Panthers’ turnaround continues, now 3-0
CRESSON — After enduring an 0-10 season in 2017, the Penn Cambria football team pinpointed a few significant items on its agenda for 2018.
“We had some good kids, but we didn’t have any playmakers last year,” Penn Cambria coach John Franco said Friday night.
Sophomore Nick Marinak is one of the players who have stepped up to fill that role so far this fall. Marinak sparked Penn Cambria’s 37-14 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference victory over Johnstown at the Penn Cambria High School Athletic Field by returning a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and returning an interception 74 yards for another score within a two-minute span late in the second quarter as the Panthers continued their fast, surprising start by improving their season record to 3-0.
“We have some playmakers this year, and he’s one of them,” Franco said of Marinak. “It’s always nice to have that explosive guy who, any time he touches the ball, can do something big with it.”
Penn Cambria bolted to a quick 13-0 first-quarter lead on touchdown runs of 2 yards by senior fullback Derek Brown and 8 yards by senior running back Richard Perrone, but Johnstown scored the next two touchdowns, including a go-ahead score on a 78-yard interception return by junior cornerback Tyjon Jones, to take a 14-13 lead with 2:29 to go before intermission.
But just as quickly as Jones’ pick-six had given Johnstown momentum, Penn Cambria stole it back when Marinak took the ensuing kickoff at his own 15 and bolted 85 yards down the field for a touchdown that put the Panthers back in front, 19-14.
“I had a little bobble at the beginning, but I stayed behind my teammates and got down the field,” said the 5-foot-8, 146-pound Marinak. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. It was a team effort.”
Marinak came up big less than two minutes later, stepping in front of a pass by Johnstown senior quarterback Brock Moore and returning it 74 yards down the left side of the field. Jacob Tsikalas’ 2-point conversion pass to Carter Smith gave Penn Cambria a 27-14 advantage at halftime.
“I was just reading my reads and I saw their guy (receiver) go into the flat, and I did my best to catch it,” Marinak said.
Johnstown turned the ball over a total of four times, three on fumbles, in falling to 0-3. Two of the fumbles led directly to Penn Cambria touchdowns on the Panthers’ first two possessions.
“My kids played four quarters — I had no problem with their effort — but we put the ball on the ground too much,” Johnstown coach Tony Penna, Jr. said.
Penn Cambria took control of the game with a potent 65-yard scoring drive at the outset of the third quarter. The march covered 13 plays and culminated with a 9-yard touchdown run off left tackle by Brown, who carried 10 times for 56 yards on the drive, and wound up with 173 yards on 22 carries in the game.
“Our line was blocking excellently,” Brown said. “They made holes, and I just followed them. Everything worked out good.”
Penn Cambria, which closed the scoring on a 22-yard field goal by sophomore Logan Michina with 10:32 left in the game, has adopted a new culture surrounding its football program this fall.
“It’s been a change of culture, a change in the way we do things,” Franco said. “The senior leadership in this group has been tremendous. Everybody made all the workouts in the summer. Now they’re all buying in. We’ve got so much more work to do, but thank God, we’re further ahead now than what we were.”
Penn Cambria hosts Bedford in its homecoming game next Friday night.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Johnstown 7 7 0 0 — 14
Penn Cambria 13 14 7 3 — 37
PC–Brown 2 run (kick failed), 10:10.
PC–Perrone 8 run (Michina kick), 7:29.
J–Moore 2 run (Thomas kick), 3:20.
J–Jones 78 interception return (Thomas kick), 2:29.
PC–Marinak 85 kickoff return (pass failed), 2:12.
PC–Marinak 74 interception return (Smith pass from Tsikalas), 0:37.
PC–Brown 9 run (Michina kick), 5:16.
PC–Michina 22 FG, 10:32.
TEAM STATISTICS J PC
First downs 9 14
Total yards 174 286
Rushes-yards 31-116 47-273
Yards passing 58 13
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 7-13-1 1-6-2
Punts-avg. 0-0 1-21
Fumbles-lost 3-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 2-15 3-25
RUSHING–Johnstown, Rosiek 12-70, Nattile 7-32, Moore 5-12, Istvan 1-8, Sampson 2-1, Gunby 2-0, Roebuck 1-(-3), Team 1-(-4). Penn Cambria, Brown 22-173, Marinak 10-64, Perrone 5-17, Murphy 2-8, Broad 4-7, Schilling 2-2, Kass 1-2.
PASSING–Johnstown, Moore 5-9-1-30, Sampson 2-4-0-28. Penn Cambria, Tsikalas 1-6-2-13.
RECEIVING–Johnstown, Jones 5-30, Reed 2-28. Penn Cambria, Perrone 1-13.