JOHNSTOWN - After dealing with four consecutive losses, and the unexpected resignation of coach Ernie Fetzer on Wednesday, the Penn Cambria football team faced a number of questions going into Saturday's game at Westmont Hilltop. Those questions were quickly answered.
Senior Jake Schwaderer took the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a quick lead. Fellow seniors Devin Lawhead and Mack Behe added first- quarter touchdowns to quickly push the lead to 24-0. Lawhead also added a key interception return for a touchdown as the Panthers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 46-8 victory.
"Great senior leadership from our captains Devin Lawhead and Mack Behe really got the team to stick together," Penn Cambria interim coach Tony Tomaselli said. "Once we got to practice, the focus was there. They did a tremendous job. I want to give credit to my assistant coaches this week as well."
Schwaderer got the Panthers rolling when he took a short kickoff at the 27, ran through the middle of the Westmont coverage, and sprinted to the end zone for the touchdown.
Brendan Eckenrode hit Behe for the two-point conversion to give PC an 8-0 lead.
The Panthers added to their lead after a Hilltoppers three-and-out. Lawhead and Behe led a seven-play, 54-yard drive to add to their lead. A Lawhead 6-yard rumble reached the end zone, and another two-point conversion run made it 16-0.
Nathan Pryzbys picked off a Liam Moran pass on Westmont's next possession. Two plays later, Eckenrode lofted a pass that Behe caught over his shoulder for 33 yards to give the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 5. Behe then plowed through the line on the next play for a score and a 24-0 lead.
"We stressed all week that we had to weather the storm early, and we didn't do it," Westmont coach Patrick Barron said. "They took it to us in the first eight minutes of the game, and that put is in a huge hole we couldn't climb out of. Those guys have been unreal for a couple of years now. When you prepare for a team like that, you have to contend with those guys. I tip my cap to Tony, I wish Ernie the best, and I wish those kids the best. They were the much better team today."
After the Panthers' emotional start to the game, Westmont changed the momentum on its next series.
The Hilltoppers moved the ball 73 yards in eight plays to cut into the Penn Cambria lead. Moran hit Colin Barron for a 16-yard completion to covert a third down to keep the drive alive.
The first down, at the 4:18 mark of the quarter, was the initial first down of the game for the Hilltoppers. Four plays later, Moran hit Lukas Kleinmeyer for a 30-yard completion to give Westmont a first-and-goal at the 7. On the next play, Moran ran up the middle, broke two tackles, cut outside and dove headfirst inside the pylon to get Westmont on the board.
Westmont forced a punt on Penn Cambria's next possession, and looked to cut further into the lead. However, Lawhead quickly grabbed the momentum back for the Panthers with an interception of a Moran pass. He rumbled 40 yards for a touchdown that gave Penn Cambria control at 32-8.
"My hat's off to Devin Lawhead," Tomaselli said. "We practiced against that all week, and we were prepared for it. They were focused. That was a good example of it."
Behe added a 5-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in the second quarter for a 38-8 lead. Penn Cambria added a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Justin Fuller to set the final at 46-8.
"We had a lot to prove," Lawhead said. "We are way better than what our record shows. We had a tough week of practice. It was tough for everybody, but we stuck together and showed where we are today."
Penn Cambria 24 14 8 0 - 46
Westmont Hilltop 8 0 0 0 - 8
PC - Schwaderer 73 kickoff return (Behe pass from Eckenrode), 11:40.
PC - Lawhead 6 run (Przybys run), 7:42.
PC - Behe 5 run (Lawhead run), 5:45.
W - Moran 7 run (Barron pass from Moran), 2:54.
PC - Lawhead 40 interception return (Przybys run), 9:29.
PC - Behe 5 run (pass failed), 1:05
PC - Przybys 3 run (Fuller run), 1:08.
RUSHING: Penn Cambria - Lawhead 14-99, Behe 10-54, Roberts 7-31, Fuller 5-19, Hurley 2-12, Strasser 2-9, Przybys 2-6, Eckenrode 1-(-9). Westmont Hilltop - Curry 14-39, Moran 6-16, Gagan 3-7, Kleinmeyer 3-11, Boyle 4-5, Campigotto 2-0, Chernansky 1-(-5).
PASSING: Penn Cambria - Eckenrode 4-9-0-62, Lawhead 1-2-0-14. Westmont Hilltop - Moran 6-17-2-79.
RECEIVING: Penn Cambria - Behe 3-50, Kost 1-14, Keagy 1-12. Westmont Hilltop - Kleinmeyer 1-30, Curry 2-26, Barron 3-23.
INTERCEPTIONS: Penn Cambria-Przybys, Lawhead. Westmont Hilltop-none.
Passing (comp.-att.-int.)5-10-0 6-17-2
Yards passing76 79
Total yards297 152