C-K faces Goliath task against Guilfoyle
By Philip Cmor
For Dan Foor, it’s all about the process of making Claysburg-Kimmel High School football into a consistent winner, and last week’s District 6 Class 1A playoff win over Penns Manor — the Bulldogs’ first postseason victory in 27 years — was another step in doing that.
“We’ve had this goal of turning this football program around, and I think these kids have done a great job in jumpstarting the Claysburg football program,” Foor said.
Those players have an opportunity to speed up that process light years tonight, though, when they trek up Route 220 to Mansion Park for a quarterfinal game with Bishop Guilfoyle.
You might have heard of the Marauders. Top seed. Three-time defending state champions.
Yes, those guys.
“Obviously, our football team knows who we’re playing and what they’ve done the past years,” Foor said.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Claysburg is 7-4, but one of those losses was via forfeit for playing an ineligible player and another was in overtime against District 5 Class 1A finalist Northern Bedford.
On the field, the Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight contests, and only one of those wins was by less than a touchdown margin.
Guilfoyle is 10-0 and riding a 57-game winning streak. The Marauders, who were playing their most dominant football in the last month of the regular season, had a bye last week.
“We had some guys banged up, so we took a lighter approach to practice last week,” Marauder coach Justin Wheeler said. “In the past, I might have not wanted to take the week off and just to keep playing, but, I think with some of the guys banged up, that might help us a bit this year. I think we actually needed that week off.”
If anyone can understand Foor’s process approach, it’s Wheeler. The Marauders were 1-8 in his first season, then made it to the district semifinals the next and lost in the D6 championship game in 2013.
That was Guilfoyle’s last setback.
With a lineup filled with underclassmen, there’s reason to believe the Bulldogs could continue to improve over the next couple of years. A good showing tonight might start a wave C-K could ride.
“I think not just this season but the next couple of seasons could be pretty good for Claysburg football,” Foor said.
A big part of turning things around, Foor said, has been changing the attitude a bit.
“One of the biggest things was just the weightroom in the summer. I was told by some of the guys that coach with me from Claysburg that sort of the tradition was that once the summer got here, things didn’t progress like it should to be successful,” Foor said. “One of the things we tried to instill was that the offseason workouts, the summer workouts, those were pretty important.”
The result has been a Bulldog team not built on having a couple of good players coming along, but one that has had different players step up from week to week. The Bulldogs average almost 200 yards per game rushing, but leading rusher Seth Musselman, a sophomore fullback who didn’t even carry the ball three games because he was needed to play on the line, only has 659 yards. Eleven Bulldogs have at least 30 tackles on a defense that’s held six opponents to two touchdowns or fewer.
The most consistently dangerous aspect of the Bulldogs is the passing combination of Ty Hagen and Tanner Hunt. Hagen is closing in on 1,600 passing yards this year. Also a proficient return man, Hunt has averaged 17.3 yards on his 29 catches, scoring five times.
“They’re really balanced,” Wheeler said. “It begins with the quarterback. We saw him last week, and he makes some really good decisions in the run-pass option. They can get the ball out to their wings. They have a big fullback and sometimes they just run straight at you with him. We want to make sure we contain Hunt and not give up big plays. It’s a tough challenge for our defense.”
Guilfoyle’s defense has faced a couple of tests already this year and answered them, shutting out District 6 Class 2A semifinalists Bishop McCort and Cambria Heights and holding District 5-6-9 Class 4A finalist Johnstown to one touchdown that actually came on special teams.
Guilfoyle’s intercepted 19 passes in 10 games. Mark Conrad has seven. Dan Potopa has four.
Offensively, the Marauders lived on big plays in the pass game early, but the running game has come on, and Josh Yasulitis rushed for 100 yards in each of BG’s last two games.
Admittedly, it’s a Herculean task for the Bulldogs, but it’s one they need to face to continue the process.
“We’re just going to go out and play to the best of our ability,” Foor said. “We just need to go out and play loose like we have the last few weeks. We’ve been a pretty solid football team.”