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Mardula propels Panthers past Hilltoppers

JOHNSTOWN – On a rainy, muddy day, the team that controls the game with its running attack usually comes out on top. That proved not to be the case Saturday, though.

Penn Cambria only rushed for 31 yards on 12 carries, but quarterback Mark Mardula completed 12-of-17 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Mardula’s passing, along with some timely turnovers by the Panthers defense and special teams, led Penn Cambria to a 27-7 road victory over Westmont Hilltop.

“We are struggling running the football a little bit right now, so we decided to go to the pass,” Penn Cambria coach Jason Grassi said. “Plus, we had some matchups there. Mark made some really nice plays throwing the football today, and our guys caught the football pretty well. That’s what we needed to do to win today.”

On their third play Mardula took the snap and scrambled to the right. When the Westmont defense ran toward him he lofted a pass to Drew Slatko who broke wide open down the sideline. Slatko’s catch and run was good for a 62-yard touchdown.

Westmont rode its power running game, moving the ball 45 yards in nine running plays to the PC 15. However, on third and four, Chase Davis’ pass to Kyler Pyshnik sailed, and Mardula intercepted the ball near the 2-yard line. Mardula returned the interception 98 yards for a touchdown, but the return was negated by a block in the back penalty.

The second quarter showed the difference in the two teams’ offenses. The Hilltoppers slowly moved the ball into Penn Cambria territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the 28- yard line. Penn Cambria responded with three quick passes to add to its lead. Mardula hit Slatko for 7 yards, Zach Krug for 15 yards and Slatko again for a 50-yard scoring strike.

Mardula and the offense went right back out on the field when Dluhos fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Jacob Driskel recovered for the Panthers. On the next play Mardula hit Jake Hurley for a 28-yard touchdown. Mardula passed to Austin Zupon for the two- point conversion and a 20-0 lead.

On the Hilltoppers’ next drive, they moved the ball 44 yards in nine plays to the PC 31. The Hilltoppers converted two fourth downs on the drive. However, the drive ended when Davis’ second pass attempt ended up in the arms Panthers’ defender Daniel Roberts, giving Penn Cambria the ball on its own 33 with 22 seconds left in the half.

Passes of 17 yards to Krug and 40 yards to Hurley, with timeouts after each play, moved the ball to the Westmont 10 with 6 seconds left in the half. Mardula then found Hurley open at the 2, and he walked into the end zone as time expired.

Westmont finished the day with 312 yards rushing on 68 carries but managed only one touchdown, a 1- yard touchdown run by Evan Dluhos. Dluhos led Westmont, and all running backs, with 181 yards on 31 carries.

“That’s what we hang our hat on,” Westmont Hilltop coach Pat Barron said. “Throwing hasn’t been our forte all year. It’s something we’re working on trying to keep teams honest, but we’re a ground and pound team. There were just too many mistakes on their side of the field offensively.”

The win allowed Penn Cambria (5-3) to stay in position for a District 6-AA playoff spot. The Panthers went into the weekend in fifth place in the AA standings. Penn Cambria will host undefeated Somerset next Friday night, before closing out the season against Bishop McCort.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time right now, Grassi said. “That’s our mindset. These guys are hungry and want to get into the playoffs, and that’s our goal. It’s there right now, to continue to get to that goal. We’ll just keep playing good and playing hard.”

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria6 21 0 0-27

Westmont Hilltop0 0 0 7- 7

First quarter

PC-Slatko 62 pass from Mardula (kick failed), 10:54.

Second quarter

PC-Slatko 50 pass from Mardula (pass failed), 4:43.

PC-Hurley 28 pass from Mardula (Zupon pass from Mardula), 4:39.

PC-Hurley 10 pass from Mardula (Mardula kick), :00.

Fourth quarter

WH-Dluhos 1 run (Causer kick), 9:20.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Penn Cambria-Strasser 4-14, Mardula 2-14, Wyland 2-6, Eckenrode 1-2, team 1-(-1), Hite 2-(-4). Westmont Hilltop-Dluhos 31-181, Pyshnik 19-81, Buck 9-45, Pinner 3-9, Davis 6-(-4).

PASSING: Penn Cambria-Mardula 12-17-0-251. Westmont Hilltop-Davis 1-4-2-4.

RECEIVING: Penn Cambria-Slatko 4-127, Hurley 5-88, Krug 2-32, Wyland 1-4. Westmont Hilltop-Dluhos 1-4.

INTERCEPTIONS: Penn Cambria-Mardula, Roberts. Westmont Hilltop-none.

TEAM STATISTICSPCWHFirst downs1118Rushes-yards12-31 68-312

Passing (comp.-att.-int.)12-17-0 1-4-2

Yards passing251 4

Total yards282 316

Fumbles-lost2-0 2-1

Penalties-yards8-582-10

Punts-avg.3-28.3 0-0

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