CRESSON - For football fans middle-age or older, Cambria Heights' Donnie Contorchick might evoke memories of Larry Csonka.
He also wears No. 39, and, like the one-time Super Bowl MVP of the Miami Dolphins, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior runs with a bruising, punishing style. Just ask Penn Cambria's Jake Schwaderer, who successfully kept Contorchick out of the end zone on an end run but paid the price for it, his helmet flying off and his jersey ripped down, exposing his left shoulder pad.
Earlier in the game, though, Contorchick looked more like Paul Warfield.
Photo for the Mirror by Tami Ogline Knopsnyder
Heights’ Andrew Brawley catches a TD pass near Penn Cambria’s Nathan Przybys.
Playing a new position because of an injury to wingback Ben Myers, Contorchick found the end zone less than four minutes into the game by going deep to haul in a 51-yard touchdown pass. That set the tone, as Heights snapped a 14-game losing streak to the host Panthers, 27-20, on Friday night.
"This is huge. This set our season up," Contorchick said. "We lost to them last year. It's awesome to get this our senior year."
Highlander quarterback Nathan Bearer also hit Andrew Brawley with a 32-yard scoring toss in the first quarter to help Heights build a lead that it never relinquished. Behind Bearer's 5-for-9 passing for 120 yards in the opening half, Heights took sole possession of second place in Section 1 of the Laurel Highlands Conference at 3-1, and its third straight win pushed its overall record to 4-2.
"If the [other] teams are stopping the run, I'm always here with the pass. If we're running the ball, I'm not going to complain. Whatever works for the team. We're just trying to push for the playoffs," said Bearer, who didn't attempt a pass in the second half.
Tyler Crawford rushed for 61 of his game-high 108 yards after the intermission, scoring on two short runs to stake the Highlanders to a 27-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Heights overcame five turnovers - including four lost fumbles.
Penn Cambria has a shot toward the end, getting an 18-yard Brendan Eckenrode-to-Nathan Keagy touchdown connection with 5:17 left to pull within seven and having first-and-10 at the Heights 40 with 2:42 to play after a pass interference penalty.
Eckenrode almost hooked up with Keagy again for six, but the pass was just long. The Panthers had two more incompletions, lost 5 yards on their seventh penalty of the night and came up short of moving the sticks on fourth down when Eckenrode's surprise bootleg only netted 10 yards. Heights ran out the clock and, once 4-0, Penn Cambria fell for the second consecutive week.
"We're just not good enough," Penn Cambria coach Ernie Fetzer said. "We play pretty hard at the end of the game. We just don't come out of the shoot to start with. We don't play at the level we think we should be playing."
Penn Cambria took possession quickly at the Heights 41 when Crawford fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Nathan Przybys recovered. But the Panthers were forced to punt.
The Highlanders then drove 80 yards for the first score, converting a third down on a 14-yard Bearer-to-Brawley pass and a fourth-and-2 when Penn Cambria had too many men on the field.
On the next play after the penalty, Contorchick got behind the Panther secondary and Bearer, from his own 49, hit him nearly in stride for the score.
"It was pretty awesome. A lot of stuff goes through your head when that ball's in the air," Contorchick said.
Contorchick only had 11 yards on two receptions in the first five games. He was playing the wing because Myers had his arm in a cast after getting hurt in last week's win against Forest Hills.
"Everybody's roles changed. It was a lot harder, because everybody didn't know what they were doing," Contorchick said. "We just all had to step up."
Although both teams came in known for playing solid defense, there was a flurry of early scoring with four touchdowns in the first 13:27. Justin Fuller and Devin Lawhead scored on 1-yard runs for the Panthers, but both two-point attempts were thwarted.
"It's a big win. Every win in this conference is a big win," Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said. "There were a couple of scary moments at the end, but we held on."
Game notes: Tyler Janosik had 68 yards rushing, including a 55-yard jaunt, for Penn Cambria. ... Bearer intercepted two passes. ... Cambria Heights hosts Bishop Carroll next Friday, while Penn Cambria travels to Forest Hills.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cambria Heights13 0 7 7 - 27
Penn Cambria 6 6 0 8 - 20
CH-Contorchick 51 pass from Bearer (Irwin kick), 8:03.
PC-Fuller 1 run (pass failed), 2:49.
CH-Brawley 32 pass from Bearer (kick failed), 0:44.
PC-Lawhead 1 run (pass failed), 10:33.
CH-Crawford 3 run (Irwin kick), 6:42.
CH-Crawford 1 run (Irwin kick), 9:20.
PC-Keagy 18 pass from B. Eckenrode (M. Behe run), 5:17.
RUSHING: Cambria Heights-Crawford 27-108, Fees 8-38, Contorchick 6-38, Bearer 4-8, Brawley 1-(-1), TEAM 3-(-16). Penn Cambria-T. Janosik 8-68, Fuller 7-43, Przybys 8-26, Lawhead 8-17, B. Eckenrode 3-15, M. Behe 2-4, Schwaderer 1-(-2), Takacs 4-(-6).
PASSING: Cambria Heights-Bearer 5-9-1-120. Penn Cambria-B. Eckenrode 4-14-1-42, Takacs 0-2-0-0, Lawhead 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: Cambria Heights-Brawley 3-54, Contorchick 1-51, Legros 1-15. Penn Cambria-Keagy 3-38, M. Behe 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS: Cambria Heights-Bearer 2. Penn Cambria-Schwaderer.