Things are absolutely perfect for the Kittanning football team this season. In fact, it has been 37 years since things were so good for the Wildcats, who finished the regular season undefeated (9-0) for the first time since 1976. Led by second-year coach Frank Fabian, Kittanning averages 39 points a game, using a spread offense led by 5-foot-5 quarterback Braydon Toy. Kittanning got the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and plays host to Yough tonight in the first round.
VIEW FROM THE BOX
Fabian is one of the few head coaches who coaches the game from the press box. Fabian, 34, was an assistant coach at Kittanning and Redbank Valley (District 9) before returning to Kittanning in 2012. As offensive coordinator at Redbank Valley, he coached from the press box. "I'm our offensive play-caller, and the way we coordinate audibles, it's just easier for the play-caller to be in the box," Fabian said. "The film you watch all week is from the press box, so ... You can see the other side of the field, too. Plus, I have some guys with coaching experience who can handle the sideline."
Braydon Toy was a small slotback until Fabian became the coach last season, installed the no-huddle, spread offense and made Toy the backup quarterback. Toy became the starter this season and has been gigantic for the Wildcats, despite being only 5-5, 142 pounds. He has completed 88 of 120 passes for 1,515 yards and 20 touchdowns. "There was a little concern about his size," Fabian said. "But I think with more teams using the spread and having the quarterback in the shotgun, the stereotype and worries about a small quarterback are fading away some. ... Braydon is someone who has really worked hard the past two years to make himself into a player." Years ago, Fabian went to former West Virginia University coach Rich Rodriguez to study the spread offense when WVU had Pat White at quarterback.
A HISTORICAL MOMENT
After beating Shady Side Academy last Friday to finish the regular season, the Wildcats' team bus was greeted and led into the town of Kittanning by police escort and fire trucks. Kittanning will now try to win its first playoff game since 1975, when the Wildcats beat Union, 32-8, in the semifinals before losing to Beth-Center, 13-0, in the WPIAL title game. Overall, Kittanning is 1-11 in the WPIAL playoffs while its opponent, Yough, is 0-7.
ONE MORE YEAR FOR KITTANNING
Kittanning has only one more year left of football before the school merges with Ford City and forms Armstrong High School in Manor Township. Construction crews already have broken ground on the new school, which will open for the 2015-16 school year. It has already been decided that "Riverhawks" will be the school nickname. "That's why it was so important to these kids to win a conference title this year because we have only two years [including this one] left," Fabian said.
THIS AND THAT
Nick Bowers, a 6-4, 230-pound junior split end/linebacker is one of the top players in Class AA. He set a school record for receiving yardage and has 44 catches for 782 yards to go along with 314 rushing yards. He also leads the team in tackles. ... Zane Dudek leads the team in rushing with 622 yards on 60 carries. ... Linebackers Shawn Shaner and Dave Grafton and defensive back Logan Slagle are three other top defensive players. ... Toy has been sacked only three times this year. ... Kittanning's players jokingly call Toy "Baby GAP" because he is so small they say he needs to get his clothes there. ... Bowers' father, Brad, is an assistant coach. Brad Bowers' brother, Curt, was the quarterback on the 1976 team that was undefeated in the regular season.