JOHNSTOWN - Forest Hills came into Saturday's season opener with a high-powered offense as the defense would have to answer some questions early in the season.
The Rangers' defense passed its first test as they shut out Bishop McCort in a Laurel Highlands intersection matchup. They received big plays from senior standouts Shareef Blough and Joe Donoughe to cruise to a 35-0 victory at Point Stadium.
"Coming into the season, we knew what our offense was capable of doing," Donoughe said. "Tonight we proved that our defense is also capable of making big plays. We had three key interceptions. Surprisingly we ran the ball a lot better than we passed tonight, which is something that we've been working to improve on. It paid off tonight."
After both teams had to punt on their opening possessions, Forest Hills had great field position to begin their second drive. Starting from the Crusher 31-yard line, Blough took a counter handoff and lunged over the goal line for a 14-yard score. Donoughe's kick made it 7-0 with 4:51 left in the first.
In the second, McCort drove to the Ranger 34-yard line before Logan Madison picked off a tipped pass. On the ensuing play, Donoughe faked a handoff and bootlegged to his right where he cut back and ran 65 yards down the right sideline. The extra point sailed wide for a 13-0 lead.
"Joe's a big play guy, he always has been since he's been a freshman," FH head coach Don Bailey said.
After another defensive stop, FH started its drive on its own 20-yard line. On the first play, Blough took a pitch, cut back to his left, and sprinted down the sideline for an 80-yard run to paydirt. Blough's pass to Hunter Wright made it 21-0.
"They did a wonderful job," Blough (132 yards on 8 carries) said about his offensive line. "They opened up holes for everyone."
On the next drive, Donoughe elevated to pick off a Levi Cook pass. Looking for some blocks, he ran towards the left sideline and received the necessary blocks to find the end zone to lead 28-0 at the half.
The young Crushers put together their best drive in the third quarter. They methodically pushed the ball down to the FH 33. Once again, Donoughe high pointed the ball and raced down the left sideline 76 yards to put the Rangers up 35-0.
The Rangers defense made noticeable improvements between its two scrimmages and Saturday's opener.
"In the scrimmages, our defense didn't play really well but tonight we played extremely well and made some big plays," Bailey said. Our entire defense stepped up and played good, solid team defense."
McCort head coach Jerry Davitch knew it would be a tough test for his youthful squad.
"I was proud of our kids in the second half coming out and continuing to play hard because it's easy to fold it up and go away," the first-year coach said. "It's one game of a long season. We certainly have a lot of things that we can improve upon and I expect that we will."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Forest Hills7 21 7 0 - 35
Bishop McCort0 0 0 0 - 0
FH-Shareef Blough 14 run (Joe Donoughe kick), 4:51.
FH-Donoughe 65 run (kick failed), 9:27.
FH-Blough 80 run (Hunter Wright pass from Blough), 5:34.
FH-Donoughe 33 interception return (Donoughe kick), 3:24.
FH-Donoughe 74 interception return (Brandon Sabo kick), 8:30.
RUSHING: Forest Hills-Blough 8-132, Donoughe 5-61, Wieczorek 2-16, Elgin 3-30, Team 1-3 B. McCort-Cook 10-30, Smith 10-52, Gjurich 3-(-3), Andrews 7-2, Barbera 3-10, Leech 3-28, Team 1-(-4).
PASSING: Forest Hills-Donoughe 6-8-51, Shearman 0-1-1-0. B. McCort-Cook 10-23-3-71-3.
RECEIVING: Forest Hills-Wieczorek 1-11, Kudlawiec 2-22, Blough 2-12, Madison 1-6. B. McCort-Barbera 2-21, Gjurich 2-29, Smith 3-21, Andrews 2-1, Unger 1-(-1).
INTERCEPTIONS: Forest Hills-Donoughe 2-107, Madison 1-4. B. McCort-Stem 1-31.