HOMER CITY – Northern Cambria had just moved 68 yards in 10 plays to open the second half of a District 6 Class A playoff game at Homer-Center High School’s Memorial Field.
Owen Prasko’s 36-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play pulled the 11th-seeded Colts within six points of the sixth-seeded Wildcats.
Northern Cambria seemingly had grabbed the momentum. Then, Homer-Center senior return man Cobe Daugherty took the ensuing kickoff, maneuvered around defenders and found the open field on a 76-yard touchdown run that put the Wildcats on track to a 24-6 victory.
“I just saw a big gap on the right side so I just followed my blockers,” said Daugherty, a back who later made a 10-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Ben Schmidt on a gadget play.
“I made it out and got into the end zone.”
Homer-Center (7-4) used a balanced offense, the big return and a stout defense to earn a spot in the 6-A quarterfinal round at third-seeded Juniata Valley next Saturday. Northern Cambria (4-7) closed the season.
“Just like this game, there was a lot of ups and downs this season,” Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty said after his team’s two-game winning streak ended. “That’s how it goes sometimes in high school.
“We were able to kind of come together as a team the last three or four games and do some good things. I’m proud of our boys. I hate to see them go.”
Schmidt returned from injury last week in a 16-15 win over Shade in the Heritage Conference-WestPAC crossover series.
The junior certainly looked healthy while rushing 15 times for 143 yards and passing for 114 yards against Northern Cambria.
He also had a TD reception.
“They had a good game plan on both sides of the ball,” Shutty said. “We weren’t sure how good Schmidt was going to be.
“Obviously he’s at full health and running hard and doing a good job for his team. We knew he was going to be tough to stop.”
Homer-Center opened the game with a nine-play scoring drive capped by Justin Walbeck’s 1-yard run at 8:03.
Walbeck scored on a 5-yard run to make it 12-0 after one quarter.
“Our line was able to execute pretty well. We were able to get balanced,” Schmidt said.
Northern Cambria opened the second half featuring Kopera, who gained 35 yards on seven carries during the TD drive. Prasko broke his big fourth-down scoring run.
Northern Cambria’s single-season rushing leader, Kopera had 111 yards on 21 carries.
Prasko gained 65 yards on six rushes.
“We go down and convert a fourth-and-short and score a touchdown,” Shutty said. “We talk about leaders emerging and someone stepping up. Prasko does that, and then we turn around and give them a score.
“It’s a game. You have ups and downs,” he said. “You have to be able to bounce back. But it’s tough when you get up and you’re right back down.”
Schmidt said the return pumped up the Wildcats.
“That was huge,” Schmidt said. “It was a one-touchdown game. Cobe took it to the house.
“That was huge for us.”
On fourth-and-6, Daugherty took a pitch, ran to his left and then passed to Schmidt, who got into the end zone with 2:27 remaining in the game.
“We kind of just threw it in a little bit ago,” Daugherty said.
“We decided to throw it in to trick them up and get a quick little score.”