HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dragons' penalties lead to unusual kickoff
It’s not uncommon to see kickoffs moved forward or backward from the kicking team’s 40-yard line due to penalties on the previous touchdown or point-after try.
Usually the penalties are the 5-yard variety. What was a really rare sight, though, was seeing a kickoff from the 30-yard line — the receiving team’s 30.
That’s what happened in the second quarter last week at Purchase Line in Blairsville’s 34-26 victory.
The Red Dragons committed 15-yard personal foul penalties after Blairsville’s second touchdown of the game and the ensuing extra point, and both were enforced on the kickoff, so Blairsville kicker Andrew Stipcak teed up the ball at the Purchase Line 30 rather than his own 40.
An easy touchback would have given the Dragons the ball at their own 20, which, obviously, is just an advancement of 10 yards. Another possibility was an onside kick, which must travel 10 yards.
Stipcak instead tried a squib kick to pin the Dragons deep, and Purchase Line recovered the bouncing ball on the 15-yard line.
It helped Blairsville set up a score. Scott Thompson’s interception four plays later set up the Bobcats up at the Purchase Line 43-yard line, and he ran for a 6-yard touchdown four plays later, giving the Bobcats a 20-0 lead going into the half.
It was a big turn of events in a game in which Purchase Line rallied in the second half.
“We just were undisciplined in the first half,” Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said. “It was going both ways — we don’t get the calls — but I’m not crying or complaining. We killed ourselves. We’re responsible for that. We’re accountable for that.”
FUMBLE-ITIS: Blairsville quarterback Scott Thompson fumbled two snaps, on the first play of the first two possessions of the second half, last week. To say it surprised him, or anyone on the team, would be an understatement.
“Honestly, I’m not exaggerating when I say we did not fumble the ball in three scrimmages, during practice, all year,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said, “and we fumbled twice tonight. Whatever practices we had, whatever games we had, we never fumbled that snap, and we did tonight.”
COLTS GEARING UP: Northern Cambria’s offense has averaged just 238 yards per game, but coach Paul Taranto remains optimistic that the Colts’ new offense will be successful.
Quarterback Dartagnan Suchar, who is a converted running back, leads the team in rushing with 167 yards, and Nolan Paronish is right behind him with 165. Suchar is 6 of 19 passing for 68 yards. He did not complete a pass in the opener.
“We’ve been focusing on the offense more this week in practice,” Taranto said. “We went back to our fundamentals, and (Suchar) has another week under his belt. He’s an unbelievable football player, but he’s probably not a quarterback. He’s a great tailback or slotback on any other team. We’re asking him to do a lot, and he’s taken it on and is doing a nice job. I think he will, and we will, continue to get better.”
Homer-Center coach Greg Page, whose Wildcats faced the Colts on Friday night, agreed.
“We made a couple nice stops, but that’s a hard offense to prepare for in just one week,” Page said. “It’s different than what they did before. Suchar does it very, very well. He looks like he’s been running the offense for three years. It’s not easy. We get upset at our (defensive) guys sometimes because we want them to get zero yards every time, but they were coming at us.
“They moved the ball on us at times and had us confounded at times. They hit a couple timely passes, and they did enough — and we knew that they would — to make us concerned.”
GROUP EFFORT: Taking a running backs-by-committee approach doesn’t always translate to general weaknesses in a team’s rushing attack.
Penns Manor has illustrated this theory in the first two weeks of the season, using six ball carriers in Week 1 and 12 in Week 2 in a run-heavy assault to earn wins over Northern Cambria and Conemaugh Valley.
First-year quarterback Lucas Kowalski has guided the Comets by amassing 231 yards and four touchdowns on just 27 carries. Only two Heritage Conference players, Purchase Line running back Grant Syster and Blairsville running back Deion Robinson, can say they have more rushing yards than Kowalski, a receiver/running back the last two seasons.
Also, Louie Tate has 134 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and Stephen Dumm has 76 yards on just six attempts.
“You’ve got to give credit to the offensive line. They’ve made nice holes for these backs to run through,” Penns Manor coach Bill Packer said. “But the running backs are all running hard, too. We’ve got a really nice group of backs and we want to get everybody in the game.”
AIRING IT OUT: In past years, a typical Ligonier Valley-United game might feature a handful of passes.
Last Friday, passes were flying all over United’s Thomas J. Madill field.
Ligonier Valley’s Scott Fennell completed 12 of 22 passes for 177 yards, and United’s Weylon McGeary completed 5 of 17. That’s 39 passes for a couple teams that traditionally feature run-heavy offenses.
“The strength of our team is in the skill kids,” Ligonier coach Roger Beitel said, “and we want to get them out in space. United is bigger and stronger and more physical than us, so we needed to put them in space and see if they could run with us.”
The Lions had trouble keeping up, and Ligonier Valley totaled 399 yards.
“A Ligonier-United game is usually four passes thrown,” United coach Lance Holupka said. “They run and we run. We probably threw more tonight than what you saw last year total.”