PATTON - It would be easy enough to assume Andrew Brawley's 95-yard return of the opening kickoff set the tone in Cambria Heights' 34-0 whitewash of Central Cambria in a Laurel Highlands Conference football game Friday night at Patton Field.
That would be an oversimplification, however. The Highlanders (2-2) halted a promising drive by the Red Devils midway through the first period. They held on downs at their own 16 and followed with another defensive stand late in the second quarter, holding Central Cambria on downs at the Cambria Heights 29.
"Our guys did what we wanted them to, except finish drives," Central Cambria coach Sam Shutty said. "We gave up big plays but we played tough and we played to the best of our ability."
Cambria Heights held the Red Devils (0-4) to 151 total yards.
"We're very proud of our defense. They played very well. We think they've flown under the radar a little bit. But they're a really good defense," Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said. "We thought we played well the last couple of weeks on defense. We just needed to clean up a few things. We did, we tackled a little bit better. And it was an all-around team effort on defense."
Brawley's kickoff return marked the only time he touched the ball. A two-play, 85-yard march early in the second quarter staked the Highlanders to a 14-0 lead. Donnie Contorchick gashed Central Cambria on a 55-yard run, followed by Nathan Bearer's 30-yard scoring dash. Ben Myers tacked on a 7-yard touchdown run that pushed the edge to 21-0 with 2:42 to play in the second quarter.
Tyler Crawford sandwiched a 10-yard and 1-yard touchdown run around Contorchick's fumble recovery in the third period to create the possibility of the mercy rule kicking in. Lewis, instead, chose to insert senior Alyssa Wills, who converted the point-after kick.
"We shoot ourselves in the foot, we don't take advantage of opportunities and we give up big plays. "[But] those are correctable," Shutty said, likening his manpower situation to iron-man football. "We just have to keep playing. And I think they're learning that. The problem is they're learning at a cost, and we're running out of games and we're running out of players. Right now we're devastated by injuries. We're down to, like, five linemen. It's tough."
Shutty tried to shed some light on what otherwise stands to be a dismal season for an injury-riddled squad.
"A lot of guys stepped up. A lot of guys played injured. A lot of guys probably shouldn't have been on the field and they didn't take themselves out; and that's all I can ask of these guys," he said. "They give me their heart and soul, and that's all I can ask for."
Contorchick paced all rushers with 63 yards, followed by Crawford with 53.
The Highlanders returned to the break-even mark, which is where they stood four weeks into last year.
"We just want to finish strong now," Lewis said. "I told the kids it's like we're 0-0 now. ... I think the kids are confident; they believe in their ability. We never point fingers; we're never down on each other. We really as a team [and] as a coaching staff."
Central Cambria sophomore Will Seymour completed 8 of 23 passes for 72 yards without an interception.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Cambria0 0 0 0 - 0
Cambria Heights7 14 13 0 - 34
CH-Brawley 95 kickoff return (kick failed), 11:45
CH-Bearer 30 run (Stasko run), 10:27
CH-Myers 7 run (Irwin kick), 2:41
CH-Crawford 10 run (kick blocked), 1:34
CH-Crawford 1 run (Wills kick)
RUSHING: Central Cambria-Seymour 6-31, Gironda 12-22, Papuga 13-17, Mazzarella 2-6, Long 1-2, N.Myers 1-1. Cambria Heights-Crawford 11-53, Contorchick 5-62, Myers 4-43, Bearer 6-36, Fees 4-20, Baker 3-15, Waksmunski 2-9, Legros 3-7, Staski 3-4.
PASSING: Central Cambria-Seymour 8-23-0-72.Cambria Heights-Bearer 1-7-1-20.
RECEIVING: Centeal Cambra-Long 3-20, Shaffer 2-16, Leary 2-10, Bauer 1-6. Cambria Heights-Miller 1-20.
INTERCEPTIONS: Central Cambria-Seymour.