HOLLIDAYSBURG - When Hollidaysburg coach John Barton looks back at tape of Friday night's wild 47-35 loss to Greensburg Salem at Tiger Stadium, he won't focus as much on the sloppy first half or the Golden Tigers' missed opportunity to assert itself in the WPIAL Keystone Conference as much as he will the resiliency his team showed.
Two critical fumbles in the first half and poor tackling put the Golden Tigers in a 27-0 halftime hole, but Hollidaysburg (4-3) tied the game by the end of the third quarter.
And if Barton's squad makes the run in the postseason he hopes it will, Hollidaysburg's ability to bounce back from an early deficit figures to be an important trait.
Hollidaysburg coach John Barton discusses his team's loss to Greensburg Salem
"I honestly never in a million years thought we were going to be down 27-0 at half. I knew we were gonna be in a dogfight, and I figured we'd be down 7, heck, even 14, but it was one of those things where we dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of. But again, what we did in the third quarter was huge and says a lot about them."
No two players were more important to Hollidaysburg's rally than wide receivers Nick Shrift and T.J. Keefer. Shrift picked up most of his team-best 94 rushing yards on jet sweeps - his speed was a mismatch for Greensburg Salem's secondary - and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter.
"I just felt like whenever we bunched them up, with my speed, I could get outside of all of them and just break away," Shrift said. "We saw their secondary wasn't as fast as other teams we've played, and we thought we could run outside on them."
Keefer, meanwhile, capitalized on his significant height advantage as the 6-foot-3 senior and Barton routinely went over the top of Greensburg Salem's defense. Keefer, who scored to tie the game at 27, also intercepted a pass in the third quarter and nearly ran the opening kickoff of the second half back for a touchdown before a tackle by his ankles brought him down at the 50-yard line.
But Keefer also was at the center of perhaps the most important play in the game.
Greensburg Salem (6-1) faced a third-and-5 after Hollidaysburg had tied the game and called for quarterback Josh Falatovich to throw a quick pass out to Michael Nowicki.
Keefer was in single coverage and appeared to have Nowicki dead to rights, but he went high and Nowicki broke free for a 54-yard touchdown and 34-27 Golden Lions lead.
"Michael is such a great athlete," Greensburg coach Casey Cavanaugh said. "He made a play in space. They had it covered very well, and he doesn't always look fast, but he finds his way into the end zone. He's just a great competitor."
Game notes: Greensburg Salem running back Michael Kizzie rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. ... Falatovich combined for 306 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. ... Hollidaysburg travels to Laurel Highlands on Friday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Greensburg Salem14 13 0 20 - 47
Hollidaysburg0 0 27 8 - 35
GS - Kizzie 62 run (Mangery kick), 6:20.
GS - Kizzie 26 run (Mangery kick), 1:39.
GS - Nacey 14 pass from Falatovich (pass failed), 5:40.
GS - Mottley 18 pass from Falatovich (Mangery kick), 0:40.
H - Shrift 8 run (kick failed), 8:59.
H - Shrift 18 run (Keefer pass from Barton), 8:34.
H - Shrift 25 pass from Barton (kick failed), 3:56.
H - Keefer 12 pass from Barton (Dick kick), 0:28.
GS - Nowicki 54 pass from Falatovich (Mangery kick), 10:36.
GS - Nacey 15 pass from Falatovich (kick failed), 4:54.
GS - Kizzie 43 run (Mangery kick), 4:04.
H - Shrift 38 pass from Barton (Hollidaysburg run), 2:08.
RUSHING: Greensburg Salem-Kizzie 23-215, Falatovich 15-92, Morton 3-14, TEAM 2-(-1). Hollidaysburg-Shrift 12-94, Stern 10-61, Glunt 13-61, Barton 4-7, TEAM 1-(-6).
PASSING: Greensburg Salem-Falatovich 11-15-1-214. Hollidaysburg-Barton 15-28-0-236.
RECEIVING: Greensburg Salem-Nacey 4-47, Mottley 3-74, Kizzie 2-34, Nowicki 2-58. Hollidaysburg-Foreman 2-13, Keefer 5-103, Milardo 1-6, Redfoot 1-8, Shrift 3-75, Rhodes 3-31 .