Richland v. Forest Hills football.jpg

Forest Hills quarterback Adam Cecere pitches to a running back during a PIAA Laurel Highlands conference game against Richland, at Richland High School in Johnstown, PA., Friday, Sept.7, 2018.

SIDMAN – A third-quarter goal-line stand helped Forest Hills secure a narrow 16-12 victory over visiting Penn Cambria Friday night.

Heavy rain and thick mud kept both teams from moving the ball well after the break. Penn Cambria had the best offensive possession of the second half, driving all the way to Forest Hills’ 2-yard line late in the third quarter – but the Rangers stuffed the Panthers on all four downs, preserving what turned out to be the margin of victory.

“We have an offense that is predicated on quickness, and the mud was the great equalizer,” Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said. “It took away our quickness. It took away our passing game. A slugfest is what it ended up being. We just made a goal-line stand. Otherwise, they would have beaten us. They had first and goal at the two, and we stopped them all four downs. That was the difference in who won and who lost.”

Forest Hills quarterback Adam Cecere led an eight-play scoring drive on the Rangers’ opening possession. He ran for 56 of the drive’s 62 yards, including a 22-yard fourth-down scamper that set the Rangers up on Penn Cambria’s 1-yard line and a 1-yard scoring keeper on the next play. He also ran in the two-point conversion, giving his side an early 8-0 lead.

After a Panther three-and-out, the Rangers took advantage of a pass interference penalty to set up near midfield. Cecere darted for a first down on a 13-yard keeper, then connected with Jake Delic for a 41-yard scoring strike three plays later. Delic and Cecere also hooked up on the two-point conversion, making it 16-0.

Penn Cambria quickly responded with a scoring drive that featured a 28-yard pass from Jacob Tsikalas to Nick Marinak and a 22-yard rumble by Derek Brown, who went over 1,000 yards for the season during the game. A 7-yard touchdown pass from Tsikalas to Richard Perrone capped off the drive and cut the Rangers’ lead to 16-6.

Penn Cambria added another score on the final play of the first half as Tsikalas hit Carter Smith for an 11-yard scoring strike with no time left on the clock, trimming the lead to 16-12 at the half and setting the final.

The field was close to unplayable in the second half as both teams struggled with footing.

Penn Cambria’s third-quarter drive was set up by a defensive stand that gave the Panthers the ball at Forest Hills’ 18. Brown rushed four times on the drive’s first four plays, giving Penn Cambria a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

Brown ran for a yard on first down. On second down, Tsikalas tried a keeper, but was stopped for no gain. On third down, Brown powered into the right side of the line of scrimmage. One official signaled fourth down, while another official signaled touchdown. After some discussion, it was decided that the ball was short, setting up fourth down.

On fourth down, Tsikalas fumbled, turning the ball over to the Rangers. Neither team got close to scoring the rest of the game, and Forest Hills held on for the win.

“Both teams had to play in it,” said Penn Cambria coach John Franco. “It’s football. It’s what you do. You play in weather like this, and you find ways to make plays. We had a first and goal inside the five. We have to score. If we score, we probably win the game, and we came away without anything. That just killed us.”

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