CRESSON – Will Miller looked like a pinball, ricocheting off three would-be tacklers before coming to rest in the end zone.
It might have been high school football, but Miller and Bishop McCort clearly had host Penn Cambria on tilt.
Miller scored on three first-half runs – the third an 18-yarder on which he wouldn’t be denied – and the Crimson Crushers bounced back from an early deficit for a 49-22 Laurel Highlands Conference victory on Friday night at Penn Cambria Athletic Field.
“We played with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” Miller said after Bishop McCort won for the third week in a row. “The first drive didn’t go well for us, but we responded after that and played a pretty solid game.”
After turning the ball over and giving up a quick touchdown, Bishop McCort scored on its next four possessions. Then, after Carter Smith’s 5-yard run in the final minute of the second quarter appeared to give the hosts momentum heading into the half, a 15-yard personal foul and a 39-yard pass from Miller to Jordan Page got the Crushers inside the Penn Cambria 20 with a half-minute before the intermission.
Miller scored two plays later, as Bishop McCort raised its record to 4-3.
“We always talk about handling adversity. Every day of your life you’re going to have it. How you handle it is going to determine where you’re going to be,” Bishop McCort coach Brian Basile said. “We overcame it. It was a good test for us.”
Bishop McCort hit hard on defense and hit big plays on offense. In addition to the Miller-to-Page connection, the Crushers had three plays of more than 30 yards: a 39-yard option pass from Bryce Bair to Page, Page’s 84-yard punt return for a touchdown and Brendon Bair’s 49-yard gallop for six on fourth-and-1 for McCort’s third of four touchdowns in the second quarter.
“I think that early touchdown really woke us up,” said Brendon Bair, who ran for a game-high 93 yards on 11 carries and later tacked on a 17-yard touchdown run. “Playing on the road, sometimes you fall asleep, and I think we did a really good job to get back on track.”
After the Panthers scored on their second offensive play, Hannah Saleme’s crowning as homecoming queen turned out to be one of the few highlights of the evening for Penn Cambria (1-6).
The Panthers got 173 yards in total offense from Garrett Harrold, including a late 24-yard scoring pass to Brandon Storm, and only was outgained 269-253. But Penn Cambria also turned the ball over four times and committed seven penalties.
“We just have to do a better job with execution. I told the kids after the game it was the little things,” Penn Cambria coach Nick Felus said. “It came down to about four big plays.”
It only took Penn Cambria 2:11 to get on the board, Zach Grove taking it in from the 4 two plays after Jacob Davis snatched a fumble out of the air at the Crusher 20.
Bishop McCort, however, came right back to take a 14-6 advantage by scoring on Miller sneaks on each of its two subsequent possessions. Miller, who rushed for 57 yards, kept the first drive alive by twice using a hard count to draw the Panthers offside and move the chains. Bryce Bair took a pitchout and found Page 39 yards down to the Penn Cambria 1 to set up the second score.
After the Crimson Crushers held Penn Cambria on the next possession, Page raced 84 yards up the visiting sideline to paydirt.
“The blockers got me a lane, and I was able to take it upfield. That was a big momentum-pusher,” Page said. “We gave up the early touchdown, but the big plays put us right back where we needed to be.”
Brendon Bair’s second touchdown run came in the third quarter after a problem with a punt snap gave McCort a short field. Page then made a spectacular interception, and Basile began giving his reserves playing time with a 27-point lead.
“We had a rough start (this season), but we re-evaluated, and now we’re all coming together,” Bishop McCort senior lineman Nick McGowan said.
“We’ve just been picking it up ever since.”