PUNXSUTAWNEY — Senior Night is a moment that every athlete looks forward to, and a night that every athlete will remember for the rest of his or her life.
When the nine Punxsutawney senior football players — Matt Burkett, Andrew Bullers, Christian Falgout, Jonathan Voss, Clayton Dale, Will Curtis, Josh Schuckers, Jesse Walk, Parker Weaver — took the field to be recognized prior to Friday's game, they had their moment they've been waiting for.
Unfortunately, what happened on the gridiron is something they may not want to remember, as the visiting, undefeated Clarion Bobcats left Jack LaMarca Stadium with a 55-0 shutout win over the Punxsutawney Chucks.
"That's one of the best football teams in the state as far as small schools go," head coach Alan Nichol said. "It was a great effort. They have a lot of weapons over there, and they had to run a power offense, because we did a good job of shutting down some of their wider plays."
You see the shut out victory, and you think it's an off night for the Chucks.
The truth is, the Bobcats just pitched their fifth consecutive shutout and haven't allowed a point since Sept. 13.
Despite the adversary in front of them, the Chucks came out on fire.
In fact, there were rumblings on the sideline, as people were saying this is the most fired up they've seen the Chucks start a game so far this season.
"They were determined to come in and make a game of it," Nichol said. "With it being Senior Night, I think the younger guys know how much the seniors put into it."
As they've done most of the season, the Chucks elected to receive the ball, after winning the coin toss.
The Chucks were driving on the Bobcats until a false start halted their momentum.
The Bobcats got the ball for the first time of the night, and as they have all season, they marched down the field to put up seven early points.
With a University of Marshall scout in the house, Clarion quarterback John Katis hit Cody Hearst for a four-yard score.
After another three-and-out, the Katis and Hearst connection struck again, this time from 51 yards out, looking to put the Bobcats up 14-0.
To start off the second quarter, however, Katis fumbled the snap on the 10-yard-line, giving the Chucks an opportunity to get back in the game.
The Chucks put together a long drive, which included a 29-yard rush by Falgout.
Again, however, the Bobcats put an end to the threat, as they stopped the Chucks on fourth down.
Not only does Clarion have Katis, but they have running back Damien Slike, who according to sources, is being recruited by some bigger Division II schools.
Slike broke loose for a 21-yard scamper to put the Bobcats up 14-0.
Earlier in the drive, Katis completed a pass to Ian Corbett to put him over 3,000 yards passing for his career. Katis finished the evening going 10-14 for 199 yards with three scores.
"They throw the ball well. That's where I really give them credit," Nichol said. "I thought that he threw the short patterns better than I've seen him throw it before."
Going into the half, Slike scored on another big play.
Slike ran a trap play, taking him 43 yards into the end zone.
Slike finished with 156 yards on seven carries, with three rushing scores.
"He's the type of player that can run a power offense for a team," Nichol said.
Even with the score 21-0 at the half, with the way the Bobcats have manhandled teams this year, the effort was a success for Punxsy.
"We came out and played well against a good football team," Nichol said. "We played hard early on, and that carried over from a good week of practice."
In the second half, the rout continued, as Clarion piled on 34 more points en route to a 55-0 victory, including blocking three of Punxsy's punts.
"In the second half, they had a couple good runs off the bat against us," Nichol said. "Falgout had a big run, but it was called back. It seems to be the way things have been going for us all season."
It's not the way that Punxsy wanted Senior Night to go, but Nichol is proud of his team nonetheless.
"Hats off to the seniors. Guys like Schuckers, Curtis, Falgout, all of them really gave it all they had," Nichol said. "I can't say enough about them."
Clarion runs a defense that is similar similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers from a few years ago.
The Steelers had Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, James Harrison and company up front.
The push that they give on the line allows the the linebackers to shoot the gap, and allows the corners to cover their assignments for just a few seconds.
The scheme worked, as Falgout was held to just 57 yards on 14 carries.
"They have a lot of strength up the middle. Slike is right there, and they have other linebackers that come right up to the line of scrimmage," Nichol said. "They can force you to try to get you to go wide."
Despite the loss, the heads remain held high, as the Chucks will travel to Moniteau next week in hopes of improving to 4-5.
"All-in-all, we executed some things, but just didn't make enough big plays to keep ourselves in the game," Nichol said. "You have to tip your cap to them."