ST. MARYS — Coming off what was the most complete effort of the fall, the Punxsy Chucks will seek to navigate through the traffic an ever-imposing St. Marys Flying Dutch present tonight in St. Marys.
One of the traditional and more storied rivalries on the schedule, the Chucks and Dutch will renew with both squads coming off dominate performances a week ago.
On the road, St. Marys dismantled Clarion-Limestone 35-0 behind its ground attack and stiff defensive line.
“Punxsy has played them for quite a while, dating back decades,” affirmed Chucks head coach Alan Nichol. “The (St. Marys) program is on the upswing since coach Schlimm took over. He does a great job over the last seven or eight years with no exception. His teams always run the ball well and play good defense.”
For Homecoming, Punxsy rode the excitement to a complete 24-6 victory over an A-C Valley squad with the same type of effort as its foe tonight will have with a grind it out attack and solid defense.
The rivalry has been fairly even in the last 12 meetings with Punxsy claiming seven to St. Marys’ five. The Chucks have had a good deal of success in St. Marys by winning four of the last six played there, including the last contest, 28-7 in 2010, as well as three-straight victories in the 2003, 2001 and 1999 affairs.
An unusual fact of the past 12 matchups is the series games have not been traditionally close. There have been only four of the games decided by less than 10 points and none of the last three. The games have seen the winner prevail by an average of 15.8 points including a 34-12 St. Marys win in Punxsy last fall.
Tonight’s opponents have found their fortunes very similar to this point of the season. Not only were last week’s games very similar, but the squads carry in 2-2 marks, both splitting the first four weeks' contests. There are two differences as Punxsy is 1-0 in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Large School Division after its win over Brookville, 26-23, to start the season. On the other hand, St. Marys sits at 0-2 in the division standings with its two defeats at the hands of Karns City and a close, 19-15, loss at Brookville.
The Chucks will have to be good at directing and sifting through traffic tonight to take their first road win and to stay unbeaten in the KSAC standings.
The navigation through the St. Marys traffic will be an especially important factor for the Punxsy defense, a unit that allowed only 150 yards in the first 47 minutes and a season-low six points.
“On defense, we have a couple guys at new positions,” points out Nichol. “(Caesar) Maruca did well at his new spot at inside linebacker with nine tackles as it is his first year there. (Defensive end) Will Curtis continues to improve and saw a lot of action.”
It will take an equaling effort and more for the Chucks to handle the formidable Wing-T rushing attack of the Dutch. St. Marys heads into the ball game with 1,350 yards for a 355.3-yard per game average, 6.82-yard per carry mark and 13 rushing touchdowns in four games. The unit ran for 366 yards on 40 carries against Clarion-Limestone last week.
“They commit to the Wing-T. All three backs carry with authority, as power and deception are their keys,” explained the Punxsy coach. “Their players are good at executing and make for their good running game. In fact, they commit so much to the run they have actually run out of third-and-long situations, which can make their passing game, when they use it, that much more effective.”
St. Marys has a strong stable of running backs led by junior fullback Alex Feldbauer, who has amassed 618 yards on 99 totes for a 154.5-yard per contest average with eight touchdowns. He rambled through the Clarion-Limestone defense for 187 yards on 20 carries last Friday night.
“Feldbauer lines up behind the quarterback at fullback, which is the back who gets the most carries as that is how their offense is set up,” added Nichol. “(Cody) Baker was the fullback last year and was a good solid 1,000-yard rusher last year.”
Baker, fellow senior Joe Luchini and sophomore Jordan Straub complete the experience backfield. After being the main back last fall, Baker has carried just 14 times for an impressive 182 yards. Luchini has been given the handoff 47 times for 333 yards with Straub adding 19 attempts for 178 yards with all three having one touchdown apiece.
Quarterback Alex Coudriet has put the ball in the air no more than 10 times in any game with 11 completions in 30 tries for 150 yards. Robbie Glass has caught six of those passes for 67 yards, while Alex Tyger has three catches for 72 yards to his credit.
“On defense, we need to read our keys as they can be deceptive in the backfield and keep our eyes on the line of scrimmage,” says Nichol. “We have to tackle. If we don’t make good tackles, we will end up giving up a lot of yards after contact.
The strong safeties (Garrett Zimmerman and Matt Burkett) have to keep their edge and turn things back inside. The inside linebackers (Maruca and Jamie Bush) will have a lot of traffic inside and need to be able to take blockers on for us to be successful.”
Zimmerman continues to pace the Chucks’ defenders with 31 tackles (7.8/game). Bush has 17 solo and 24 stops with Maruca doubling his season total to 18 after the stellar nine-tackle performance against A-C Valley.
Defensive end Brandon Wingert and tackle Luke Shiock have totaled 20 tackles apiece to lead the interior linemen while cornerback Christian Falgout has stepped up for 22 tackles in the secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Punxsy will have to continue the progress it made a week ago. The offense produced 399 yards of total offense with 345 of those yards coming on the ground over 54 rushes, including the three scores against A-C Valley.
“The offense produced a lot of yards rushing. All three running backs ran the ball well,” said the Chucks coach. “We were able to get good yardage on first downs last week which helped get us in second and short situations.
"Bush carried piles (of tacklers) a lot of times on him to set up those second-and-short downs. The backs also hit the holes crisper than they had in past weeks."
The Chucks had their own three-headed back trio a week ago. Falgout paced the Punxsy rushers with a team season-best 192 yards on 26 carries including a 53-yarder and two touchdowns. Bush rumbled for 118 yards on 18 attempts with a one-yard scoring plunge himself. Maruca completed the trio with 33 yards on three chances with a 19-yard best run.
Punxsy will need to continue its overall but solid ground numbers of 857 yards and a 214.3-yard per game average for the unit. Falgout, who has 381 yards, and Bush, 324 yards to his credit, have over 705 combined yards.
The desired offensive balance will be directed by quarterback Zimmerman. The senior has 286 yards on 20 completions in 48 attempts. Clayton Dale continues to be the top target with seven catches for 112 yards with four others including Burkett and Alex Bevak with three receptions.
The real strength of the Punxsy offense, the offensive line, will have to continue the unit’s strong play tonight.
“St. Marys has two very good athletes that can dominate the line of scrimmage in their defensive ends (seniors Shajuan Carrero and Colby Lenox),” notes Nichol. “Their line can put a lot of push up front but we need to take advantage of that push but stick to what to our strengths at the same time.”
The Dutch defense has produced an extraordinary 22 sacks in their first four contests led by Carrero’s seven with Lenox having 4.5. Even more importantly, the defensive unit has allowed only 64 points with seven points total in the team’s two victories.
Although, St. Marys has given up 57 of those 64 points at the hand of KSAC Large school opponents, Karns City and Brookville.
So the Punxsy contingent will make its second trek on the road this fall.
For a victory, the Chucks will have to have a good sense of direction to navigate the always tough and formidable Flying Dutch squad and its constant field traffic it will throw at their visitors.