Through two weeks, the Central Cambria defense has taken the concept of opportunistic play to another level.

The Red Devils have produced 11 takeaways en route to the program’s first 2-0 start since 2010.

Last week in a 55-22 victory over border rival Penn Cambria, coach Shane McGregor’s squad had seven takeaways, four of those either directly or eventually resulting in touchdowns that enabled the Red Devils to take home the Goal Post Trophy.

“A Complete 180 from last year,” McGregor said of the turnover frenzy.  “It was a concerted effort by our staff and by our kids. We felt last year we weren’t aggressive enough. We wanted to force the issue.

“Historically Central Cambria has always been an attacking, aggressive type of defense.”

That was the case in Cresson on Friday.

Luca Tsikalas had two interceptions and recovered a fumble on which the junior stole the ball from the return man on the opening kickoff and ran 22 yards for a touchdown 14 seconds into the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference game.

One  of Tsikalas’ picks was an impressive over the shoulder grab that the defensive back returned 44 yards to the 25-yard line, setting up Dylan Long’s 1-yard TD run.

Freshman defensive back Nolan Wyrwas picked off a pass near the goal line and returned it the length of the field for a 99-yard touchdown.

“Everitt Fryer put pressure on the quarterback. He didn’t get a sack. You’re not going to get in the paper for it,” McGregor said. “But that makes a quarterback uncomfortable, he throws it early and we intercept the pass and it goes the other way for a pick-six.”

Fryer also returned an interception 31 yards for a score and Levi Keiper recovered a fumble and ran 40 yards for another touchdown.

“We faced some more pass heavy teams the first two weeks and interceptions go to the defensive backs, but a lot of times you can contribute that to the defensive line,” McGregor said. 

“We want to bring more heat, make offenses uncomfortable.”

This week’s challenge will be formidable. The Red Devils host Westmont Hilltop, a team with one of the conference’s most dominant lines and a rushing attack opponents have difficulty stopping.

The Hilltoppers are capable of chewing up an entire quarter of game clock on one drive.

“Westmont is going to be a big adjustment for us,” McGregor said.

“Making plays. That’s going to win you a game,” he added. “You’ve got to sustain drives. You’ve got to score.”

• Silk to Kiski: Former United all-state player Kyle Silk announced on Twitter on Sunday that he will attend Kiski School, a private school located in Saltsburg.

“I’m glad to say that I will be playing my senior year of football at Kiski Prep,” Silk Tweeted.

Silk had transferred to Ligonier Valley High School after his junior year at United and was on the Rams football roster during the preseason. District 6 declared Silk ineligible after a 9-8 vote on Aug. 7. The PIAA voted 5-0 to uphold District 6’s ruling after an appeal. 

Kiski School is not a member of the PIAA.

A versatile quarterback, Silk led the area with 241 points, including 31 touchdowns, as United advanced to the 2018 District 6 Class A championship game/state quarterfinal round.  

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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