HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Colts rolls over Trojans for second straight win
SALTSBURG — Since losing in Week 6 and falling to 2-4, Northern Cambria has adopted a do-or-die mentality for the remainder of its regular season.
For the second straight week, the Colts’ extra sense of urgency paid dividends.
Northern Cambria outrushed Saltsburg 320-7 and kept its playoffs hopes alive with its second straight win, a 36-21 victory in a Heritage Conference football game Friday night.
The Colts, who were 10th in the District 6 Class A rankings before their win over Saltsburg, improved to 4-4 going into a pivotal showdown at Ligonier Valley next week. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
“This was very important, because if we want to get into the playoffs, we have to win out. So this was big and it gives us big momentum,” said Northern Cambria running back Joey Frontino, who rushed for 126 yards and scored three touchdowns, two rushing and another receiving.
Frontino’s running mate, Derek Baker, who amassed 162 yards and scored a touchdown, echoed the sentiments of his fellow senior.
“Oh, yeah. Every game is a playoff game now,” Baker said. “We got to just put them down and then get ready for the next team. It won’t be too long and we’ll be where we want to be.”
The Trojans got on the board first, and did so quickly, marching 66 yards on six plays on their first drive to score a touchdown and take a 7-0 lead just 1:41 into the game.
Freshman quarterback Frankie Plowman capped the drive by hitting Steve Richards on a screen pass that covered 14 yards. Richards caught Plowman’s pass at the line of scrimmage and then made two defenders miss before leaping into the end zone.
But Northern Cambria answered sternly and scored touchdowns on each of its next three possessions to take a 22-7 lead.
Derek Baker finished a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 23-yard run with 8:27 to go in the first quarter to make it 7-6. Joey Frontino scored on the two-point conversion run to give Northern Cambria an 8-7 lead.
Then, on the first play of Saltsburg’s ensuing drive, Plowman fumbled a shotgun snap, and Northern Cambria’s Jarrett Sherry recovered the loose ball at the Trojans’ 20.
Three plays later, Frontino plowed into the end zone from 3 yards to give Northern Cambria a 15-7 lead.
“It’s always nice to take advantage of turnovers,” Northern Cambria coach Paul Taranto said. “It’s just nice to get them in the first place, but to take advantage of them, that means everything.”
The Colts forced a punt on the Trojans’ next drive before mounting an eight-play, 68-yard march that put them ahead 22-7.
Adam Weiland ended the drive with a 1-yard run on a dive play with 1:14 left in the first quarter.
The Trojans responded on their second drive of the second quarter and moved 54 yards on five plays to score their second touchdown of the half.
Tyler Frassenei beat cornerback Alex Kopera in one-on-one coverage and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Plowman with 4:07 to go in the second quarter to finish the drive. Lucas Mowery then caught a pass from Plowman on the two-point conversion to make it a 22-15 game.
But Tyler Pershing ended Northern Cambria’s first drive of the second half with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Frontino on a screen play. Frontino corralled Pershing’s pass at the line of scrimmage, found a seam in the middle of the field and darted into the end zone untouched.
Frontino tacked on a two-point conversion run to extend Northern Cambria’s lead to 30-15 with 7:30 to go in the third quarter.
“I caught that ball, man, and I looked downfield, and I saw a couple blocks forming, so I just started running,” Frontino said. “Our center picked up a kid and Caleb Luka picked up another kid, and then it was just off to the races.”
Frontino essentially cemented the win on the Colts’ next drive by scoring on a 13-yard run on a fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds to go in the third. Frontino took a wrap-around draw handoff from Pershing and zoomed untouched up the middle for his third score of the night.
“That stinking draw, my goodness,” Saltsburg coach Tim Frassenei said. “Every year we practice it and we preach it, but they just execute it so well. That single back, the ’backers are keying on him, but a lot of times they just get lost in front and then he (Frontino) pops back out of the back side.”
Mowery caught an 18-yard pass from Plowman with 6:15 to go to make it 36-21.
Mowery intercepted two Pershing passes, and Plowman completed 22 of 34 passes for a career-high 247 yards.