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Drive for the Ages: Keystone Goes 97 Yards to Beat Curwensville Claim Best Start in 30 Years
(Photo of Isaak Jones. Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here)
Relisten to the game:
Down one with 7:46 to play, 97 yards separated Keystone from doing something that hadn’t been done in 30 years.
Eleven plays and 3:44 later, the Panthers had the lead, 14-7, and eventually the 14-7 win at Curwensville giving them a 4-1 start, something a Keystone football team hadn’t done since going 5-0 after five games in 1989, the year the Panthers went to the state championship game.
“That was exciting,” Keystone’s second-year head coach Ryan Smith, who actually kept Keystone from a 5-1 start in 2001 when he teamed with Brad Beggs in double overtime at C-L to knock the Panthers off early in the season, said. “We just wanted to put together a drive piece-by-piece by throwing some quick hitch routes and throwing the ball up the field, little plays at a time. They chipped it away.”
Chipping it away the Panthers did until they faced third-and-goal at the Curwensville 5-yard line with just over four minutes left.
That is when senior quarterback Isaak Jones, out of the shotgun, looked to pass only to see his route covered. He stepped quickly to his left, found a seam and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Watch Jones’ score.
“We had a slant on the outside,” Jones said. “We haven’t run a slant all year long. I saw man-to-man (coverage) and (thought) hopefully the deep route from the slot would clear them out. But it didn’t. That was great defense, and I saw it and took off.”
Smith said his senior quarterback has the green light to run in those situations.
“His decision making has been really good, spot-on,” Smith said. “We tell him he has the green light. If no one is open step up in the pocket and take it.”
With 4:02 left on the clock, the game wasn’t in the bag yet for Keystone. But it was a couple of minutes later when Caleb Nellis recovered a fumble on a shotgun snap to Curwensville freshman quarterback Dan McGarry to all but seal the victory.
“All I did was fall on the ball,” Nellis said. “If you want to thank somebody, you have to thank these guys like Brady Rapp and Kirk Wolbert. They opened up that hole. It was just a missed fumbled snap, and I just got on the ball.
That fumble recovery along with Jones’ touchdown run were the Whopper Plays of the Game brought to you by the Clarion Burger King.
Watch the postgame interview with Jones, who was also named the Hager Paving Player of the Game, and Nellis.
For the better part of the second half, it looked like Keystone was going to miss its opportunity to join the 1989 team in the school record books.
Despite having the ball in Curwensville territory on four different occasions after coming out of halftime down 7-6, the Panthers couldn’t score.
Jones threw an interception at near the goal line to end one drive, a turnover on downs ended another drive, a missed field goal early in the fourth quarter stopped a third try and an interception on a trick play midway through the fourth quarter stopped another one.
“Yeah,” Smith said when asked if after the trick-play interception was thrown by Jayden Blazosky if he felt it just might not be his team’s night.
But Smith said his players never panicked.
“They didn’t panic at all,” Smith said. “There was no panic by anyone on that last drive. Everyone was calm. The players were calm. They did what they had to do to take care of the business to finish it.”
The one call that looked like it was going to come back to haunt Keystone was the decision, with around 10 minutes to play, to try a 21-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Cosper, who while not having tried a field goal all year was 10 of 13 on extra points – Keystone went for two on its first touchdown so it was Cosper’s first chance to kick in the game.
Cosper’s kick sailed way wide left, and Curwensville ended up with the ball at the 20-yard line instead of deep in its own territory.
“I don’t know what I was thinking there to be honest with you,” Smith said. “Nick’s a sophomore. He has really been working hard on his kicking. We have been practicing it in practice. I thought this is a great opportunity. He struck it nice. It just went left. You never know when you have to use that later in the season. I wanted to throw the ball, but I have coaches and a couple of guys said to me let’s try a field goal. We tried it. It didn’t work. But like I said, these guys didn’t give up and took care of it then.”
Keystone’s defense rose up and stopped Curwensville twice just a yard away from a first down to force a punt that was shanked giving Keystone the ball back at the Golden Tide 45-yard line.
But a trick play pass by Blazosky was intercepted by Andrew Freyer giving Curwensville the ball back around midfield.
“We had four turnovers tonight,” Smith said. “We have to minimize those. We haven’t turned it over a whole lot the last three games. This game, we turned it over. I am proud of them that they didn’t get panicked. That is senior leadership and juniors who have been here a couple of years.”
Again the Keystone defense held forcing another punt.
This time Jake Mullins’ kick was nearly perfect rolling out of bounds at the 3-yard line seemingly setting Curwensville’s defense up in a great position.
And the Tide nearly came up big, as Keystone faced a third-and-7 from its own six when Jones found Alex Rapp with a 17-yard hitch route pass to the 23 for a first down.
Two plays later, a screen pass to Blazosky netted another 16 yards moving the ball to the Keystone 39, and on the next play, Jones scrambled for 12 yards to the Curwensville 49.
At that point, disaster nearly struck again.
A lateral out to Blazosky on the Curwensville sideline was juggled and dropped by the senior wide receiver. But he was able to pick the ball up off the bounce and gain 10 yards to the Golden Tide 39-yard line.
“That is senior leadership right there, knowing that is a behind-the-line-of-scrimmage pass, a reverse pass,” Smith said. “We work on that in practice, and he knows if it is on the ground he has to pick it up and go. That was great instinct. He picked it up and knew what to do and took it.”
On the next play, Nick Weaver broke free for a 32-yard run to the Curwensville 7-yard line, and two runs out of the wishbone into the line by Weaver gained two yards setting up the Jones’ touchdown run on third down.
“Earlier today I was praying,” Jones said. “I knew this would be a tough game. For just some reason, I knew this would be a crazy game. I never lost faith in our guys, and I was praying all game long. We were able to take it the entire length of the field and score.”
Smith said that drive is something the players will remember the rest of their lives.
“That is something you dream of,” Smith said. “I told the boys, you are going to remember this game for the rest of your life, how you drove the ball to win the game. It was wow.”
Watch Smith’s full postgame interview.
After a scoreless first quarter, Keystone struck first on a 10-yard scoring run by Jones to go up 6-0 36 seconds into the second quarter.
Curwensville answered back with 2:32 to play in the half.
After Keystone jumped offside on a fourth-down play giving the Tide new life, Jake McCracken found a hole and went 58 yards for a touchdown. Mullins, who had missed a 41-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, then booted the extra point to give Curwensville the 7-6 lead.
Jones was 7 of 15 for 94 yards and two interceptions while rushing seven times for 24 yards and the two scores.
Weaver ran 15 times for 92 yards, while Tylar Altman ran 10 times for 61 yards. Blazosky had three catches for 59 yards and ran once for eight yards.
McCracken, thanks to the big scoring run, ran three times for a team-best 63 yards. McGarry ran nine times for 26 yards and was 3-for-12 passing for 46 yards with McCracken catching one pass for 44 yards.
Keystone returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday when it hosts Sheffield on Homecoming.
Curwensville (1-4) hosts unbeaten Coudersport Friday.
KEYSTONE 14, CURWENSVILLE 7
Score by Quarters
Keystone 0 6 0 8 – 14
Curwensville 0 7 0 0 – 7
K – Isaak Jones 10 run (Pass failed), 11:24
C – Jake McCracken 58 run (Jake Mullins kick), 2:32
K – Jones 5 run (Jones pass to Alex Rapp), 4:02
9 First Downs 6
41-201 Rushes-Yards 27-132
7-16-3 Passing: Comp-Att-Int 3-13-0
94 Passing Yards 46
295 Total Yards 178
1 Fumbles Lost 1
RUSHING: Keystone – Nick Weaver 15-92, Taylar Altman 10-61, Isaak Jones 7-24, Tim Baughman 5-12, Caleb Nellis 2-5, Jayden Blazosky 1-8, Team 1 negative 1. Curwensville – Dan McGarry 10-21, Duane Brady 9-17, Jake McCracken 3-73, Thad Butler 3-8, Collin Jacobson 1-8, Jake Mullins 1-10.
PASSING: Keystone – Isaak Jones 7-for-15, 94 yards, 2 interceptions. Jayden Blazosky 0-for-1, 1 interception. Curwensville – Dan McGarry 3-for-12, 46 yards. Jake Mullins 0-for-1.
Receiving: Keystone – Jayden Blazosky 3-58, Alex Rapp 2-27, Nick Weaver 2-9. Curwensville – Jake McCracken 1-44, Collin Jacobson 1-5, Jake Mullins 1-negative 3.
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