Penn Cambria earns first victory since 2016

CRESSON — If coach John Franco and company wanted to make a statement after a winless 2017, an upset in week one certainly did that.

Nick Marinak’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Weigand in the third quarter was all it took for Penn Cambria to defeat Cambria Heights, 6-0, Friday night.

“With the state of our program, we needed a win badly,” Franco said. “That was a nice way to start the season against a really good program that we haven’t beaten in years. We’re making strides, just little by little.”

The win against the Highlanders was the first win Penn Cambria has collected since the 2016 season.

It had been so long since the Panthers won a game, in fact, that Franco had to call a timeout with 57 seconds left in the game to practice running the victory formation.

“We haven’t gone into the victory formation in three years,” Franco said. “I wanted to make sure we didn’t have a bad snap or anything.”

After finally breaking a 15-game losing streak, the Panthers hope this is a sign of better things to come.

“We’re going to use this win as a building block,” Weigand said. “We’re going to keep building, try to keep winning and just keep working hard like we did today.”

Neither team could get its running game moving in the first half. With less than a minute remaining until halftime, both teams took to the air attack.

But three ensuing plays all resulted in interceptions, almost effectively ending both teams’ passing strategy.

Looking to energize the run game, Franco was given the perfect opportunity to make a change after starting quarterback Jacob Tsikalas faced health issues late in the first half.

Marinak was inserted into the game, and to start the third quarter, the Panthers’ offensive unit marched 58 yards down the field to set up the only scoring play of the game.

“I was ready for the call, but not to go in at quarterback or for that many plays,” Marinak said. “I was more comfortable than I thought I was. Once the butterflies got out, I was all good.”

Marinak connected with Weigand, who ran a flag route, by rolling to the outside of the pocket. Weigand had to make a desperate dive but made the catch.

“I heard that play be called and thought that was the right play to call in that scenario,” Weigand said. “I just broke out and saw a big opening, and as soon as I turned, the ball was right there. I dove for it, but he put the ball right in the bread basket. He made a great throw; I was just in the right place at the right time.”

While a perfect play set up the game-winning score, Franco said his team was grounded by its defense.

“I thought, defensively, we played outstanding,” Franco said. “(Cambria Heights has) one heck of a fullback and some really good offensive linemen. I thought we did a good job of really shutting down their fullback.”

In total, the Highlanders were held to just 69 yards rushing and 36 yards passing.

It was far from a clean game for Cambria Heights, which threw five interceptions.

“You’re not going to beat anybody in the game with five turnovers,” Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said. “We had our opportunities in the first half, but didn’t make the plays. … We just didn’t play well today. It’s a game that could have went either way.”

To rebound for week two, Lewis said there’s one thing his team needs to do.

“We have to get better,” Lewis said. “There’s nothing else really to it.”

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Cambria Heights 0 0 0 0 — 0

Penn Cambria 0 0 6 0 — 6

Third Quarter

Weigand 20 pass from Marinak (kick failed), 6:55

TEAM STATISTICS CH PC

First downs 9 5

Total yards 105 153

Rushing yards 69 131

Passing yards 36 32

Comp-Att-Int 2-17-5 2-10-1

Punts 3-34 4-31.5

Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2

Penalties-Yards 2-10 6-50

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Cambria Heights, Stockley 8-52, Trybus 8-23, Link 7-15, Farabaugh 9-27, Fisanick 1-(minus 3), Maul 1-0. Penn Cambria, Brown 15-50, Marinak 16-88, Perrone 5-12, Tsikalas 3-(minus 19) Smith 1-2.

PASSING–Cambria Heights, Link 2-11-3-36, Bearer 0-6-3-0. Penn Cambria, Tsikalas 1-9-1-12, Marinak 1-1-0-20.

RECEIVING–Cambria Heights, Maul 2-36. Penn Cambria, Lumadue 1-12, Weigand 1-20.

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