TYRONE - Tyrone junior scatback James Oliver possesses the type of breakaway speed that can literally break open a football game.
The 5-10, 189-pounder, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, showcased that speed in a big way on two occasions Saturday night, scampering 42 yards to set up Tyrone's first touchdown in the third quarter, and racing 52 yards for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, as the Golden Eagles trimmed Cambria Heights, 14-7 in a District 6-AA quarterfinal playoff game at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
Tyrone's defense also came up big on several occasions, enabling the fourth-seeded Eagles (8-3) to punch their ticket into next Friday night's District 6-AA semifinal-round game against undefeated top seed Richland (11-0). Kickoff for that matchup is 7 p.m. at Richland's Herlinger Field.
Photo for the Mirror by Manning Photography
Tyrone’s Corey Snyder runs away from Heights’ Ken Cunningham.
Oliver's decisive touchdown came on a 52-yard bolt off left tackle with 10:28 remaining in regulation. He made the run on the first play from scrimmage after senior Seth Welch had returned a Heights kickoff to the Eagles' 48.
"The linemen opened a hole for me, I saw it, and I just took off,'' Oliver said of his game-winning jaunt.
Tyrone coach Steve Guthoff said that Oliver is the type of back for whom teammates enjoy blocking.
"Our other players feel real good about blocking for James, because they know he can always break something,'' Guthoff said. "He's our workhorse, and in crunch time, we want him carrying the ball.''
Oliver - the Mirror region's leading rusher this season with 1,849 yards - picked up 175 yards on 26 carries Saturday. His 42-yard burst through the middle of the field in the third quarter was the biggest play on Tyrone's first scoring drive, a 71-yard, nine-play march that senior quarterback Erik Wagner capped with a 2-yard touchdown run 2:32 before the close of the third quarter that put the Eagles ahead, 7-0.
"Our linemen made a hole for me near the line of scrimmage, and when that hole closed, [senior fullback] Corey Snyder opened another hole for me downfield,'' Oliver said.
Defensively, except for a secondary lapse that paved the way for Cambria Heights' only touchdown - senior quarterback Nathan Bearer's 19-yard play-fake scoring throw to wide-open senior wideout Andrew Brawley with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter - the Golden Eagles registered a strong performance.
"The defense did a generally nice job,'' Guthoff said. "We did have a couple breakdowns in the secondary, though, and you can't have that at this time of the year.''
After Oliver's go-ahead touchdown run, Tyrone senior defensive back Charles Wilson-Adams came up with a touchdown-saving tackle on defense following Bearer's 25-yard completion down the middle to Brawley. Brawley had a step on Tyrone's defense before Wilson-Adams corraled him by the ankles and brought him down at the Eagles' 25.
It proved to be a game-saver, as Heights' march was stopped when Tyrone senior defensive back Josh Fetters intercepted a tipped Bearer pass at the Eagles' 10 moments later.
"Charles saved our rear ends on that tackle,'' Guthoff said of Wilson-Adams. "That's as plain as you can say it. He's a four-year veteran, it's playoff time, and he really stepped up there.''
Cambria Heights, which closed a 6-5 season with its first berth in the District 6 playoffs since 1998, kept on fighting until the end. Tyrone stuffed a fourth-and-one situation when senior tackle Maverick Mills led a surge of defenders who stopped standout Heights senior back Tyler Crawford in his tracks near midfield in the final minutes.
Tyrone was then able to run out the clock.
Heights played inspired football despite injuries to two key two-way starting seniors, Ben Myers (thumb) and Donnie Contorchick (leg). Myers was out of Saturday's game altogether, and Contorchick played only sparingly. Bearer completed nine of 18 passes for 126 yards, and Crawford rushed for 86 yards on 22 carries.
"I'm proud of our team, and proud of our seniors,'' Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said. "We had a great season. We moved the ball tonight. We just didn't punch it in.''
Guthoff is stressing that his team must rachet up its effort a few notches next week against Richland.
"We knew we'd be in a fight tonight, and Cambria Heights played a heck of a game,'' Guthoff said. "Richland is a very good team. If we play just well enough to win against them, like we did tonight, we'll lose by 20 points. We're going to have to reach down deep to compete with those guys.''
Game notes: Fetters intercepted two passes for Tyrone, while Snyder had another interception. Bearer picked off a pass on defense for Heights.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cambria Heights0 0 0 7 - 7
Tyrone0 0 7 7 - 14
T-Wagner 2 run (Umholtz kick), 2:32.
CH-Brawley 19 pass from Bearer (Irwin kick), 10:49.
T-Oliver 52 run (Umholtz kick), 10:28.
RUSHING: Cambria Heights-Crawford 22-86, Fees 3-11, Miller 2-8, Brawley 1-0, Bearer 6-(-2). Tyrone-Oliver 26-175, Snyder 4-15, Wagner 4-17.
PASSING: Cambria Heights-Bearer 9-18-3-126. Tyrone-Wagner 5-11-1-32.
RECEIVING: Cambria Heights-Brawley 3-77, Legros 4-19, Miller 1-17, Crawford 1-13. Tyrone-Snyder 2-21, Wilson-Adams 1-8, Woomer 1-3, Zook 1-0.
INTERCEPTIONS: Cambria Heights-Bearer. Tyrone-Fetters 2, Snyder.