Ian Stearns

Titusville’s Nate Stearns (18) returns a kick during the second half of Friday’s game against Oil City.

When you’re going up against the two-time defending District 10 champions, it’s going to be a tall task. Add in the fact that more than half of the starting line is out due to injuries, and it’s nearly impossible.

Oil City (5-0) took advantage of a beleaguered Titusville (0-5) front to run for 420 yards and six touchdowns on the ground en route to a 72-0 thwarting at Carter Field in Region 8 action on Friday. With the victory, Oil City clinched the Region 8 title, and set a school record for points in one quarter (44) and one half (60).

Cam Russell carried the bulk of the load with 181 yards and three scores of 31, 11 and 80 yards on nine attempts, while Sean Stack also reached triple digits with 100 yards and a 43-yard touchdown on five carries. Holden Stahl and Dakota Cole also had rushing touchdowns of 28 and 24 yards, respectively, on keepers out of the pocket. 

In addition to the Oilers’ strong ground attack, Stahl connected with JT Stahlman on touchdown passes of 32 and 72 yards, along with a 3 yard toss to Cole, who also returned a punt 43 yards to the end zone.

Meanwhile, the Oil City defense kept the pressure on Titusville quarterback Garrett Knapp early and often. Oil City did not allow Titusville to gain positive yardage on any of their 16 carries, while taking them back 116 yards. This was in part to Titusville being down three lineman, including senior Joe Jacobson, who suffered an ankle injury early in the contest.

Titusville coach Bryan Baldwin gave credit to the visiting Oilers after the game, calling them a “very tough team,” but also recognized that his lineup was short-handed.

“We had three lineman down and started two freshmen,” Baldwin said. “Oil City is too good of a team to have that happen.”

Titusville opened the game with the ball and had early success in the short-range passing game. Knapp, who connected with six different receivers in the contest, began the game going 10 of 11 for 71 yards. After converting a fourth-and-3 on a quick hit to Brock Covell to move the chains, two sacks ended their first drive.

Oil City responded with Russell’s 31-yard dash and Stahl’s keeper on the two-pointer to grab the lead it would never relinquish. After another Rocket three-and-out partially due to a sack, the Oilers scored on a 28-yard keeper from Stahl, who hit Cole on the two-point pass play.

An interception thrown by Knapp that landed in the arms of Cole on the following Rocket drive was converted into another Russell rushing touchdown and Stahl to Cole conversion.

Down 24-0, the Rockets were in dire need of a score to stay in the game. Titusville quickly moved the chains three times on the ensuing drive that included a 22-yard pass from Knapp to Antonio Malave. However, a sack on second-and-10 at the Oil City 18 gave Titusville another third-and-long situation. On the ensuing play, Knapp was picked off again by Cole in the end zone to extinguish the Rockets’ best scoring opportunity of the game. 

“We had way too many unforced errors again,” Baldwin said in regard to sacks, penalties and turnovers. “We cannot make those mental mistakes that put us in long distance situations. We were able to move the ball a little bit, but we just can’t do it to ourselves.”

Knapp finished with 81 yards on 14 of 28 passing. Malave totaled 33 receiving yards on four catches, while Braden Johnson had three receptions for 20 yards and Brock Covell added four catches and 17 yards.

Next week, Titusville will wrap up its Region 8 schedule when Warren visits Carter Field at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16. The Rockets are then tentatively scheduled to host Maplewood the following Friday.

“We just have to keep our heads up and moving forward,” Baldwin said. “We have a good opportunity with Warren and possibly Maplewood after them. We have a couple of good shots to come out with wins and to keep improving on the short season that we didn’t even know if we were going to have.”

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