SALTSBURG — Saltsburg struck for two long touchdown passes in the first five minutes of the game Friday night and United never recovered.
Senior quarterback Josh Gibbons connected on a 52-yard touchdown strike with junior wide receiver David Stuller three plays into the game.
On the third play of the second series, Gibbons hit senior wide receiver Cade Grguric with an 80-yard scoring strike and the Trojans cruised to a 35-14 victory in a Heritage Conference game on homecoming.
“We were able to make some plays in the passing game early,” Saltsburg coach Mike Leasure said. “Josh made some nice throws, some nice plays. David Stuller had a heck of a catch. Cade Grguric had a great big game.
“It was just a great night by our guys on offense.”
In addition to the two touchdown tosses, Gibbons completed 9 of 13 passes for 255 yards and went over 1,000 for the season.
All but 23 of his passing yards came in the first half, when he also engineered three other scoring drives, capped by touchdown runs of 2 and 12 yards by junior Gino Bartolini and a 23-yard scamper by sophomore Angelo Bartolini.
A blocked punt helped set up Gino Bartolini’s score, and Grguric’s 71-yard reception paced the way for Angelo Bartolini’s touchdown.
Grguric had four catches for 158 yards in the opening 24 minutes for Saltsburg, which led 35-0 at the intermission en route to improving to 4-2. The Trojans are closing in on their first winning season since 1996.
“We were able to run the ball,” Leasure said. “It was good to see. We had a good mixture of plays, running and passing. I was really proud of the way the kids came out firing and happy they didn’t have a letdown.”
Angelo Bartolini had 67 yards on five carries and Gino Bartolini managed 48 yards on nine attempts against United (0-6), which scored both of its touchdowns against Saltsburg’s backups in the fourth quarter with a running clock.
Junior quarterback/running back Hunter Cameron scored on a 2-yard run and sophomore Jacob Boring on a 23-yard run with 26 seconds left.
The 14 points were two more than the Lions had scored in three previous games, which were sandwiched around two forfeits due to a lack of players.
“Those two big pass plays put us in a hole early,” United coach Kevin Marabito said. “But overall, I thought we improved.
“I give Saltsburg credit a lot of credit. They didn’t try to rub it in and subbed in the second half and our kids got some excitement with a few touchdowns.
“We just told the kids at half not to quit and they didn’t.”
Cameron had 68 yards rushing at halftime and finished with 147 yards on 22 carries. It was his first 100-yard rushing game this season.
Boring added 81 yards on 10 carries against the Saltsburg subs.
“Cameron is unbelievable — he just doesn’t go down,” Leasure said. “It shows the character he has to be the leader of that team. He just keeps going no matter what the situation is.”
Marabito said Cameron, who rushed for an area-best 2,187 yards last year in helping lead the Lions to the District 6 Class 1A championship game, is finally starting to get healthy after being banged up early in the season.
“Hunter is just a terrific young man,” Marabito said. “He busts his rear end in practice and does it in the games. “He gives it everything he has, and there’s not much more you can ask than that.”