Panthers come up short
SIDMAN — In a game where pride was the only thing on the line, both Penn Cambria and Forest Hills played with that exact mentality.
With Friday night’s Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference matchup marking the end of the season, the Panthers and Rangers fought from start to finish to end their seasons with a win.
The last five minutes of the contest put a cherry on top of a hard-fought battle as the Rangers broke a tie to take the lead on a long misdirected pass play, then watched as Penn Cambria returned a punt 80 yards to give themselves a chance to knot the game again with a two-point conversion.
In the end, it was Forest Hills who finished its year with wins in four out of the final five games with a 20-18 victory to hand Penn Cambria its fifth loss in a row at G.H. Miller Memorial Stadium.
Play of the game: Penn Cambria’s Nicholas Marinak returned Matthew Colten Danel’s punt 80 yards down to the FH 5 with 1:39 left. On a fourth-and-goal from the 2, Braedon Phister dove to cross the goal line to give the Panthers a chance to tie with just 17 ticks remaining in the game. However, on the two-point conversion attempt, Jake Tsikalas’ pass intended for Marinak was knocked away by the Rangers’ Zach Myers to all but end the contest.
Myers: “We knew the whole week that their bread-and-butter was slants, slants, slants — like inside passes. So, as I’m lining up there, the coaches are yelling ‘inside, stay inside’. Once, I saw him (Marinak) break in, I looked for the ball and it was right there.”
Player of the game: Myers. In addition to knocking away the two-point conversion attempt, he was 9-of-19 for 122 yards through the air with one interception (by Marinak) and two touchdown passes. The senior, who rushed eight times for 18 yards, put the Rangers up 12-0 when he found Jeremy Burda in the back corner of the end zone from 12 yards out with 3:53 left in the first quarter. He then faked a play to the left before coming back to his right to find Kody Lauffer who made a few PC defenders miss on his way to a 40-yard score that put FH up 18-12. Myers then got the winning points when he ran in the two-point conversion with 4:34 to go in the game.
Myers: “Funny story, that kid (Lauffer) has not played offense for us the whole year. So, they (Penn Cambria) definitely didn’t expect him to catch a ball at all probably — I would imagine. He came up big because he sold it (fake) real well and the line did a great job … He broke a couple of tackles to make it into the end zone. That was just heart from him — that was a great effort from him.”
Unsung hero: Forest Hills’ Damon Crawley. Crawley carried the ball 17 times for 110 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown on his team’s first offensive possession of the night.
Most vital statistics: In the second half, the Rangers were able to overcome punting on five of their six chances, six penalties for 65 yards, being out-gained by a 117-82 margin and not getting its first first down of the half until two minutes into the fourth quarter when Lauffer caught a 16-yard pass from Myers.
Forest Hills coach Justin Myers: “We came out fast — we scored 12 (points) early … Penn Cambria’s a good team — they’re a playoff team. They were able to do things on offense all year against everybody. I thought our defense played a heck of a game tonight. We brought heat, we brought pressure, we covered well and we did a lot of things well.”
Penn Cambria coach Nick Felus: “We have what’s called a mountain mentality. That means we’re blue collar — we have to work for everything that we get … You saw the mountain mentality tonight for our kids, and the resolve that they have. I’m just so proud of them.”
Notable: Penn Cambria’s Zach Grove hauled in a 5-yard pass from Garrett Harrold at 9:51 of the second quarter, and then Marinak plowed his way in from 3-yards out at 6:28 of the third to tie the game at 12-12 … Harrold left the game for good at 7:18 of the third quarter after injuring himself on a run of 7 yards. After the game, the sophomore had a bag of ice wrapped around his knee. While he was playing, he was 8-of-15 for 95 yards with two interceptions, rushing for 34 yards on 14 attempts and was sacked four times .
Records: Penn Cambria (3-7); Forest Hills (4-4).
Next week: The season is complete for both teams.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria 0 6 6 6 — 18
Forest Hills 12 0 0 8 — 20
FH–Crawley 17 run (run failed), 8:59.
FH–Burda 12 pass from Myers (pass failed), 3:53.
PC–Grove 5 pass from Harrold (pass failed), 9:51.
PC–Marinak 3 run (pass failed), 6:28.
FH–Lauffer 40 pass from Myers (Myers run), 4:34.
PC–Phister 2 run (pass failed), 0:17.
TEAM STATISTICS PC FH
First downs 14 14
Total yards 218 244
Rushes-yards 46-93 28-122
Yards passing 125 122
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 13-24-2 9-19-1
Punts-avg. 3-30.0 6-35.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 7-70
RUSHING–Penn Cambria, Phister 21-63, Marinak 4-(-3), Harrold 14-34, Grove 3-11, Smith 2-12, Tsikalas 1-(-7), TEAM 1-(-17). Forest Hills, Crawley 17-110, Myers 8-18, Toth 1-2, Rearick 1-(-7), TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING–Penn Cambria, Harrold 8-15-2-95, Marinak 0-0-0-0, Tsikalas 5-9-0-30. Forest Hills, Myers 9-19-1-122.
RECEIVING–Penn Cambria, Broad 3-27, Phister 2-(-4), Marinak 4-45, Grove 2-18, Eberhart 1-3, Tsikalas 1-36. Forest Hills, Colten Danel 1-12, Burda 5-50, Lauffer 2-56, Crawley 1-4.