PUNXSUTAWNEY – Winners of its past two contests, the Punxsy Chucks will seek to continue its 2012 gridiron improvement tonight when the Clarion-Limestone Lions come to Jack F. LaMarca Stadium.
“We look at one week at a time. A team that improves becomes a good team,” said Chucks’ head coach Alan Nichol. “It is important we come out and play well.”
The Chucks will be trying to do nothing other than coming out and adding a third successful victory to what they hope is just the beginning stages of a long run. After a rocky two-game slide in weeks two and three, Punxsy produced a solid 24-6 home victory over A-C Valley before last Friday night’s heroic comeback in the final 11 seconds of a 21-20 win at St. Marys.
“Winning the (St. Marys) game enabled us to make strides to being a championship football team,” pointed out Nichol. “We talk about playing 48 minutes and we did. It helped the fact people stuck together. That is what team sports is all about.”
The victory over St. Marys was even more heroic in the fact of Punxsy playing without four starters and various other key contributors from the lineup.
“We believe we have a significant number of guys back, as it has been a positive week,” said the Punxsy coach. “The experience (of playing without the players last week) will make the team better and gives us depth. (Shayne) Little, (Adam) Ferko and (Cory) Brooks, all three performed at a good high level for us filling in for example.”
This evening, the new found deeper Punxsy squad will face Clarion-Limestone in its next roadblock in the journey to being the championship football team it desires to become.
The Lions recorded their best performance of the season in a 21-7 home defeat at the hands of the Panthers of Keystone last Friday. Clarion-Limestone has seen the first half of the fall season be a tough one without a victory in five games. The Lions have allowed 35 or more points in four games, suffered three shut outs and managed only 19 points over five contests.
Clarion-Limestone will present Punxsy with a different type of defense look. The Lions run a 3-5 look that is a defensive set which instills a lot of blitzing and brings a lot of pressure into the backfield and to the quarterback.
“We need to pick up blitzes to sustain momentum to keep out of second and third and long situations,” commented Nichol. “We try to take what the defense gives us. You get in the heart of the game, adjust and keep going.”
Punxsy did just what its coach alluded to last week. In a week without its second-leading rusher in fullback Jamie Bush, among others, the Chucks adjusted their game plan and went to an air attacking offense and attack they did.
Quarterback Garrett Zimmerman was almost flawless in the key second half where Punxsy scored all of its 21 points. The signal-caller hit 12 of 17 passes for 163 yards with three touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion pass to Clayton Dale. On the night, Zimmerman completed 14 of 25 attempts for 195 yards.
Slot back Alex Bevak paced the Punxsy pass catchers. Bevak hauled in five of the completions for 86 yards. Sophomore Dakota Byers had his best night as a varsity player with four catches for 55 yards, including two touchdowns. Dale added three receptions for 38 yards to go with his two-point conversion catch. Caesar Maruca rounded out the wide outs with two eight-yard catches, with the second going for a score.
The rushing attack will look to not only see a return of Bush at his fullback position but a new wrinkle the unit has been developing.
“Our option game now with Garrett and the backs will add another dimension to the offense,” added Nichol.
Christian Falgout accounted for all but 10 yards at St. Marys with 66 on 17 totes on the ground. He will have Bush’s 5.89-yard per carry average to help once again with Maruca ready to add his talents when called upon.
Clarion-Limestone will look to reach double figures on the scoreboard for the second time on the year. The Lions lit the scoreboard for two touchdowns and 12 points at Warren in the second game but managed only the one touchdown scored last week in the other four contests.
“They run out of an I-formation and like to isolate players,” tells Nichol. “They will spread you out and pass from three wide receiver packages."
The trigger-man of this Lions attack is junior quarterback Christian Bakewell. He has completed 31 of 62 pass attempts for 291 yards with three touchdown passes to five interceptions.
Bakewell’s main target is senior wide out Tommy Smith. The 6-2, 180-pound receiver has grabbed over half the Clarion-Limestone completions with 18 covering 227 yards and two scores. Brent Slater is second with seven balls for 29 yards. Running backs Joe Tommasi, who has 56 carries for 158 yards, and Kyle Robertson with 123 yards on 33 rushes, handle the ground work.
“You have to know your assignments as we don’t want to give up the big play. We continue to be working hard on preventing them,” said the Punxsy coach.
Three Punxsy linemen in seniors Brandon Snyder and Zach Minich, along with sophomore Luke Shiock, have been progressing on the defensive front stressed by the Punxsy coaching staff. Snyder, who reads the offensive line well and is getting a better feel for the defense, had three stops versus St. Marys. Minich recovered a fumble to go with four tackles against the Dutch.
The Punxsy corners will be called upon to produce solid efforts out of Falgout, Alex Bevak, Dale and Parker Weaver.
“They are isolated at times on the outside where they have played well,” pointed out Nichol. “We ask them to cover man-to-man and rely upon them in many coverages.”
Zimmerman continues to be the Chucks’ top tackler with 43, including a team-best 12 last week. Maruca stepped up his play at inside linebacker with 11 stops of his own, six solo. Brooks posted eight tackles to his credit with both Matt Burkett and Alex Bevak — who intercepted a pass on the final play of the game — adding six of their own at St. Marys.
The Chucks will look to explore the areas in which they have room for improvement tonight. and try to send C-L back home as the next hopeful "stepping stone" to becoming a championship team.