Clayton Stupic stands just 5-foot-7, so when the Penns Manor sophomore quarterback took the field in the fourth quarter last week at Ligonier Valley, his first order of business wasn’t the 91 yards he had to drive in 33 seconds. It was seeing the field over the Comets’ stout offensive line.
“It’s hard to see over all the big guys we have up front,” Stupic said. “They did a hell of a job. I just found the hole and threw it.”
Stupic had only previously appeared in garbage time, going 4 of 7 passing for 87 yards with a touchdown and an interception before taking the reins to the Comets’ offense in the fourth quarter when starting quarterback Lucas Kowalski was sidelined with a knee injury.
Of course, Stupic worked some magic, completing 4 of 5 passes, and Penns Manor won, 31-29, on his touchdown pass to Nathan Dumm on the last play of the game, completing an improbable comeback after the Comets fell behind for the first time inside the final minute.
The early report on Kowalski wasn’t favorable, so it could be the sophomore who will be running the Penns Manor offense again this week.
“He’s a kid that’s pretty accurate throwing the ball,” Penns Manor coach Bill Packer said. “Usually we throw short passes with him, but he’s been accurate.”
“I’m pretty comfortable, with the line I have in front of me, to throw the ball,” Stupic said.
Even if he has a little trouble seeing over it.
BACK IN ACTION: Losing two-way starters Scott Thompson and Colton McMillan for three weeks due to injury threw Blairsville into a tailspin in Weeks 4 through 6.
In that span, the Bobcats lost two of three games, getting beaten by a combined score of 75-23 against Homer-Center and Penns Manor in Weeks 5 and 6 and barely hanging on to edge Northern Cambria, 24-19, in Week 4.
But last week, Thompson, the starting quarterback and safety, and McMillan, a starting cornerback and dangerous deep threat at wide receiver, each played pivotal roles in helping Blairsville blank Saltsburg, 41-0.
Thompson didn’t play defense but ran five times for 56 yards and scored a 2-yard touchdown. He attempted only six passes, completing two to Cameron Livingston.
McMillan intercepted a Frankie Plowman pass and returned it 52 yards to set the table for Thompson’s score.
“He didn’t play defense,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said of Thompson. “We kept him out (because) we figured we could keep him healthy longer, and we wanted to let him get his feet underneath him. Three weeks was a long time since he played, so he just got his feet underneath him and he did a nice job.
“He ran the ball a few times, and we didn’t have to throw. Honestly, I’d love to throw the football, but if we’re running the ball as well as we are, it doesn’t make much sense to do it.”
JUMPING FOR JOY: By the time it was all said and done Friday night, the Purchase Line cheerleaders had each done 69 pushups and 120 jumping jacks.
No, they weren’t conditioning for the competition season, which begins this weekend.
Instead, they were showing their support by matching the seemingly continuous points that the Red Dragons were putting on the board with pushups. But after Todd Greene scored a 48-yard touchdown with 3:11 left in the first half, the cheerleaders switched to jumping jacks for the remainder of the game.
The change was just one of many indicators that the game, an eventual 47-6 win over United, was getting out of hand.
Greene’s touchdown also put Purchase Line within two points of forcing a nonstop clock due to the mercy rule and convinced the two coaches to start playing their backups.
“We were just the better team tonight,” Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said. “We executed and did what we needed to do, and we got the win.”
“We did everything we were supposed to do,” said Grant Syster, who rushed for 195 yards. “I knew I did everything I could, and the line did everything they could, and the holes were huge for us.
“It was just a great win. It feels really good.”
OUT OF ACTION: Just when things didn’t seem as if they could get any worse for United after an 0-6 start to the season, the Lions were without their starting running back Friday night.
United managed just 35 rushing yards in its 47-6 loss to Purchase Line, a team that the Lions had confidence they could beat.
“I don’t want to say much about the game, because there aren’t many good things to say,” United coach Lance Holupka said. “I don’t think we even got off the bus tonight.”
But tailback Tyler Mack never even got on the bus.
He was nowhere to be seen on the sidelines, and when Holupka was asked about it, all he said was, “No comment.”
Holupka did say, though, that Mack was still on the team and was not injured.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tonight is the last chance to watch last week’s Penns Manor-Ligonier Valley game on IUP-TV (Comcast Channel 6).
Penns Manor pulled off a sensational comeback, driving 91 yards in the last 33 seconds and scoring with no time left on the clock to pull out a 31-29 win.
The Heritage Conference Game of the Week is broadcast on IUP-TV on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays at 8 p.m. through a partnership of the IUP Communications Media Department, Renda Broadcasting and the Heritage Conference.
This weekend’s featured game is Ligonier Valley at Homer-Center. The Week 10 matchup is Penns Manor at Homer-Center.