PURCHASE LINE — With Purchase Line smarting from back-to-back close losses, one could understand if the Red Dragons might be doubting themselves. One could also understand why coach Matt Falisec’s team might feel like its back was against the wall.
“Yeah, there’s been a sense of urgency,” Falisec said. “I don’t think we’ve played up to what our potential is.”
The Dragons left little doubt on Friday night.
Purchase Line dominated in the trenches, rushing for 320 yards and controlling field position and time of possession as it handled Northern Cambria, 28-6, in Heritage Conference football action at a blustery Barry T. Madill Field.
By virtue of the triumph, the Red Dragons avoided falling two games under .500 and evened their record at 2-2. Josh Syster led the way for Purchase Line with 112 yards on the ground on 22 carries. Kyle Day added 105 rushing yards on just seven totes.
Syster and Day each scored twice, combining for three touchdowns in the second half as the Dragons put away a game that was tied 6-6 late in the second quarter.
In the locker room following the contest, Falisec gave the game ball to the offensive line, an award that felt very well-deserved.
“This was a really big game for us after starting out 1-2. We never thought we’d be there,” said Dragon 300-pound senior lineman and captain Giovanni Scott. “We definitely needed this one. We played as a team. We stuck together and didn’t play for ourselves.”
Purchase Line went on a 13-play, 70-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes after forcing a three-and-out from Northern Cambria to begin the second half. Day capped the march on a 12-yard scamper.
In the fourth quarter, Day scored from 11 yards out to effectively secure the victory. Syster added an insurance touchdown from a yard away late for insurance.
Purchase Line needed a safety on a rolling snap that allowed the Dragons to tackle Northern Cambria punter Jorden Wise in the end zone late in the first half for a safety to carry an 8-6 lead into the intermission. Purchase Line drove inside the Colts 30 four times in the first two quarters but only had Syster’s 7-yard run on the game’s opening possession to show for it on the scoreboard.
“We hyped each other up. We kept the energy,” Day said. “In the locker room at halftime, it was only a two-point game, but it felt like we were dominating out there.”
That held true on both sides of the ball. Purchase Line ran 22 more plays than did Northern Cambria, leaving the Colts backed up deep in their own end even when it didn’t finish its drives.
When Northern Cambria did have the ball, the Dragons did a great job bottling up the Colts dangerous offense. Adam Kopera, who already had more than 500 yards rushing coming into the game, was held to 36 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Mike Hoover, who was completing more than 70 percent of his passes and torched West Shamokin for 199 yards through the air last week, was limited to 54 yards passing before being knocked out of the game with a leg injury on a fourth-quarter sack.
“I was happy with how our defense played,” senior captain Cullen Goncher said. “We knew we had to stop Kopera, who came in as the area’s leading rusher. I thought we did a pretty good job. We were just all flying to the ball.”
Owen Prasko scored Northern Cambria’s only points, cutting back on a sweep and going 93 yards untouched for the tying score in the second quarter. The Colts, though, made only nine first downs, and three of those were on penalties, while Purchase Line had 17 first downs rushing alone.
Northern Cambria dipped to 2-2.
“It wasn’t our night. We didn’t play solid football in any aspect,” Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty said. “I told our guys we were going to have a lot of adversity, that we were going to have to welcome that, and we were going to have to overcome it, and we didn’t do that.”
Falisec can relate. After a six-point win over West Shamokin, the Red Dragons stumbled to lose by four to Homer-Center and eight to Marion Center. Now he is hopeful his team has something to build upon.
“We’re 2-2 right now, and we’re two plays away from being 4-0. That doesn’t matter. We’re 2-2, and we’re going to accept that. We’re going to get better,” Falisec said. “We were physical all over the field, and it was a great win.”