Wolves look for first win, host Bradford for Homecoming Friday

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

The Kane Wolves will look for their first win Friday night when they host winless Bradford (0-2) at Paul R. Miller Stadium. It’s a must win situation for the boys in blue if they want to stay in contention for the IU9 Class AA playoff spot that will be earned by them or Ridgway. Extra incentive is a Homecoming victory.

The Wolves have come up short in their season opener at Ridgway 17-14, and last week at home when the 2-0 St. Marys Dutch won 23-7. The Wolves led 7-3 at the half.

“We’re ready to go. We have to do the little things right. We’re missing on some of that stuff but we’re going to get it right this week,” said Kane head coach Jim Hillman. “We’re not that far off. We’ve had really close, tight games and we’ve been right there we just have to fix those small things to make things better,” he added.

The Owls have struggled in their first two games. They were dominated by the Dutch in the season opener 69-13 and fell at home to Ridgway 45-14. The Bradford offense managed just one first down and 10 offensive yards vs. the vaunted Elkers defense.

It’s a mismatch but Hillman knows his team can’t take the struggling team for granted. “There can’t be a letdown. All we can do is keeping building up and getting better. Like I said we have to do those little things better and we will. We’re getting better at it and this week we have to come out and prove that,” he said.

Unbeaten Ridgway is in St. Marys tonight. No matter that outcome a win is a must if the Wolves want to make it to the post-season. The criteria for representing the IU9 portion of the district in the playoffs, is overall record. The second is head-to-head which the Elkers hold with the opening night victory. Three teams will be entered from the southern portion of the district which include Brookville (3-0), Central Clarion (2-1) and Karns City (2-1) currently holding the spots. The semi-finals will be played Oct. 23 or 24.

The Dutch scored two fourth quarter touchdowns last week to seal the win in Kane. The Wolves had taken a 7-3 lead with 1:39 left in the first half when quarterback Zuke Smith hit Harley Morris with a 17-yard touchdown pass and Ryan Buhl kicked the extra point. St. Marys quarterback Christian Coudriet threw three TD passes in the second half - the last with 5:03 remaining. He passed for 232 yards and two interceptions.

“They were a big team we need to hopefully do a better job of substituting to try to get some of these kids out. With them having so many kids in the game being so big it’s tough. Our guys fought like heck but towards the end they were having a tough time but kept giving everything they had. We have to a better job as a staff watching those things and I think moving forward we’ll be better,” Hillman said while looking back at the game.

Offensively for the Wolves Smith has completed 27 of 71 passes for 325 yards. He hit Josh Buhl for a 64 yard TD and Bobby Rumcik for a 55-yard score against Ridgway. He’s been picked off once. Rumcik has six catches for 104 yards, Ricky Zampogna has eight catches for 81 yards, Buhl four for 41 yards, Morris eight for 52 yards and the TD last week, and Shane Ackley has a catch for 10 yards.

Smith has been the leading rusher for the Wolves with 97 yards.

Defensively Jake Costanzo is having a great season being in on 23 tackles. He is followed by Buhl (17), Addison Plants (16), Reese Novosel, Morris (14), Zampogna (13), and Gus Traugutt (11). Morris and Ackley each have interceptions.

The Wolves went 2-7 in Hillman’s first season but rebounded to go 6-5 last year and advanced to the district semi-final game. He says his team continues to be upbeat and credits his staff of Todd Silfies, Tyler Smith, Rick Zampogna, Colton Johnson, Nick DeAngelo, Joe Gentile, and Mike Szymanski with keeping things in perspective.

“I’m blessed with this staff. There’s a good cohesiveness. Everybody has each other’s back and as we move through this thing the kids need to see that. It’s very important. That unity and cohesiveness builds a family and that carries you in a lot of bad situations. We keep talking about not unplugging. We did go through some dark times a few years ago. My hat goes off to this entire staff they’re all upbeat. They’re all positive and there is no negative talk what so ever and it helps with the kids. You know sometimes you just want to pull your hair out and scream but you can’t because you have to keep the kids upbeat and they are,” he said.

Hillman feels strongly the Wolves will put it all together tonight to earn their first win. “We saw a lot of our deficiencies in the first game and know we have to fix a little more from last week. Normally you would get that chance to fix those things before you get to the season but we’re here and now it’s time to play and have a bunch of fun doing it,” he said.

The Kane coach emphasized his team still has its eye on the ultimate prize and credits the Wolves with fighting for it. “In the overall picture our goal is to play for a district title but you can’t look ahead to get to that game because you’ll miss everything in between. We have to take it one week at a time, one day at a time, one practice at a time, and even one film at a time. We have to be better in areas and that’s what we keep telling these kids and they’re doing a great job. You can’t overlook anything because practice is more important than the game. If we’re not practicing well we’re not going to play well and we have had a great week,” Hillman said.

Homecomings are always special. Hillman said while it’s great to soak the atmosphere in the team needs to keep the headlights on tonight’s goal of a win. “It means a lot to these kids. It’s exciting but we know we have to stay focused on the game. I’m excited we’re getting the chance to play and I’m excited that we’re able to have Homecoming to provide a bit of that normalcy but we need to get this win.”

The game will be broadcast on local station WXZY, 107.1 FM and WDDH, 97.5. It will be live streamed by the Kane Area School District and also be shown at the Kane Family Drive-in.

The 2020 Kane Homecoming Queen will be crowned at halftime. Candidates include Kelsie Alexander, Audri Marconi, Emma Ely, Ronnie Costanzo, Emilie Dinger, and Sarri Swanson.