Season-ending heartbreak for Brookville Raiders

CLARION — The Brookville Raiders' season came to a close Saturday after suffering a crushing 40-25 defeat at the hands of the Karns City Gremlins in the District IX Class AA semi-finals.

Following the game, the disappointment was easily seen on the face of Brookville head coach Chris Dworek, who said there were several mistakes made.

"We needed to tackle better, and the rush defense wasn't the best effort," Dworek said. "We can't fix things and get them next week; that's the brutality of the playoffs."

The Raiders were unhappy with the opening drive of the game as Brookville's defense allowed a quick touchdown just three minutes in. Karns City's opening possession was highlighted by a 25-keeper from quarterback Brady Ellenberger, and it was star running back Glenn Toy who rushed the 25-yard score for the Gremlins.

But the Raiders' offense quickly stepped up, and it produced a scoring drive of its own to open the game. Quarterback Steven Kennedy's 24-yard pass completion to Cam Yard put the Raiders in Gremlin territory, and three plays later, Kennedy found a wide-open Sebastian Kerr for a 35-yard touchdown.

Halfway through the first quarter, the game was tied at seven, and the shootout had begun.

The Raiders' defense gave up a big play to Karns City's Alex Kinkela, who ran thirty yards to give his team the ball on the Raider 15. When the Gremlins found themselves in a first-and-goal situation, they gave the ball to Kinkela, who ran up the middle for a four-yard touchdown. Heading into the second quarter, the Gremlins led by one score.

It wasn't until the end of the second quarter that Brookville would find the end zone again. The Gremlins' made a costly error when they succeeded a punt fake but were called back due to an illegal forward pass. With 28 seconds remaining in the half, the Raiders' offense had one last chance at the ball.

Starting from the Gremlin 42, Kennedy found Kerr again for an 18-yard completion, and again only three plays later, Kennedy found Derek Shattenberg in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Yard struggled with the extra point after, and the Raiders trailed 14-13 at halftime.

"Scoring late, and we're getting the ball back, (we wanted to) keep level-headed," Dworek said of his team's mentality at the break. "No one was getting too excited or getting over-emotional with the energy at halftime. That was the big thing was keeping calm and know what we're doing."

The Raiders came out strong in the second half, scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter. The five-minute, 10-play scoring drive was highlighted by an option pass from sophomore Zach Vroman to Kerr, which brought Brookville into Karns City territory.

In the red zone, Kennedy elected for his running back this time, and Vroman earned the nine-yarder to put the Raiders up 19-14. The score remained the same as Brookville tried for a two-point conversion but was unsuccessful.

But the shootout once again took full effect during Karns City's ensuing drive, during which Kinkela found the end zone for the second time, running in a 30-yarder. Kinkela was the rusher for the attempted two-points after, but the Gremlins were also unsuccessful, and Karns City led 20-19.

The score remained the same until the beginning of the fourth quarter when Gremlins' running back Jerod Hutchinson ran the distance for a 16-yard score, and this time, it was kicker Adam Garing who struggled after, but the Gremlins led 26-19.

The Raiders worked their way into Karns City territory during their next possession, but on second-and-seven, Brookville was pushed back on a false start flag, and it could not recover and was forced the punt. The snap was over the head of Jordan Young, and the Gremlins received the ball back in favorable territory.

On the next play from their own 37, Toy ran the distance, and the Gremlins led 33-19.

Brookville did not give up, though, with just under four minutes left in the game and trailing by two scores. On fourth-and-two from their own 28, Kennedy found an open receiver in Shattenberg, who ran 60 yards after the catch for a 72-yard touchdown. Despite Yard missing the extra point after, the Raiders had cut the lead to eight.

Brookville made an interesting decision following the touchdown with 3:23 left in the game when it faked an onside kick, and Yard kicked to Hutchinson, who returned the ball to the Raider 28.

"We had two timeouts and three minutes left, and I thought if we showed an onside formation, they would bring everybody up; we had a deep kick planned," Dworek said of the decision. "That was the idea. We had lots of good ideas, and we had bad execution."

Dworek said he hoped to give his offense another opportunity at the ball.

"You hate to gamble and lose...instead of getting a chance at the end, so it was more of a cautious type thing to give ourselves a chance later, if we played good defense," Dworek said. "We had a chance to play good defense and stuff them three-and-out."

Unfortunately for Brookville, the Raiders did not play good defense. Immediately following a flag against Brookville, Karns City's Ethan Williams ran in a 23-yard touchdown to put the final score at 40-25 in favor of the Gremlins.

Dworek said he was especially disappointed with the way his team played because he felt as though the Raiders gave up the end.

The Raiders had a good offensive effort: Kennedy was 13-of-19 for 222 yards and three touchdown passes, and he added 28 on the ground. Vroman had a strong showing, rushing for 71 yards and adding 38 on his one pass completion. The Raiders had two 100-plus receivers — Kerr caught six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, and Shattenberg notched three catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

But despite the capabilities of the offense, the numbers were not enough where it mattered most — the scoreboard.

"It's always points, though; we had lots of chances," Dworek said. "There's no reason we can't win a shootout, so (the offensive numbers) show that we had the capability. We were missing a clutch play here or there; that was the tough part."

Dworek and the Raiders' coaching staff will host their end-of-the-season meeting today, while the Karns City Gremlins will face Moniteau in the District IX Class AA championship at 5 p.m. Friday at Clarion University Memorial Stadium. Moniteau dominated fourth-seeded Sheffield during their semi-final match-up Saturday.