Chucks clinch first undefeated season since 1977

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The 2010 Punxsy football team accomplished something that hasn't been done in more than three decades at Punxsutawney Area High School: An undefeated regular season.

A year after finishing 9-3 while hosting the District IX Class AAA Championship, and three seasons removed from a winless campaign, the Chucks completed the 2010 regular season with an unblemished 10-0 record.

Not since 1977 has the feat been accomplished, back when current Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol was a running back and defensive back for the Chucks. He knows what it's like to be a player who completed a regular season with a zero in the loss column — and now he's coached one, too.

"Whenever you complete a season undefeated, you feel that in a brief time and moment in life, you met your goal and accomplished a feat that all other teams wanted to do," Nichol said. "It's just something that goes with you, and it's really special. They knew that, and they wanted to be part of that."

The final game in Punxsy's trek for a perfect regular season may not have gone as planned — the Chucks were given the win due to a forfeit by West Shamokin, which did not have enough eligible players to field a team Friday night. But that doesn't take away from what Punxsy earned — the Chucks' third perfect regular season after it happened in 1963 and 1977.

"We can control what we can control. We'd like to play," Nichol said of Friday's forfeit. "We're 10-0, and we earned that right. It's a great accomplishment."

The worst part about the forfeit is that Nichol said his team was ready to go more than ever for Friday's game against the Wolves. As hard as the Chucks compete on a day-to-day basis in practice, they were still excited to put all the hits in for this week of preparation, knowing that they would soon get an opportunity to complete the 10-0 season.

"Once we got over the hurdle (last) Friday night, they really wanted to be 10-0," said Nichol, citing how practice was after Punxsy beat Brookville Oct. 29. "We had a great week of practice, and we were ready to play. They wanted to be a part of tradition."

Nichol said that his team's senior leadership went a long way toward Punxsy's success this season. With not much more than 30 players, the Chucks may not be as deep as most Triple-A teams throughout the state, but Punxsy took advantage of the 16 seniors who contributed.

Not only was Punxsy able to finish 10-0, but it broke the school record with 18-straight regular season victories, beat rivals DuBois and Brookville and claimed the KSAC Large School Division Championship.

"The core group of players — you really can't ask for more from those guys. The senior leaders, they wanted to win the KSAC," Nichol said. "It's not like there's 60 guys out there so you had the luxury of a break. Because of the numbers, they have to be out there."

Punxsy's season started with what was a surprising 27-7 win over DuBois at the time. Punxsy's defense dominated at the line of scrimmage with safeties Logan Weaver and Duell Thompson coming into the box to create a nine-man front. Along with the likes of linemen Devon Luzell and Jacob Shiock and linebackers Tige Woodson and Ian Weaver, the Chucks' defense didn't give up much.

After a win over A-C Valley, the Chucks bounced back from an early 7-0 deficit in St. Marys during Week 3. That was Punxsy's only deficit this season.

The Chucks bounced back to score 28 unanswered points during a 28-7 win.

"Through those first three games, you look at that as a coach hoping for a winning record," Nichol said, considering DuBois and St. Marys were two of the toughest opponents on Punxsy's schedule.

Punxsy allowed just one touchdown during its next three games, shutting out Karns City and Clarion — two of the historically best teams in the KSAC — on the road. All three games were 30-plus point wins, but the Moniteau Warriors were next, a team that matched up well against the Chucks.

In a game that was tied at six entering the fourth quarter, Logan Weaver threw two touchdowns to lead Punxsy to the 20-12 victory. The second was a 72-yard catch and run by Ben Blazavich.

After relying on the legs of Jason Fallara and Blazavich for much of the season, Punxsy turned to the passing game during its next wins over Redbank Valley and Brookville. Logan Weaver threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns during those two 30-plus-point victories.

"Our core of receivers — Zak Dickey, Corban Cressley, Blazavich and Duell Thompson — along with Logan, really put it all together that game and were really clicking," Nichol said of a 47-0 win over Redbank.

It has yet to be announced by the District IX Committee, but the Chucks are nearly assured of joining Clearfield in the District IX Class AAA Championship Game next week. Punxsy will most likely get a chance at going 11-0 for the first time ever.

"The players have confidence in one another just like the good teams that I played on. (Going 10-0) is difficult. People have to get better, and younger players have to step up and be an integral part of the team," Nichol said. "The bottom line was their effort, and the effort of these guys no matter what we asked them to do, carried the day."