PC grinds out win over rival
By Calem Illig
For the Mirror
EBENSBURG — Derek Brown’s three rushing touchdowns were more than enough to give Penn Cambria the edge over Central Cambria, 32-3, Friday night in a battle of backyard rivals.
Coming off a memorable win last week that broke a 15-game losing streak dating back to 2016, Brown said that his team had to clear their minds and come in with a clean slate to earn the win.
“We have confidence, but we just look at every game as if we’re 0-0,” Brown said. “We never look at our wins or our losses. We come into every game focused only on that game. … I’m glad that we were able to get the win today.”
Brown totaled 105 yards on the ground for the Panthers, contributing to a rushing attack that was responsible for 275 yards.
While the Panthers do not have the size or numbers that other teams do, Brown said his team’s work ethic is what gives Penn Cambria the edge.
“We just condition, constantly,” Brown said. “We run every day and run 1600s every practice. We work hard all throughout the season, and we want to out-condition every team.”
Panthers coach John Franco said he was impressed with Brown and the Panthers’ running game, citing Brown’s multi-sport ability as an extra tool.
“Derek Brown is just a tough kid,” Franco said. “He is a leader and also a wrestler, so he brings that tough wrestling mentality to us. He gets hit and people bounce off him because his leverage is so good. I thought Derek was tremendous today, no doubt.”
Penn Cambria also received contributions offensively from sophomore running back Nick Marinak. After stepping in at quarterback last week, Marinak returned to the backfield where he added 125 yards on 12 carries.
“We have quite a few guys who have stepped up for us,” Franco said. “We’re not a big team, but I think that the right guys have been stepping up at the right time.”
With Brown and Marinak leading the way on offense, the Panthers have been guided by its defense.
In two games so far this season, the defensive unit for Penn Cambria has allowed only three points and 298 total yards.
“We just go out and play hard on every down,” senior Jacob Weigand, who had an interception late in the fourth quarter, said of his defensive unit. “We’re going to keep working hard and try to get better each week.”
Weigand said that with such an awful 2016, most teams underestimate his team’s ability. But Weigand likes the idea of being the underdog.
“Coming off an 0-10 season, people probably had low expectations for us,” Weigand said. “We don’t really care what people think. We just want to come out here and prove it on the field.”
Even though the Panthers now own a 2-0 record to start the season, Franco is still hoping to improve. While it was able to stuff the run game, the defense was susceptible to a few big plays.
“We still have to get better,” Franco said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We’re not that impressive in my book. I think this team has a lot more in them, and we’re going to continue working and trying to improve.”
But although there is much still to work on, Franco said he was still excited to come away with the win.
“We’re going to celebrate tonight, and then we’re going to refocus and come out ready for next week,” Franco said.
Central Cambria was coming off a big road win at Johnstown last week.
“The team that controls the line of scrimmage often controls the game, and that was 100 percent Penn Cambria tonight,” Central Cambria coach Shane McGregor said. “Coach Franco’s done a great job of fostering a culture of physicality and it showed tonight.”
Penn Cambria will host Johnstown next Friday night while Central Cambria is at Westmont Hilltop on Saturday.
“I told our guys we’ll lick our wounds, circle the wagons and get ready for week 3. It’s a log season, and it’s all in how you handle the adversity thrown your way,” McGregor said.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria 6 12 7 7 — 32
Central Cambria 3 0 0 0 — 3
PC–Brown 1 run (kick failed)
CC–Johnson 27 FG
PC–Brown 2 run (kick failed)
PC–Storm 15 pass from Tsikalas (run failed)
PC — Marinak 35 run (Michina kick)
PC–Brown 3 run (Michina kick)
Team statistics PC CC
First downs 13 5
Total yards 314 193
Rushing yards 275 77
Passing 39 116
Kick returns 2-38 6-83
Interceptions ret. 1-23 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 3-6-0 7-17-1
Punts 3-36 4-112
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-35, 5-45
Rushing–Penn Cambria, Brown 19-105, Marinak 12-125, Perrone 5-44, Tsikalas 1-0, Murphy 1-0, Broad 2-2, Smith 2-3, Kass 1-(-4). Central Cambria, Knopp 10-31, Gauden 8-42, Long 4-4.
Passing — Penn Cambria, Tsikalas 3-6-0-39. Central Cambria Knopp 8-16-1-116. Gauden 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — Penn Cambria, Weigand 1-20, Storm 1-15, Perrone 1-4. Central Cambria, Melnyk 3-61, Gauden 5-39, Pellegrino 1-7.