EBENSBURG - With his team mired in the throes of a six-game losing streak, Central Cambria coach Sam Shutty challenged his squad at halftime of Friday night's game with Bishop Guilfoyle.
"Every week we've been in the same position, we're right in the game at halftime, and we come apart in the third quarter," Shutty said.
The Red Devils responded to their coach's challenge by blowing open a slim 3-0 halftime edge with three consecutive scoring drives en route to their first victory of the year, a 24-12 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference triumph over the Marauders.
"We executed our adjustments in the third quarter," Shutty said. "All the guys did a great job, and they came out and played like they really wanted it."
Central Cambria's Stephen O'Saben rushed for a game-high 85 yards and one score, while quarterback Scott Bellock added a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Red Devils (1-6).
Bishop Guilfoyle (1-6) was unable to overcome four costly turnovers, two of which directly led to Red Devil scores.
"Central Cambria came to play," BG coach Justin Wheeler said. "But turnovers have plagued us all year, and turnovers at the wrong time have really been an issue for us."
The squads slogged through a low-scoring first half that saw both teams trade turnovers, including interceptions by Guilfoyle's Nate Nardelli and Central Cambria's Nick Myers. However, late in the second quarter another Guilfoyle give away set up the first points of the game for Central Cambria.
The Devils' Cody Kupchella recovered a fumble and returned it 20 yards to the Marauder 10 with just more than 3 minutes left in the half. Guilfoyle's defense then stuffed two rushes for no gain and forced a third-down incompletion, but Austin Crimmins then split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal attempt to put Central Cambria on top 3-0 with 1:37 remaining.
Bishop Guilfoyle mounted a scoring threat in the final minute, as quarterback Pat Irwin completed four passes for 49 yards to move the ball into Devil territory, but Central Cambria's Josh Bracken picked off Irwin at the Red Devil 25 with just seconds left on the clock.
Bracken came up with another game-changing defensive play in the third quarter when he recovered a fumble at the Marauder 35. After a sack and penalty, O'Saben then took the handoff on a reverse and bolted 45 yards down the sideline for the first touchdown of the game and a 10-0 Red Devil lead.
After a subsequent Marauder three-and-out, Bellock came up with another big play for Central Cambria when he converted a third down by sprinting 36 yards up the middle for a score with 2:36 left in the third quarter.
Bellock later capped off a 13-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak at the 5:17 mark of the fourth that gave Central Cambria what proved to be an insurmountable 24-0 advantage. Bellock's score was set up by a 34-yard catch by Bracken of a halfback pass from O'Saben.
The Marauders put together two late touchdown drives keyed by backup quarterback Damon Rickens. Rickens fired a 13-yard scoring strike to Dan Baughman with just under 4 minutes to play to put Guilfoyle on the board. On the following possession, Rickens hooked up with Nardelli for a 33-yard completion, and one play later, Nardelli came up with a 23-yard touchdown reception on a halfback toss from Brandon Chadbourn.
"I liked our kids' effort," Wheeler said. "We were in a position to make some big plays, but were just a step off."
SCORE BY QUARTER
Bishop Guilfoyle0 0 0 12 - 12
Central Cambria0 3 14 7 - 24
CC-Crimmins 27 FG 1:37
CC-O'Saben 45 run (Crimmins kick) 6:39
CC-Bellock 36 run (Crimmins kick) 2:36
CC-Bellock 1 run (Crimmins kick) 5:17
BG-Baughman 13 pass from Rickens (pass failed) 3:46
BG-Nardelli 23 pass from Chadbourn (pass failed) 0:58
Rushing: Bishop Guilfoyle-Irwin 9-8, Wolf 2-12, Rossman 12-36, Chadbourn 1-4, Rickens 1-3; Central Cambria-Bellock 15-53, McBreen 8-17, O'Saben 14-85, Papuga 1-3, Mazzarella 3-12, Gironda 4-13, Bauer 2-6
Passing: Bishop Guilfoyle-Irwin 5-13-2-67, Rickens 5-10-0-99, Chadbourn 1-1-0-23; Central Cambria-Bellock 0-3-1-0, O'Saben 1-1-0-34
Receiving: Bishop Guilfoyle-Baughman 1-13, Chadbourn 3-62, McCloskey 1-19, Nardelli 6-95; Central Cambria-Bracken 1-34
Interceptions: Bishop Guilfoyle-Nardelli; Central Cambria-Bracken, Myers