By the end of last week’s game between Blairsville and visiting Northern Cambria, both teams were without their starting quarterback.
But while Blairsville had three days to prepare for being without starter Scott Thompson, the Colts had to adjust on the fly after senior Dartagnan Suchar went down with an ankle injury late in the third quarter.
Suchar was injured on a first-down run up the middle on the Colts’ ensuing possession after Blairsville took a 17-12 lead.
Northern Cambria was driving in Blairs-ville territory, threatening to reclaim the lead. But the drive stalled inside the Bobcats’ 20-yard line and the Colts were behind by 12 points by the time the offense started clicking with backup Tyler Pershing.
“Oh, it definitely disrupted us,” Northern Cambria coach Paul Taranto said. “He’s such a big part of our game.
“The backup, Tyler Pershing, a sophomore, he stepped in and did a nice job. He made a couple big passes, he made a couple mistakes, but you can’t blame the quarterback like that, coming in, a sophomore, first time jumping on the field, really, in a tight ballgame. Hats off to Tyler Pershing. He’s a good kid, and he’s got a bright future at quarterback.”
A converted quarterback this season, Suchar runs the Colts’ option-read offense, and it revolves around him. His status for Friday night is uncertain.
Pershing needed a couple drives to gain his footing, but the sophomore filled in admirably. He connected with Joe Olish in stride for a 62-yard touchdown pass to bring Northern Cambria within 24-19 with 4:29 left in the game. He finished 3 of 7 for 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception, the latter coming in the final two minutes.
Adjusting in the middle of the game is even more challenging than what the Bobcats were facing, Blairsville coach Rick Artley said.
The Bobcats learned three days prior to the game they’d likely be without Thompson, who was hurt in a freak accident in the classroom.
“I think it was very huge,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “It’s a situation where it takes them out of their game plan. They were moving the ball at that point, and it’s tough. I know the feeling from last week when we lost (wide receiver) Colton McMillan and (offensive lineman) Jarod Dick in the middle of the game. It’s tough to make those in-game switches. It’s a little bit easier to find cover-up throughout the week, but that in-game switch, I don’t care who the kids are, they look back and their starting quarterback is off, it’s going to change the momentum a little bit.”
Thompson’s arthroscopic procedure Wednesday to remove a loose piece of cartilage in his knee was successful, Artley said, and the Bobcats’ first-year coach said Thompson’s timetable for a return remains two to four weeks.
THAT ISN’T THE JUNIOR HIGH TEAM: At first glance during the warm-ups, the United Lions look small, more like cubs. They’re actually just not wearing shoulder pads — a pregame oddity not seen in the area for several years.
“I took that from Coach (Jerry) Page down at Laurel Valley,” United coach Lance Holupka said. “He always did that. I don’t like stretching and warming up with the pads on. I like to get more of a range of motion in the shoulders and the joints, do those kinds of things. During our warm-up we do some form tackling, but it’s really not a physical thing anyway. It’s 20 extra pounds that we don’t need to be carrying.”
THE GOOD AND THE BAD: After crushing winless Blacklick Valley the previous week, Purchase Line entered Friday’s game against Homer-Center on a high. The Red Dragons beat the Vikings, 43-14, and outgained them 451-189 in total yards to earn their first win on Sept. 13.
Then last week, the undefeated Wildcats ran all over the Red Dragons en route to a 37-14 win.
Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said the confidence his team had before the Homer-Center game was great, but he was afraid it might have been too much confidence.
“We were feeling good about ourselves coming in — maybe too good about ourselves,” Overdorff said. “I cautioned the kids about that because you still have to work. And (Homer-Center) is a great football team. But we’re a young team, and they’ll learn.”
Overdorff added that his team could learn a lot from playing the Wildcats.
“You don’t fix it overnight,” he said. “You don’t get physical and strong like them overnight, and it’s a long process. They’re very experienced and strong. They’re just a really good football team. But we’ve made big leaps in one year, and we have to stay on course and keep up with the process. There are a lot of good things left to happen with us this year.”
LIVING UP TO THE HYPE: So far, 6-foot-7 Ligonier Valley tight end Alec Bloom has made the preseason hype that surrounded him seem justified.
Bloom, who made waves within the Heritage Conference in August when he verbally committed to play football for the University of Connecticut, has hauled in an area-best 19 passes for 300 yards and six touchdowns through four games.
In last week’s win over Marion Center, Bloom caught touchdown passes of 48, 9 and 10 yards and finished with a team-high 84 yards on five catches, an average of 16.8 yards per grab.
“He was the only one in the whole facility that could catch that ball,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said of Bloom’s third touchdown, a 10-yard grab he made over 6-3 safety Jake Bothell. “He made some big plays tonight, and we challenged him at the beginning of the week. Last week, Blairsville did a very nice job on him, but we challenged him and we wanted to make sure that he responded and played up to his level, and he did, for sure.”
BALL HAWKS: Ligonier Valley added to its area-best plus-7 turnover margin in last week’s win over Marion Center, notching two more interceptions to run its total to 13 takeaways.
Ligonier Valley safety Scott Fennell nabbed his area-best fourth interception last week. Cornerback Garrett Tobias, who dropped a would-be interception early in the game, redeemed himself by intercepting one later in the night for his third of the season.
The Rams have committed just four turnovers (plus-9 turnover margin) and have four more takeaways than the area’s second-best team in the department, Apollo-Ridge, and eight more than Homer-Center, which ranks third in that category.