Karns City Ready for Home Clash Against Top-Ranked Farrell in State Quarterfinals
Few are giving them a chance, even on their home field.
(Photo by Holly Mead)
The Karns City football team welcomes undefeated Farrell to Diehl Stadium on Friday night in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals. The Steelers are ranked No. 1 in the state in 2A and have steamrolled just about every opponent they have played.
But a word of warning: Don’t corner a Gremlin.
“We’re not gonna back down from anyone,” said senior fullback Luke Garing. “Give them all the credit — they’re a good team. We’re going to go in with a level head and see what happens.”
Karns City has a history of playing tough in games where it appears to be in a mismatch.
Back in 2015, the Gremlins squared off against WPIAL champion and undefeated juggernaut Aliquippa in the state quarterfinals. Karns City led 11-8 with 10 minutes remaining in that game as a heavy underdog before losing 27-17.
Gremlin coach Joe Sherwin would like the same kind of effort against Farrell.
That begins with establishing dominance up front. Last week, Karns City had a time-consuming, 17-play touchdown drive against Ridgway. Sherwin wants to see more of that to keep Farrell’s potent offense without the football.
“Offensively, we want to control the football and control the clock,” Sherwin said. “If we’re doing that, we’re keeping it out of their hands, and that’s to our benefit. We have to keep churning out those first downs.”
Karns City doesn’t want the Farrell offense on the field because of tailback Anthony Stallworth, who has rushed for 2,018 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.
Stallworth is averaging a gaudy 13.8 yards per carry.
Farrell, though, can hurt teams through the air, as well.
Kabron Smith, Trian Holden, and Lamont Samuels have combined to complete 67 percent of their passes for 1,080 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“Defensively, we have to be aware of what gap we’re supposed to cover and make sure we’re covering that gap,” Sherwin said. “They have the ability to run anywhere on the field. We have to pursue and get guys to the football. We have to get two or three guys there and we have to get (Stallworth) down to the ground. If they have success on a play, they’ll keep running it over and over.”
Karns City will also have to keep Farrell’s chunk plays to a minimum.
Farrell has piled up a ton of them this season. And, a ton of points, too. The Steelers have won games by the lopsided scores of 54-0, 58-0, 58-6, 66-0, and 78-8.
Farrell is putting up 53.4 points per game and is averaging 12.4 yards per rush and 11.9 yards per play as a team.
The Steelers have only punted five times all season.
“We have to limit the big plays,” Sherwin said. “We just can’t let them have a big, long touchdown pass or a big, long touchdown run. If they’re gonna get a touchdown, we have to make them earn it a little and hopefully make them make mistakes.”
Karns City, though, is built to grind the clock.
Jayce Anderson and Luke Garing have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Anderson has 1,033 and Garing 1,031 and 25 touchdowns.
Sherwin realizes, however, that the passing game will also be key.
It was not a good week against Ridgway for senior quarterback Eric Booher, who didn’t complete a pass and had two interceptions.
Booher has been efficient for most of the season and has made some big plays with his arm, as well as his feet. He has completed 54 of 95 for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns. Junior Micah Rupp has been the big-play target with 21 receptions for 453 yards and six TDs.
Karns City also has to have the right attitude.
“You know, you have to respect your opponent, and they’re obviously a good football team,” Sherwin said. “But, we’re a good football team, as well. We feel like we have just as good a shot at winning the game as they do.
“This is what you shoot for at the beginning of the season,” he added. “Our goal was to win a District 9 title and go as far in the state playoffs as we possibly can.
“We got the District 9 championship, and now we want to win some state playoff games.”
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