PATTON - A special win.
Special because it kept Cambria Heights' District 6 Class A playoff hopes intact.
Special because a special teams play bailed out the Highlanders after special teams breakdowns threatened to put Bishop McCort in command.
And special for reasons spoken by Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis after his team held off the Crushers, 21-19, in a Laurel Highlands Conference football game Friday night at Patton Stadium.
"They're a resilient bunch and they never get down on each other," he said in a jubilant dressing room. "They love each other and they bond together as a team when things get tough."
"We never get down on each other," said Andrew Brawley, whose 72-yard punt return with 4:53 left in the final period iced the game for the Highlanders. "It's a new down every play and we always tell them to keep fighting."
Cambria Heights (6-2) assumed a 14-0 lead on the strength of first-quarter touchdowns runs by Tyler Crawford (2 and 1 yards).
"Early on Cambria Heights came out with a sense of purpose and they got the better of us," said McCort coach Kevin Sheridan.
Bishop McCort (5-3) worked its way back in contention in the second quarter, however, when Ron Gritzer blocked a punt by Donnie Contorchick and Ryan Siwy returned it 50 yards for the Crushers' first score. A 35-yard punt return by Luke DiFrancesco pared the difference to 14-12 just before halftime.
"That's how it often works," Lewis said. "Special teams often results in big plays for either side."
"I felt that blocked punt gave us a spark and gave us momentum moving into halftime and into the third quarter," Sheridan said. "We simply weren't able to make enough plays."
The game remained nip-and-tuck until Brawley fielded a punt by Jordan Spangler at the Cambria Heights 28 and turned in a big special teams play of the Highlanders' own.
"I just saw the entire team ready to block for me and make a huge play," Brawley said, "I give them all the credit for the blocks. If not for their block I never would have gotten the touchdown."
"We did a nice job blocking and Andrew really had a great return," Lewis said.
Sheridan said Brawley's return was the turning point.
"And it's shame because our defense played so well in the second half," he said. "The defense wasn't giving ground; they came out inspired. And we felt like we had momentum. Even though we weren't able to string drives together offensively we still felt as if our defense was playing well enough that we were going to have a really good shot at the end."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Biship McCort 0 12 0 7 - 19
Cambria Heights 14 0 0 7 - 21
CH-Crawford 2 run, 4:37 (Irwin kick)
CH-Crawford 1 run, :43 (Irwin kick)
BM-Siwy 50 blocked punt return, 11:43 (kick blocked)
BM-DiFrancesco, 35 punt return, :35 (pass failed)
CH-Brawley, 72 punt return, 4:53 (Irwin kick)
RUSHING: Bishop McCort - Belksey 6-46, Tomkowski 6-2, Jackson 3-5, James 3-2. Cambria Heights - Contorchick 10-44, Crawford 19-41, Brawley 1-14, Fees 7-10, Bearer 15-7.Legros 1-0.
PASSING: Bishop McCort - Tomkowski 13-28-0-171, Spangler 0-1-0.Cambria Heights - Bearer 4-10-1-105.
RECEIVING: Bishop McCort - Spangler 5-29, DiFrancesco 4-75, James 1-35, Siwy 1-20, Jackson 1-12. Cambria Heights - Crawford 1-34, Contorchick 1-33, Brawley 1-28, Legros 1-10.
INTERCEPTION: Bishop McCort - Burgo 1-0.
First downs 10 11
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 13-29-0 4-10-1
Yards passing 171 105
Total yards192 221