By Keith Frederick
LORETTO - Friday night's season-opening game between Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference rivals Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort opened up with the Crimson Crushers forcing a safety when McCort seniors Gap Barbin and Ryan Siwy sacked Huskies quarterback Ryan Maruca in the end zone less than two minutes into the contest.
The Crushers, however, fumbled away the ensuing possession and both teams struggled to find their bearings. The first half ended with McCort leading 9-6, and the game had all the markings of a defensive struggle.
But in the third quarter, the offenses for both teams came alive. McCort forced another safety with 8:51 remaining, then recovered a fumble and scored on a 15 yard run by running back Nate James just over a minute later. Carroll responded with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Maruca to Dan Lesney at 5:45, making the score 18-12, McCort. The Crushers pulled away with two quick passing strikes from quarterback Zaine Tomkowski to receiver Jordan Spangler, making the lead 31-12. But the Huskies refused to give in, notching another TD pass, this time a 39-yard bullet from Maruca to Dane Woo.
When the dust settled on the third quarter, the teams had combined for six scores and 34 points, with McCort leading 31-18. Though the Huskies continued to struggle at times in the fourth, the Crimson Crushers rolled on to a 38-18 victory at DeGol Field on the St. Francis University campus.
Tomkowski finished the night 16-for-23 for 218 yards, hooking up with Spangler nine times for 109 yards and three scores.
"They have a great chemistry," McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. "Jordan and Zaine have been playing together for a long, long time. They had a great camp together and they're really on the same page. ... They did a nice job of communicating and taking what the defense gives us."
Sheridan let his team know at halftime that their first half play - featuring two turnovers and just 104 yards of total offense - wasn't acceptable.
"It was a disappointing first half and they knew it," he said. "We knew we had to change. It was time not to point fingers, but time to get closer and trust each other and put our hard work on the field. And I think they did that."
Coming off of a 1-9 season and returning just five starters from both sides of the ball, Carroll wasn't expected to give the Crushers much of a game. But first-year head coach Greg Snyder was happy with how his team performed against a strong opponent.
"We kind of wore out," he said. "We played our tails off. And they never gave up - these kids were great."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop McCort2 7 22 7 - 38
Bishop Carroll6 0 12 0 - 18
BM-Safety (Maruca sacked in end zone), 10:23.
BC-Maruca 1 run (run failed), 5:38.
BM-James 5 run (Spangler kick), 5:10.
BM-Safety, Frederick tackled in end zone, 8:51.
BM-James 15 run (Spangler kick), 7:33.
BC-Lesney 65 pass from Maruca (kick blocked), 5:45.
BM-Spangler 12 pass from Tomkowski (run failed), 3:31.
BM-Spangler 24 pass from Tomkowski (Spangler kick), 2:29.
BC-Woo 39 pass from Maruca (pass failed), 1:39.
BM-Spangler 30 pass from Tomkowski (Spangler kick), 3:50.
RUSHING: Bishop McCort-Tomkowski 3-(-8), Jackson 5-16, James 12-64, DiFrancesco 2-7, Rugg 12-53, Smith 3-9. Bishop Carroll-Maruca 12-17, Lessard 8-11, Lesney 6-18, Shuty 1-4, Frederick 3-0.
PASSING: Bishop McCort-Tomkowski 16-23-0-218. Bishop Carroll-Maruca 7-15-1-191.
RECEIVING: Bishop McCort-Spangler 9-109, Siwy 2-12, DiFrancesco 4-91, Formica 1-6. Bishop Carroll-Repko 1-17, Lesney 2-87, Woo 3-79, Noel 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bishop McCort-DiFrancesco. Bishop Carroll-none.