JOHNSTOWN - The Penn Cambria High School football team faced a boat-load of adversity over the second half of this season.
Four straight losses after a promising 4-0 start led to the abrupt and shocking resignation of PC's veteran head coach, Ernie Fetzer. Penn Cambria also surmounted the grind of having to win both of its last two regular-season games just to qualify for the District 6-AA playoffs.
Then along came a quarterfinal-round playoff date Friday night with top seed Richland, which is showing the capability to make a deep run in the PIAA tournament this year.
The 11-0 Rams showcased their vaunted offensive attack again Friday, churning out 381 yards in total offense, including 221 through the air, in rolling up a 28-0 victory over Penn Cambria at Herlinger Field.
Penn Cambria closed a 6-5 season with its interim head coach, Tony Tomaselli, revealing that he is planning to apply for the team's head coaching position in the coming weeks.
"I really am proud of our kids,'' said Tomaselli, who served a six-year tenure as PC's head coach in the 1990s and has nearly three decades of coaching experience as an assistant coach. "They were really up against it, but they came to work every day. We got outstanding senior leadership.
"Yes, I may as well make it public - I am going to apply for this job when it opens up,'' said Tomaselli, who had been an assistant coach before Fetzer departed. "We have a nice coaching staff, and the kids have done a great job this year.''
The deck was stacked against PC Friday night. Richland, which defeated Penn Cambria, 30-12 in the eighth week of the regular season, got three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Matt Shaffer, who completed nine of 14 attempts for 208 yards. Senior wideout Luke Shertzer caught scoring throws of 58 yards in the first quarter and 39 in the third, and junior wideout Kyle Flick caught a 36-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.
Junior running back Tanner Solarczyk, who rushed for 112 yards on 14 carries, accounted for Richland's other touchdown, on a 1-yard second-quarter burst that capped the Rams' 94-yard scoring drive.
"They're a talented team,'' Tomaselli said of Richland. "Their quarterback throws the ball real well, and their receivers keep you off-balance.''
Richland will host the winner of tonight's Cambria Heights-at-Tyrone quarterfinal playoff game next weekend.
The Rams figure to be a handful for any team they face this postseason.
Richland's explosive passing game exploited Penn Cambria's 1-on-1 coverage.
"They were covering our guys 1-on-1, and most games, I'll take those matchups,'' Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. "Luke Shertzer is an excellent football player who is one of our team leaders, and Kyle Flick ran a great route on that touchdown catch.''
Shertzer's acrobatic one-handed catch of Shaffer's pass down the middle of the field produced the game's first touchdown, and a Nico Pecora interception stalled the Panthers' best drive of the night, which had been set up by James Mardula's second interception.
Following Pecora's pick, Richland embarked on its 94-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by Solarczyk's 30-yard run, a 22-yard pass from Shaffer to Flick, and an 18-yard toss from Shaffer to Shertzer. Richland led, 15-0 at halftime.
Bailey is familiar with both the Cambria Heights and Tyrone teams. His Rams lost to Tyrone in last year's District 6-AA championship game, and beat Cambria Heights earlier this year.
"We know a little bit about both those teams,'' Bailey said, refusing to speculate about which he would rather see his team face next week. "We're just happy to be moving on.''
Game notes: Penn Cambria played without two-way senior standout Mack Behe, who was sidelined with a concussion ... Shertzer picked off a pass for Richland, which also recovered two fumbles.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria0 0 0 0 - 0
Richland7 8 7 6 - 28
R-Shertzer 58 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick), :44.
R-Solarczyk 1 run (Shaffer run), 2:42.
R-Shertzer 39 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick), 4:55.
R-Flick 36 pass from Shaffer (kick failed), 11:53.
T-Score (Conversion), Time.
RUSHING: Penn Cambria-Lawhead 12-42, Fuller 11-38, Przybys 4-37, Eckenrode 3-4, Hurley 1(-4). Richland-Solarczyk 14-112, Shaffer 10-20, Snopko 3-12, Farina 4-7, Naglic 1-6, Hoover 2-5, Metzgar 1-1, Flick 1-(-2), Somiari 2-(-1).
PASSING: Penn Cambria-Eckenrode 5-12-2-48. Richland-Shaffer 9-14-1-208, Pecora 2-5-1-13.
RECEIVING: Penn Cambria-Mardula 1-28 Lawhead 2-11, Keagy 1-9. Richland-Shertzer 5-118, Flick 5-88, Solarczyk 1-15.
INTERCEPTIONS: Penn Cambria-Mardula 2. Richland-Pecora, Shertzer.