NORTHERN CAMBRIA — A year behind Ben Vasil, Logan Onkst and Mark Marino at Northern Cambria, Adam Kopera had to be patient, waiting his turn to become the feature ball carrier for the Colts.
“I’ve been waiting for this my whole high school career,” Kopera said.
Kopera’s patience has paid off.
Kopera didn’t make Colts fans wait for the playoffs to break Vasil’s one-year-old school record for rushing yards in a season, running for 299 yards and snapping the previous mark on his fourth touchdown of the game as Northern Cambria dispatched Ferndale, 47-6, in both team’s regular-season finale at Duffy Daugherty Stadium on Friday night.
The victory had Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty dancing with his players in the locker room after the performance. Not only did Kopera make history, the Colts also clinched a District 6 Class 1A playoff berth in winning for the second week in a row to improve to 4-6.
Northern Cambria finished 11th in the district standings, with the top 12 making the playoffs. The Colts will travel next week to face an opponent to be announced; District 6 holds its seeding meeting on Sunday morning.
“You’ve got to (dance). Four wins this year, you’ve got to celebrate them,” said Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty, whose team endured a five-game losing streak in the middle of the campaign to still qualify for the postseason. “I kept telling Adam last year to hang in there. It’s there. Your time’s going to come.”
Kopera has made the most of it when it did. He put himself within striking distance of Vasil’s record of 1,576 yards with a monster 314-yard effort at Penns Manor last week, then made it evident he was going to get it out of the way against Ferndale so the team could focus on the playoffs when he piled up 235 yards on the ground and three touchdowns by halftime.
“I was the defensive specialist last year. Now it’s a switch-around, and I get the ball a lot,” Kopera said. “The offensive line has been terrific in getting this record.”
This was Kopera’s fourth game with 200 or more rushing yards this season. Kopera’s achievements have become a team achievement, said junior Eric Lubert, who often serves as the blocking back.
“Every time he scores a touchdown, we get pumped. We just love to watch him run down the field and make big gains,” Lubert said.
Northern Cambria’s first two scores were the result of 96-yard drives that ended on Kopera runs of 11 and 6 yards. On the Colts’ opening possession, Kopera carried four times for 84 yards, with runs of 40 and 21 yards.
Kopera broke off a 43-yard gain on third-and-22 to keep the second scoring march alive early in the second quarter. He added runs of 7 and 17 yards before scoring after Mike Hoover hit Lubert for a 27-yard pass down to the Yellow Jacket 6.
Ferndale coach Shawn Furfari was left suitably impressed.
“They’re much better (than a 4-6 team),” Furfari said. “They’re big up front. They run the ball hard. I hope they do something in the playoffs.”
The Colts finished with 340 yards on the ground. Tackle Joe Wagner, who had a two-point conversion last week, this time got a 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“We’ve been coming together as a team,” junior center Luke Tomallo said. “The chemistry, we’ve figured it out, and we’ve just been pounding the ball.”
Kopera capped a 50-yard drive on a 4-yard run at 3:35 of the second quarter to answer Ferndale’s only score — an 30-yard alley-oop pass from Justin Mitchell to Tajahi Thomas. Northern Cambria then held and got the ball back at the Yellow Jacket 43, and Mike Hoover connected with Gavin Dumm wide-open down the seam for a 27-yard touchdown pass.
Hoover and Dumm teamed up for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter, a 54-yard wide receiver screen that brought the running clock into effect. Hoover was 6-for-8 passing for 149 yards, and Dumm had three receptions for 89 yards.
“I’m really confident,” Hoover said. “We had a rough patch, but we’re kind of bringing all the pieces together, everyone’s getting healthy and we’re just playing good football.”
Northern Cambria had 17 first downs on the ground and outgained Ferndale 489-69.
“I still don’t think we’ve played our best game,” Shutty said. “I’m like a lunatic on the sidelines because there are so many things we aren’t doing right, but the things we do well cover for that.”