H.S. FOOTBALL: Colts fill voids, beat Dragons
PURCHASE LINE — Northern Cambria played without one key player in Dartagnan Suchar, but since the senior is the starting quarterback and leading rusher, it was like the lineup had two gaping voids.
Luckily for Northern Cambria, it has a whole bunch of other players that can step up, and they did so big-time to get the Colts’ season back on track.
Running backs Joe Frontino and Nolan Paronish each ran for well over 100 yards while sophomore Tyler Pershing filled in admirably at quarterback, and the Northern Cambria offense didn’t miss a beat in a 26-7 win over Purchase Line in a Heritage Conference football game Friday night at Barry T. Madill Memorial Field.
“It’s what we needed,” Frontino said. “Everybody’s got their heads up now. We were 1-3 coming in. Our heads were down. This is going to help us a lot.”
“When Dartagnan’s in the ballgame, it changes everything because he’s such a dynamic player,” Northern Cambria coach Paul Taranto said of his running back-turned-quarterback who led the Colts with 369 yards rushing before leaving last week’s game with a foot injury. “He’s got to get his touches, but we have other players who can carry the weight, too, and maybe it’s an eye-opening experience for me, too, not having him and seeing what these guys are capable of.”
Frontino gained 175 yards on 17 carries, and Paronish added 141 yards on 14 carries. Both seniors are starters in the backfield, but they both took on more carries than usual Friday, and they shined in doing so.
Frontino scored the Colts’ first two touchdowns, including a 51-yard run when the 200-pounder broke free down the left sideline.
“That was fun,” he said. “I don’t see that open grass too much. It was great”
Paronish added a 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and Pershing hit Evan Waldron for a 19-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
“He’s a good competitor for a sophomore,” Taranto said of Pershing. “He listens. He’s a student of the game. Even when he’s not getting a lot of reps he still pays attention, and that showed tonight. He took it seriously, and the senior backs picked it up, too, so that was exciting.”
“Suchar is a ballplayer,” Frontino said. “If he’s gone, it’s going to change everything, but Pershing stepped in and did a great job, and our line was blocking the whole night.”
Pershing didn’t run the ball like Suchar — the running backs took care of that — but he ran the offense steadily and added another dimension with a little bit of passing, going 5 of 10 for 65 yards, even though he was intercepted twice.
“It’s definitely good for the team to know that I’ve got their back,” Pershing said. “It was pretty exciting. I was a little nervous, but I think I kept my composure pretty well.”
As much as things clicked for Northern Cambria, they did the opposite for Purchase Line on another frustrating night.
“I really thought the kids would come and play,” Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said on Homecoming. “We had a great atmosphere tonight, good crowd, every reason to play hard, but for whatever reason we didn’t come out and answer the bell, and they did and they got that early momentum. … You can’t dig yourself that kind of hole every time out.
“Thirty-six (Frontino) just ran over us, and we couldn’t stop it, so we’d better start finding a way to fix that or it’s just going to continue to happen. But they’re a good football team. They were a good 1-3 football team coming in here and we knew that. I’m really disappointed that we didn’t give them a better football game, but they executed and we didn’t.”
Northern Cambria outgained Purchase Line 383-185, including 318-127 on the ground.
Freshman Hunter Rice scored on an 87-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with 94 yards on six carries to lead the Red Dragons. Feature back Grant Syster was held to 38 yards on 14 carries.
Northern Cambria might have Suchar back soon, or it could be relying on Pershing and the other backs for a while longer.
“As of right now he’s in a boot, he’s on crutches,” Taranto said. “We don’t have the diagnosis exactly. It could be something where he’s out for a long period or it could come out that it’s a bruise and he’s working to come back. … He’s got a problem with his foot and that’s about all I know. He went to the doctor this past week and we’re waiting for results, so it’s really up in the air.”