Last-ditch effort lifts Rangers, sinks Scarlet Dragons
By John Hartsock
SIDMAN — The two-minute drill is a staple of most successful offensive units for last-ditch situations in both the National Football League and major college football.
Forest Hills showed Saturday night that the two-minute drill can be run very proficiently on the high school level as well.
Led by junior quarterback Adam Cecere and senior flanker Jon Long, the Rangers used their air game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a back-and-forth District 6 Class 4A semifinal thriller with Central at G.H. Miller Stadium.
Cecere and Long were the principal catalysts in an electrifying five-play, 77-yard drive that was capped off by Cecere’s game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to Long with only 1:11 remaining on the clock that lifted Forest Hills to a 17-14 victory and a berth in next Friday night’s District 6 Class 4A championship game against Huntingdon at Mansion Park.
With Central clinging to a 14-10 lead, Long worked himself free on a pattern to the left corner of the end zone and Cecere hit him with the perfectly-thrown, decisive 20-yard scoring pass that hiked Forest Hills’ season record to 10-1.
“The coaches decided to run a post corner (pattern), the blocking was excellent, and Adam was able to get it to me for the touchdown,” Long said. “It was a (heck) of a game.”
Forest Hills started the drive on its own 23 with 2:11 left in the game, and thanks to the potent passing of Cecere and Long’s receiving skills, the Rangers needed just one full minute to reach the end zone. Long caught three passes totaling 66 yards on the drive, including a 41-yard, third-down reception on a pattern run down the center of the field that gave Forest Hills a first down at the Central 31.
After an 11-yard Cecere pass completion to junior wideout Forrest Wolfhope produced a first down at the Central 20, Long — a four-year football starter for Forest Hills — caught the game-winning pass.
“Jon Long has been a great football player for us for four years,” Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said. “He can run with the ball, and he can catch the ball. We ran a post-corner pattern, and Adam laid it up there where it needed to be thrown.”
It was a difficult way to end the season for Central, which finished this year at 8-4 after reaching the PIAA semifnals in both of the past two seasons.
“I thought we basically played well enough to win — just not this game tonight,” said veteran Central coach Dave Baker. “It is a tough way for our seniors to go out, but you have to give (Forest Hills) credit. They made the plays at the end that won the game for them.”
In a fourth quarter in which the momentum pinballed back-and-forth between the two teams, Central took its first and only lead of the night, 14-10, when speedy senior running back Trystan Detwiler took a pitch off the right side and raced 72 yards for a touchdown with only 4:07 remaining.
“It was the first time that we ran that play, and he took a pitch and was able to beat their guys to the outside of the field,” Baker said of Detwiler, who rushed for 138 yards on 18 carries. “He’s pretty fast, and he had good blocking to the corner.”
When Forest Hills turned the ball over on a fumble in the middle of the field on its ensuing possession with 3:59 left, the Scarlet Dragons appeared to have truly grasped a stranglehold on the game’s momentum.
But the Forest Hills defense forced Central’s offense into a three-and-out, and following a punt, Forest Hills regained possession in preparation for its game-winning drive.
“There were two good football teams knocking heads all night tonight, and a true champion like Central is, dies very hard,” Bailey said. “They fought to the very end, just like we did.”
Forest Hills had a 10-7 halftime lead that stood up until Detwiler’s fourth-quarter touchdown run. Cecere and junior slotback Jake Shope collaborated on a 17-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, before an 8-yard touchdown run by Noah Muthler later in the period tied the game up for Central, 7-7.
Junior Josh Jones’ 25-yard field goal with just 1:25 left in the first half gave Forest Hills the 10-7 lead.
“Both teams played well enough that they deserved to win,” Baker said. “We lost to four quality teams this year, and I’d like to think that we’re a quality team as well. We’re disappointed. We wished we could have won, but we accept the situation.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central 7 0 0 7 — 14
Forest Hills 7 3 0 7 — 17
FH–Shope 17 pass from Cecere (Jones kick), 6:30.
C–Muthler 8 run (Masdol kick), 2:00.
FH–Jones 25 FG, 1:25.
C–Detwiler 72 run (Masdol kick), 4:07.
FH–Long 20 pass from Cecere (Jones kick), 1:11.
RUSHING: Central–Detwiler 18-138, Smith 6-20, Muthler 6-13, Karstetter 6-9, Garner 1-4, Bolatto 1-(-4). Forest Hills–Long 17-74, Kundrod 1-21, Elgin 5-12, Cecere 9-(-8).
PASSING: Central–Karstetter 4-12-3-46, Smith 0-1-0-0, Bolatto 0-1-0-0. Forest Hills–Cecere 13-26-0-195, Long 1-1-1-23.
RECEIVING: Central–Muthler 2-19, Garner 1-21, Smith 1-6. Forest HIlls–Long 7-103, Shope 3-45, Richardson 2-36, Elgin 1-23, Wolfhope 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS: Central–Albright. Forest Hills–Long, Kundrod, Shope.
TEAM STATISTICS C FH
First downs 12 16
Rushes-yards 38-180 32-99
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 4-14-3 14-27-1
Yards passing 46 218
Total yards 226 317
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 2-10 1-5
Punts-avg. 2-33 1-42