CC looking forward to ‘puncher’s chance’

Three-time defending PIAA Class 1A state football champion Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic has compiled a 7-0 record this season while extending its nationally-acclaimed consecutive winning streak to 54 games over the past few four seasons.

The Marauders’ offense has averaged nearly 31 points per game this season, while the BG defense has allowed a total of just 34 points in seven games — an average of less than five points per game.

BG presents a monumental challenge in so many ways on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and first-year Central Cambria coach Shane McGregor hopes that his players will embrace that challenge when his Red Devils meet the Marauders in a Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Section 1 game Friday night.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Central Cambria Stadium.

Central Cambria brings a 2-5 overall record and 2-2 section record into the game against powerful BG, which sports a 4-0 record in the section.

“I’m always an optimist,” said McGregor, a former Central Cambria athletic standout who earned a college football scholarship as a walk-on at Penn State. “Bishop Guilfoyle has won 54 games in a row, and their kids know how to win. It’s a challenge for us, but it’s also an opportunity.

“I look at Friday nights in high school football as a sacred kind of thing,” McGregor said. “There are just so many Friday nights in high school football, and every single one of them is special. This is a great opportunity to play against a great opponent. You want to see how you play against the best, how you measure up.”

McGregor had a concrete example of inspiration to provide for his players entering their practices this week. Iowa State entered last Saturday’s game at then third-ranked Oklahoma as a big underdog, but was able to pull off a stunning road upset of the vaunted Sooners.

“I told our guys about Iowa State going into Oklahoma and winning as a 30-point underdog,” McGregor said. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you take a shot. We’ve got to play a perfect game — BG’s players are that skilled, that talented. But we have a puncher’s chance.”

Especially with a senior quarterback like Justin Bezek throwing the punches. Bezek is the top passer in the Mirror coverage area through seven games, having completed 123 of 221 passes for 1,895 yards and 19 touchdowns. In last week’s 46-20 Red Devils’ loss at Forest Hills, Bezek completed 27 of 39 throws for 322 yards and two touchdowns.

Bezek’s favorite target has been senior wideout Luke Bennett, whose 62 catches for 943 yards and 11 touchdowns places him atop the Mirror coverage area in all of those categories. Another senior, Kayden Kutchman, has caught 17 passes for 406 yards and five TDs for Central Cambria.

“We’ve thrown the ball well, and our quarterback and stable of receivers, led by Bennett and Kutchman, have had success,” McGregor said.

Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler believes that Central Cambria’s passing game will present a large challenge.

“They throw more than any other team we’ve faced, and they’re really good at it,” Wheeler said. “Their quarterback is one of the best kids around, and they’re a very athletic team, so he has a lot of weapons.”

BG is coming off a thoroughly fine effort that produced a 58-0 victory over Bishop Carroll last Saturday night at Mansion Park.

“I think it was definitely our most balanced game this season,” Wheeler said. “I thought we ran the ball well and threw it well. We played really good defense, with another shutout, and our special teams had a 49-yard field goal (from junior placekicker Colton McGhee). I thought we were real good in all aspects of the game.”

McGregor is hoping that Central Cambria can put four quarters of solid play together Friday. He knows that the Red Devils will need to do just that in order to have a chance to end B G’s winning streak.

“We’ve had some really good halves — we had a great second half against Bedford (42-34 loss), but the first half set us back,” McGregor said. “Then we had a great first half against Cambria Heights (34-28 overtime loss), but we didn’t have a good second half. We’re really seeking to play a complete four quarters of sound football — that’s what it will take against Bishop Guilfoyle, because the margin for error against them is so small.”

The matchup

Game: Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders (7-0) vs. Central Cambria Red Devils (2-5)

Where: Mansion Park, Altoona

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

The coaches: Central Cambria — Shane McGregor (2-5, first year); Bishop Guilfoyle — Justin Wheeler (74-14, seventh year)

Series record: Bishop Guilfoyle, 7-5 (first met in 2006)

Last meeting: Bishop Guilfoyle, 49-7 (Oct. 15, 2016)