Dragons have plenty of weapons on offense
Central Cambria at Central
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Roaring Spring Athletic Field
Records: Central Cambria is 1-2 overall and in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. Central is 3-0 overall and in the conference.
Coaches: Shane McGregor is 10-30 in five seasons at Central Cambria. Dave Baker is 210-207-11 overall in 42 seasons, including 84-37 in 11 seasons at Central and 126-170-11 in 31 seasons at Williamsburg.
Last week: Central Cambria won, 28-22 at Forest Hills. Central won, 54-6 at Johnstown.
Notable: This is Central’s first season back as a member of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference.
The Central High School football program is making its debut in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference this season an auspicious and impressive one.
And the performance of Central’s offensive unit is a huge reason why.
The Scarlet Dragons have averaged over 45 points in their first three games this season, all conference wins.
Junior quarterback Jeff Hoenstine’s potent passing arm leads the Central attack. In three games, Hoenstine has already thrown for 862 yards and 15 touchdowns on 53 completions in 71 attempts.
Central hopes to continue its offensive firepower Friday night, when the Dragons host Central Cambria in a 7 p.m. Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference kickoff at the Roaring Spring Athletic Field.
“So far, we’ve made a lot of plays, and I think that we’re moving the ball really well,” Hoenstine said. “I think we have great chemistry on our team, and that is accelerating us to do well on offense.
“Our offensive line has been doing a great job of blocking, and they’re giving me some good time to throw back there, and they’re creating lanes for the running backs pretty well, too,” Hoenstine added.
While Hoenstine is the focal point of Central’s attack, the Scarlet Dragons possess a variety of offensive weapons.
Senior halfback Parker Gregg has rushed the ball 30 times for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and also has 10 receptions for 147 yards.
Sophomore fullback Hunter Smith has a team-leading 16 catches for 186 yards and four touchdowns, and junior wideout Eli Lingenfelter has nine catches for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wideout Devon Boyles, who stands 6-feet-5 and creates a matchup challenge for opposing defenses, has seven receptions for 165 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior tight end Ethan Eicher is also a receiving threat, with six catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers,” veteran Central coach Dave Baker said. “A lot of our guys have a lot of yardage, multiple catches, and multiple touchdowns. And of course, our quarterback has been very effective.
“We get a lot more points from our passing game, but we also do a lot of work on our running game, and we think that we’ve really improved our running game,” Baker added. “Without a doubt, our offense has produced a lot of points so far this season, and our offense has been fairly balanced.”
Fifth-year Central Cambria coach Shane McGregor, a former preferred walk-on player at Penn State, knows that his team will have a tough task against Central.
“Central is a strong team and a balanced team, with a lot of dangerous players,” McGregor said. “They’ve had a lot of good experience, making a deep run into the (Class 3A) playoffs last year. They have a very good quarterback – Hoenstine is a special, special player.
“We’re going to have to play well in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) in order to give ourselves a chance to compete against a very good Central team,” McGregor added.
Central Cambria (1-2 overall and in the LHAC) played well on both sides of the ball last Friday, and came up with its first win of the season, 28-22 at archrival Forest Hills.
Senior fullback Hobbs Dill rushed for 217 yards on 18 carries and a pair of touchdowns last week for Central Cambria, and also returned an intercepted pass from his linebacker position on defense for another touchdown.
“Dill is a big kid and a strong running back who runs the ball real hard,” Baker said. “Central Cambria wants to run the ball straight at you, and it’s going to be our job to step right in there on defense and try to stop them from running at us.”
Central Cambria’s defense also stopped Forest Hills inside the Red Devils’ 5-yard line twice, including a game-changing goal-line stand in the third quarter.
“On defense, we did the whole bend but not break thing,” McGregor said. “In the red zone, we came up with some key stops and key turnovers. You’ve got to make those timely plays if you’re going to win any football game, but most definitely, if you hope to winagainst a good team like Forest Hills.”
Friday’s game is especially big for Central, which faces three currently unbeaten LHAC teams – Penn Cambria, Richland, and Bedford – in the three weeks following Friday’s game.
“This league is tough,” Baker said. “We know that we’re going to have to play hard and that we’re going to have to earn our wins, because there are some really good teams in this league.”