BERLIN - Northern Cambria and Berlin would seem to be strange bedfellows coming into their WestPAC-Heritage Conference matchup Friday, but as two of their respective conferences' strongest teams, they staged a dramatic tussle with the Mountaineers prevailing, 21-19.
"Our kids were real excited about playing a strange team," Northern Cambria coach Paul Taranto said after the contest.
The teams spent most of the first half trading possessions and feeling one another out. After senior Josh Platko ended a Berlin drive with a fourth-and-long sack of Mountaineer quarterback Blake Miller, the Colts took possession near midfield and capitalized quickly. Northern Cambria needed only three plays, including two long runs by junior running back Dartagnan Suchar, the second one a 21-yard scamper from the wildcat formation to break open the scoring.
The Colts halted Berlin's ensuing drive near midfield and seemed poised to widen their lead, but quarterback Jeff Hogan fumbled an exchange that dramatically shifted the momentum with only 20 seconds left in the half. Miller connected with Luke Bonus two plays later on a fly route to knot the score at 7-7 just before halftime.
"That touchdown was huge, getting those points," Mountaineer coach Doug Paul said later.
Northern Cambria emerged from the locker room hungry to ruin the Mountaineers' homecoming. Hogan answered Miller's long connection with a 49-yard strike of his own to Derek Baker to put the Colts ahead. The point after attempt was blocked by Berlin's Collin Stoltzfus, making the Colt lead 13-7.
Berlin's multi-dimensional threat Drew Glotfelty re-engergized the homecoming crowd on the ensuing kickoff, rushing 60 yards to start the Mountaineer drive at Northern Cambria's 30-yard line. On fourth-and-6, Miller connected with Bonus again from 26 yards away, edging the Mountaineers ahead, 14-13.
The Colts answered with a long drive of their own, punctuated by Suchar's rushing. Northern grinded out 74 yards on a 10-play drive, capped by Suchar's 10-yard dive for the end zone. The Colts were unable to convert a pass, leaving them with a 19-14 lead.
After several stalled drives by both teams, Bonus tilted the contest yet again in the fourth quarter. The senior intercepted a Hogan pass and returned it 38 yards to the Colt 27-yard line. Miller proved clutch on the following drive, connecting on long passes to Luke Sprowls on two fourth-and-long situations for new life. The second completion put the Mountaineers at the Northern Cambria's 1, where Miller snuck into the end zone for a 21-19 lead.
The Colts retaliated on the ensuing drive, storming inside the Mountaineer 30, but Bryce Fochtman sacked Hogan on fourth-and-5 to seal the victory.
Suchar led all rushers with 116 yards, while teammate Nate Zachesky piled on 101.
"[Suchar] goes hard," Paul said. "That kid's a real nice ball player."
When asked about how his team held its composure with the momentum swings, Taranto said, "I didn't have to say much to them. I was really impressed with how we were motivated."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Northern Cambria0 7 12 0 - 19
Berlin0 7 7 7 - 21
NC-Suchar 21 run (Polites kick), 5:27.
B-Bonus 34 pass from Miller (Bowser kick), 0:09.
NC-Baker 49 pass from Hogan (kick failed), 10:01.
B-Bonus 26 pass from Miller (Bowser kick), 8:35.
NC-Suchar 10 run (pass failed), 3:18.
B-Miller 1 run (Bowser kick), 6:33.
RUSHING: Northern Cambria-Suchar 19-116, Zachesky 21-101, Hogan 3-(-12), Team 1-(-1). Berlin-Glotfelty 21-88, Miller 12-8, Belcher 2-3, Fochtman 3-2, Team 3-(-3).
PASSING: Northern Cambria-Hogan 7-15-1-90, Suchar 1-1-0-10. Berlin-Miller 8-16-0-175, Glotfelty 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Northern Cambria-Baker 2-61, Polites 2-24, Bearer 2-24, Suchar 2-8. Berlin-Sprowls 3-61, Glotfelty 3-48, Bonus 2-60.
INTERCEPTIONS: Northern Cambria-None. Berlin-Bonus.