PUNXSUTAWNEY — On a beautiful Homecoming night at Jack F. LaMarca Stadium, the Punxsy Chucks’ defense shined and the ground game churned out 386 yards to stride past the Allegheny-Clarion Valley Falcons, 24-6.
After a rocky showing a week ago, the Punxsy defense flexed its muscles against what was a potent Falcons’ offense coming into the contest. For the first 46:42, Punxsy held A-C Valley to 150 yards of total offense including 52 on the ground.
The effort included two big third- quarter plays where cornerback Christian Falgout intercepted Falcon quarterback Kevin Kaufman and linebacker Jamie Bush stopped a drive in the Chucks’ red zone on a tackle for a loss to force a turnover on downs.
The Punxsy defense allowed 202 yards in the contest — 52 yards coming in the final minute — on 55 plays. More importantly, the Chucks' defenders pitched a shutout for the first 47 minutes and allowed just six points after giving up 20-plus points in each of the first three weeks.
“We challenged the defense to step up and play better, and they did,” explained Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol. “They were more effective tonight. They showed they are growing up and having better concentration.”
“We saw some nice plays by Alex Bevak and Parker Weaver with broken up passes, and Caesar Maruca played well. The defense took a step it needed to take to be a championship team,” added the Chucks’ coach.
The victory was not just a defensive one for Punxsy, but the offense also turned up its production to a tune of 386 yards of total offense, including a pair of 100-yard rushers. Tailback Falgout and fullback Bush combined to account for 303 yards of the team total on 44 carries and all three touchdowns.
Falgout ran for 80 first-half yards, only to better that amount with 112 yards in the second 24 minutes for 192 yards on 26 rushes — a 7.4-yard per carry average — with scores of a yard and six yards.
Bush continued his solid running with 111 yards of his own on 18 totes including a one-yard scoring plunge. Maruca came in to rush for 32 yards on three carries including a 19-yarder.
“The offensive line has been the story all year so far,” pointed out Nichol. “The group of Luke Shiock, Zach Minich, Derek Mahlburg, Brandon Snyder and Jordan London has given everyone a lot of holes to run through each week.”
Quarterback Garrett Zimmerman completed three of eight passes, all in the first half, for 56 yards. His favorite target of the night, Clayton Dale, pulled in two of the three balls for 48 yards, while Dakota Byers had the other catch covering eight yards.
Now an even 2-2 on the year, Punxsy started off strong on the opening drive. On the second play, Zimmerman hit Dale on a deep right sideline, covering 29 yards to put the ball into A-C Valley territory at the 29-yard line. Bush ran 11 yards on third-and-one down to the visiting nine-yard line.
After a fumble, which Minich recovered for the Chucks, the drive would stall when Zimmerman’s pass for Alex Bevak in the back of the end zone was broken up. Trevor Peace picked up the offense with his first field goal of the year, a 23-yarder, and Punxsy took a lead they would never give up at 7:58 in the first frame.
The Chucks dodged a bullet on the ensuing kickoff. A-C Valley’s Justin Rothen caught the ball at his nine-yard line and rushed straight up the middle of the field, and the sea parted as he ran untouched 91 yards, only to see some yellow laundry back at the visiting 42-yard line. As a result, Punxsy’s defense took advantage of the good fortune and forced a punt on three plays with Brandon Wingert and Shiock combining to hit Dallas Wingard in the backfield for a loss.
Punxsy tried to add to its 3-0 lead late in the first quarter. The offense drove 43 yards on seven plays behind the Falgout/Bush running only to see Falcons' linebacker Jimmy Horton pick off Zimmerman at the A-C Valley two-yard line on a pass over the middle.
Following the third-straight Falcons punt, the Chucks did not come up short on their next drive. Taking over at his own 46-yard line, Zimmerman connected with Dale for 19 yards to take the ball to the 16-yard line on the fifth play. Falgout took the steering wheel on the next two plays with a 15-yard burst before running in from a yard to make it 10-0 with 4:35 in the first half.
The Punxsy defense completed its stellar first half by forcing the fourth A-C Valley punt and another turnover on downs.
Falgout helped the Chucks defense continue its prowess with an interception on the just the fifth play of the second half.
Two drives later, still leading 10-0, Punxsy called upon the defense yet again.
The Falcons put together their best drive of the night of 34 yards to that point on eight plays. On fourth-and-two at the home 20-yard line, Landon Delisio took the handoff but was met right at the same point on a hard hit by Bush for a two-yard loss.
On the turnover on downs, Falgout took the first hand off, and cut off guard before sliding to the outside and covering 54 yards before being stopped. Seven plays later, Bush plunged in from a yard out to make it 17-0 with 10:09 remaining.
Punxsy put one last score on the board on its next trip. Maruca led the drive with three rushes for 32 yards, including a 19-yarder, to set up Falgout’s six-yard burst between center and left guard for a 24-0 tally at 4:58 left to go.
A-C Valley (1-3) played to the end. With 1:18 left, the Falcons’ Kaufman connected on three of four passes covering 48 yards. From the home four-yard line Kaufman kept the fake handoff to the left and went into the end zone for what would be the 24-6 final.
“It was a good win, a good team win, and that’s what it is all about,” added Nichol. “It was nice to see as well, for three home games so far this season, great community support from the fans, cheerleaders and band and the coaching staff, and the team truly appreciates it.”
The Chucks will look to take the strides they have made this week back on the road next Friday. Punxsy will travel north to face St. Marys starting at 7 p.m.