Pegues pleased with win over Westinghouse, concerned with Karns City's ground game

·6 min read

Nov. 25—Having played Wilmington 5 times in approximately 14 months it would seem Farrell High Head Coach Amp Pegues would be confident in his team's ability to defend the wing-T offense.

If that's the case, then you don't know Pegues very well. The Steelers' skipper takes nothing for granted. When Farrell (10-0) faces District 9 champion Karns City (11-1) Friday in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals he is expecting nothing less than the biggest challenge of his Steelers' season.

"For sure, for sure. Every team we face — from here on out — they're a champion in their own right, they won their district. and to get this far is just not somethin' that happens all the time — you've got to be a good team to get this far.

"So we're lookin' to get their best punch and we're lookin' to give our best punch, so that's where we're at," Pegues added.

The recent 24-7 win over Westinghouse forced Farrell to face a deficit for the first time this season — 7-6, with 7:35 remaining in the 3rd quarter. However the Steelers outscored the Pittsburgh City League Bulldogs 18-0 during the game's final 20 minutes.

"I learned that my guys can handle adversity," Pegues proudly pointed out. "I learned that we have a really good group, a really good team, a really good coaching staff. We needed a game like that to kind've give us some adversity, to kind've put everything into perspective for us.

"I'm just proud of my guys, the way they stayed in, they hunkered down and they played well and got the win," Pegues said.

Karns City defended its District 9 crown via a 35-7 win over Ridgway-Johnsonburg. Coach Joe Sherwin's squad was paced by the Gremlins' ground of Luke Garing and Jayce Anderson, who combined for 200-plus yards rushing and a trio of TDs, according to D9sports.com. Anderson annexed a game-high 120 yards rushing and a 7-yard TD while Garing garnered 83 yards and tallied twice (1 and 4 yards) as Karns City scored 22 unanswered 2nd-half points.

In the process both surpassed the season 1,000-yard plateau, according to D9sports.com, and Garing said, "It's awesome, me and Jayce knew going in that we were going to be battling for one-thousand, so it's awesome that both of us were able to hit it. Credit to our line."

In remarks to D9sports.com, Garing admitted, "It feels amazing. "We came with our game plan to run the ball. (The Elkers) really stopped it in the first half, but we came out hard, the line did a great job and made some holes."

However quarterback Eric Booher attempted just 3 passes and had 2 picked off. For the season Booher has thrown less than 100 times in a dozen games. Against Ridgway-Johnsonburg Booher bolstered the Gremlins' ground game with 54 yards on 8 attempts and Nate Garing garnered another 49 on a handful of totes, including a 34-yard scoring sprint.

The Gremlins gained 316 yards rushing on 52 carries (6.07 per-carry) and tallied 5 TDs. Ridgway-Johnsonburg was limited to 179 total yards, according to D9sports.com.

"They're a wing-T team. ... They're just lookin' to pound the ball," Pegues plainly put it, later noting, "They've got some nice size, a couple big linemen ... they're pretty solid up front."

Seniors Cole Hilliard, Anthony Leitem and Josh Griffiths are stout, ranging between 210 and 230 pounds.

Karns City has outscored opponents 464-134 or 38.7 to 11 points-per-game. Prior to the D-9 title game the Gremlins defeated Girard (35-17), Punxsutawney (42-8), Central Clarion (32-13), Moniteau (44-6), Brookville (41-7), Kane (42-12), Ridgway-Johnsonburg (35-0), Bradford (55-8), DuBois (35-14) and Central Clarion again (35-7). The lone loss occurred to St. Marys (35-28) on Oct. 1. Since then Karns City has secured 6 straight successes.

While Wilmington won a trio of games against Farrell in 2020, the Steelers served notice they learned from that, dominating both games against Wilmington this season (allowing just 1 TD), including the D-10 title tilt. A year ago Wilmington won against the Gremlins (42-14) in an opening-round PIAA playoff game. Luke Garing tallied both KC touchdowns on 3-yard runs.

When Wilmington comes to mind, Head Coach Brandon Phillian, mentored by legendary Terry Verrelli, have employed the wing-T offense for generations of great ground games. Conto-coached Karns City is cut from the same cloth.

"They're a well-coached team. ... " Pegues praised.

Regarding the Gremlins' pass game (Booher has 9 TDs, but has been intercepted 6 times; Micah Rupp has 20 catches for 415 yards, 20.8 per, and 5 TDs), Pegues acknowledged, "Every now and then. If you're stuffin' the run they'll definitely run a waggle pass or some play-action ... "

Consistently this season Pegues has pointed out the work and film study invested by Defensive Coordinator Omar Stewart Sr. The Steelers are surrendering just 6.2 points per game.

Farrell's freakishly fast front — including stout Marion Norris and crashing ends Ja'Sean Boatwright and Kien Wade — is bolstered by Taidon Strickland, Anthony D. Jackson, Malachi Owens and Omar Stewart. Additionally, Brandon Chambers may have made one of the Steelers' season's biggest plays in the win over Westinghouse with a goal-line tackle that preserved the Steelers' 6-0 halftime lead.

Following Farrell's District 10 championship game win over Wilmington, Jackson said, "Everyone chips in on defense, and it shows out here on the field."

Regarding the defense's leader, Jackson humbly said, "For me, personally, it's Taidon Strickland. When both of us are clickin', it's hard to tell. But big shout-out to Taidon."

Asked if he and 2-time All-Stater Strickland are the PIAA's best pair of linebackers, Jackson admitted, "In my mind? Yes, sir. But, stats prove that, too."

Karns City's defense is led by Mike linebacker Luke Cramer — just a sophomore, but 6-2, 210 pounds. He also is part of the Gremlins' ground game, having scored a handful of TDs, including an 11-yarder in the D-9 championship game.

"They're a four (man) front, they're normally a four-three and they'll change up (pass) coverages — they'll run some Cover-2, they'll run some man-to-man, and they'll run some Cover-3 — some different things in the secondary," assessed Pegues.

Pegues pronounced his team reasonably healthy, considering it's the last week of November. Anthony Stallworth — recovering from an ankle sprain — carried a career-high 30 times in the Westinghouse win, in which Stallworth surpassed the career 5,000-yard milestone, and Kylon Wilson tallied a trio of touchdowns and would have had a 4th on a Pick-Six if not for a penalty. Farrell is averaging 53.4 ppg.

Relishing the novelty of a Thanksgiving Day practice — a sure sign of a successful scholastic season — Pegues said the Steelers will be on the field at 10 a.m. today.

Note: Former Karns City Coach Ed Conto guided the Gremlins for 18 seasons (167-52), winning 11 District 9 championships (9 in Class 2A; 2 in Class 3A), according to D9sports.com. His overall career coaching record (30 years, 203-126-3) made him the 4th-winningest coach in District 9 annals.