ARMAGH – Even against a depleted United Lions squad, Blairsville coach Rick Artley wasn’t going to discount the Bobcats’ 36-6 win at Thomas Madill Field on Friday.
Lining up against a United squad that had 15 players dressed at kickoff, Blairsville put together enough in the way of splash plays to eventually overwhelm the hosts and give the Bobcats their first win in the Heritage Conference since a Week 3 triumph over Saltsburg this past season.
In fact, Blairsville is coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons, with just two wins in the Heritage Conference in that span.
Again, Artley was ready to savor Friday’s win.
“If we would have been one of the top teams the past few years, I’d have said: ‘This could be a trap game.’ ” Artley said. “But when you only have a couple of wins the last two years, and we’re a better team than what most people believed going into this season …
“These guys stuck together, and they worked hard all year. I think it’s a situation where it could be some trouble if it was a situation where we dominated for the past couple of years. These guys have struggled to get wins and every chance they play, they’re gonna bring their A-game as much as possible.”
On the other side of the ball, the game Lions were able to move the ball in chunks against Blairsville, but only put together one scoring drive – a 16-play trek that gobbled up almost all of an abbreviated 8-minute fourth quarter. Jacob Boring, pressed into quarterbacking duties after Eli Clevenger was lost to injury during a long first-quarter march, rushed in from 6 yards away to set the final with 12 seconds remaining.
Boring carried the ball 28 times for 111 yards, leading the Lions on the ground.
“Jake Boring came in and did a heck of a job for us,” United coach Kevin Marabito said. “He never quarterbacked a day in his life.”
After the teams exchanged fumbles on their opening possessions, Blairsville rattled off a six-play, 41-yard drive with Sincere McFarlin cashing in from 4 yards away. McFarlin added the conversion run to push the Bobcats’ lead to 8-0.
United moved the ball efficiently down the field, using back-to-back big gainers on their way to Blairsville’s 13 before Boring was stuffed on a fourth-and-6 run.
McFarlin didn’t have any such difficulties on the Bobcats’ next snap, dashing 86 yards to the end zone with 1:40 remaining in the first.
McFarlin, who rushed for 160 yards on 11 carries over the first two quarters, did not see the ball again in the first half after opening Blairsville’s first drive of the second quarter with a 23-yard burst. Quarterback Zak Artley finished the three-play march with a 24-yard scamper, making it 22-0 after Artley hooked up with Isaac Witmer on the conversion pass.
Blairsville saw its lead grow to 28-0 just over 2 minutes later when a United punt didn’t clear the line.
That attempted kick was snagged by Gabe Citeroni, who rambled 37 yards on the touchdown return.
McFarlin rushed in from 6 yards away late in the third to cap his output at 203 yards with the three scores. McFarlin’s night wasn’t perfect, however, as the tailback lost a pair of fumbles as Blairsville turned the ball over three times.
The teams had agreed to play just 16 minutes in the second half, and the Bobcats’ 36-point lead after McFarlin’s third score activated the running clock to accelerate an already swift second half.
“I respect what Coach Artley did,” Marabito said. “He did a great job of trying to not rub it in. He saw where we were, but I give our kids all the credit in the world.”