior Christian Falgout as the one-two backfield punch. Bush has posted efforts of 66 and 62 yards on the ground while Falgout from tailback had 76 and 73 yards for the two games. Senior Caesar Maruca has chipped in 10 carries for 40 yards to spell the two.
The Chucks offensive line will face a Beavers defense which has not allowed a point in four of eight quarters of action along with intercepting seven passes, returning two for scores against Franklin, and sacking the quarterback four times to this point.
“DuBois is a traditional 4-3 defense, which is a pretty stout unit and likes to mix up their pass coverages,” tells Nichol. “As an offense, we have done a lot of good things the first two weeks but we have to get rid of the turnovers (from last week).”
Punxsy will have to be resilient like the main character in many of the inspiring ‘Rocky’ movies where it will have to take DuBois’ best punches, bounce back and be there to come out on top on the scoreboard when time runs out on the clock.