PUNXSUTAWNEY — After improving to 3-3 last Friday against the Clarion-Limestone Lions, the Punxsy Chucks are ready to come back home for tonight's game against Karns City.
The Chucks can't afford to look ahead to next week's game againt the powerhouse that is Clarion, as Punxsy knows that Karns City isn't a team that can be overlooked.
"Karns City is a perennial power in District IX AA because they are so well-coached. It's one of those things where they have a stockpile of good, skilled athletes," Chucks' head coach Alan Nichol explained. "They all get the chance to touch the ball and score the ball. We have to be sound ourselves because they'll come at us, and they'll be prepared."
Nichol said that after establishing the run with Christian Falgout and Perry Arrington last week, Punxsy will look to have a more well-balanced attack against Karns City.
"Offensively, you have to block well, and you have to know your assignments. They are a good tackling team," said Nichol. "That being said, we have to go back to being a well-balanced offense. We had some goals last week in terms of establishing the run. This week, we'll be back to being more balanced."
The Chucks' offense may have a different look to it than it did last week, but the key to the team remains the same.
The defense needs to play well once again.
"We continue to improve on defense. We had a lot of big hits, and were able to adjust at halftime from being a little bit too aggressive in the secondary, to come up with five interceptions in the fourth quarter," Nichol said. "Being able to come up with adjustments like that, and to be able to put eight good quarters together of stopping the running game is something we need to do at this point in the season. It was good to see that."
Blocking, tackling and winning the turnover battle.
If you talk to Nichol on any given day, he'll tell you those are the keys that he believes in.
They've had the tackling and blocking, but recently, they've added the turnover battle to their repertoire.
"It's something at this point in this season that we have to do. We have to read our keys to make sure we are defensively sound. It's one of those things that took us a while to adjust to and the pattern of the ball," said Nichol. "We have to make sure we are holding on to the football. All of the good things that you are doing don't mean anything if you can't hold on to the ball. It's hard to win when you are giving the other team more chances to score."
Although you think of the interceptions being created in the secondary, the strong push that the defensive line gives can actually assist with those.
Last week, against the Lions, defensive end Dalton Maines showed just that, with his terrific performance off the edge.
"Dalton has played very well. He's worked hard in the offseason, and has the perfect mentality for defensive end. He sees the field, and early in the game, he snuffed out their first screen pass," Nichol explained. "When the ball is snapped, he's very aggressive. He reads his keys, and is ready to come inside due to his instincts. He's a physical player. He makes big hits, and those big hits lead to the turnovers."
And just in case Maines, Nichol or any of the other Chucks need any extra motivation against the 5-1 Gremlins, then Punxsy will be playing in front of a huge crowd, as the Punxsutawney Area High School will crown its annual Homecoming Queen and Princess.
"We're going to have a nice night, and it's going to be nice to have so many people from the community coming out. There's so much more than football that goes on up there," Nichol said. "We have the band and cheerleaders performing; we have the "Red Zone" with all of the students out; and add on top of that Homecoming, there's a lot going on. There's a lot of student interaction when you come to the event like that."
Nichol said that while they are the featured show for the fans, they are just happy to be a positive part of the experience.
"I'm convinced that in small towns across the country, that community spirit is on display at stadiums on Friday nights. We're glad to be a part of that, and we want to be a positive part of that," said Nichol. "We have a lot of people that support us. We have a lot of fans, former players and other former students that come for Homecoming. For those people to come, and to have the community spirit at the game, it's great for everyone."
The Homecoming Queen's Court is comprised of Isabella Gallina, Searra Wasicki, Emily Reitz, Emily Horner, Ashley Reitz and Elizabeth Depp-Hutchinson.
Kick off is slated for 7 p.m.