Gazette Photo Gallery: Dragons dominate Trojans

Purchase Line’s Cullen Goncher pulled away from the defense as part of the Red Dragons’ 488-yard rushing effort at Saltsburg on Friday night. 

SALTSBURG — For the second consecutive year, Purchase Line’s offense piled up plenty of points against the Saltsburg defense.

The Red Dragons racked up 50 points in the first half Friday and cruised to a shocking 64-30 road victory over the Trojans in their Heritage Conference regular-season finale.

The win left both teams with 6-3 records in the conference, but Purchase finished in third place by virtue of its win and Saltsburg slipped to fourth.

“We’re playing good right now,” said Purchase Line coach Matt Falisec, whose Red Dragons hung a 56-22 loss on Saltsburg a year ago. “We’ve got a lot to play for in front of us. We started off 1-2. We started off slow, but we’re clicking right now.

“In all honesty, I thought we’d be at about a 60-50 shootout. But our defense did an awesome job, our defensive backs covered great and offensive was rocking and rolling. The line did great and (the running backs) ran hard.”

The Red Dragons have won three in a row and five of their last six heading into next week’s WestPAC crossover game, where they will be looking to move up in the District 6 1A rankings and earn a first-round home playoff game.

Purchase Line rolled up 525 yards total offense, including 455 on the ground, to go along with eight rushing touchdowns and one passing. The Red Dragons’ defense held standout quarterback Josh Gibbons, the area’s second-leading passer, to 137 yards passing.

The Trojans managed 319 yards total offense, lost a fumble and had a punt blocked by Andre Wray.

Saltsburg, which last week clinched its first winning season in 23 years, also had its four-game winning streak snapped.

“They’re a physical team,” Saltsburg coach Mike Leasure said. “They’re tough and we knew that coming. We thought we could match up a little better with them, but we couldn’t handle their physicality.

“We got beat up a little bit. They did the same thing to us last year. They do a tremendous job. Their backs are tough and their line is really good.”

Josh Syster, the area’s third-leading rusher entering the game with 1,014 yards, had 12 carries for 176 yards and scored on a 70-yard run.

Cullen Goncher had seven carries for 86 yards and scored three TDs on runs of 3, 17 and 11 yards in the first half and added a two-point conversion runs.

Syster averaged 14.7 yards per carry and converted a pair of two-point plays on runs.

“Our whole team was just clicking on offense,” he said. “Our running backs were running hard and our line created amazing holes for us to run through.”

Goncher averaged 12.3 yards per carry and also recovered a fumble on defense.

“That’s always we heard about all week was ‘Saltsburg, Saltsburg, Saltsburg.’ We were picked to lose. We had to come out firing.”

Purchase Line’s Kyle Day had four carries for 76 yards and scored on a 33-yard run and he grabbed a 71-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Jacob Barnett on his only passing attempt of the night late in the second quarter.

“(The pass play) was a great call by the coaches and Jacob made a great throw and I was able to turn it into a touchdown,” Day said.

Barnett also scored on two 1-yard runs and Melo Sanchez added a 59-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter while rushing three times for 76 yards. Purchase Line finished with 21 first downs rushing.

There weren’t many bright spots for Saltsburg, which had won six of its previous seven games.

Gino Bartolno hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Gibbons in the first quarter after he faked a running play, and Angelo Bartolini scored on a 7-yard run in the second.

Alex Lassick scored on a 5-yard run and David Stuller grabbed a 36-yard scoring pass from Gino Bartolino, who replaced Gibbons at quarterback, in the fourth quarter against the Red Dragons’ second-team defense. The Trojans played without standout receiver Cade Grguric, who was lost for the season with a leg injury.

Leasure said the Trojans need to put the lopsided loss behind them as quickly as possible and focus on next week’s WestPAC crossover game.

“We got a shot at a 7-3 season, which is pretty good at Saltsburg, and we’ll take it,” he said. “We’re not down. We’ve got a lot to play for. We’ve still got a good chance to get a good seed in the playoffs.”