The Coal Bowl hasn’t been played in seven years, but Northern Cambria High School football coach Sam Shutty already has heard plenty of chatter about renewing the series against border rival Cambria Heights.
“There is such a buzz in the community,” said Shutty, whose Colts will visit Patton to play a Heritage Conference contest on Friday night. “Living the glory days. You hear a lot of, ‘I remember when.’ It kind of gives you chills when you hear the nostalgia about this game.
“You talk about pride. You talk about heritage. This game brings that out.”
Cambria Heights leads the all-time series, which dates to 1960, by a 23-21-1 count.
The Highlanders won 35-7 in the last meeting in 2014.
“It was Week 11 and neither team made the playoffs that year. And, it was still very exciting,” Cambria Heights veteran coach Jarrod Lewis recalled of the 2014 meeting. “The communities rallied together. It kind of gave everybody a taste of that rivalry again because we played for three years in a row (2012-14) in that stretch.
“It really excited the fan bases again and the communities really rallied behind both teams. Then it went away again for a while. We didn’t know if we’d ever play each other again.”
The rivalry game, dubbed the Coal Bowl because of the two communities’ historic links to the mining industry dating back more than a century ago, used to be a fall tradition, often played on the final week of the season.
The teams will meet regularly now that the Highlanders have joined the nine-team Heritage Conference with Northern Cambria and seven other opponents.
“That’s our neighboring school,” said Lewis, whose team is 2-0. “They play on some teams (in other sports) with these guys. They play against these guys. A lot of the community members work together.
“It’s bragging rights. There probably will be more people at the stadium on Friday than most of these kids have played in front of.
“People will come to this game who maybe haven’t been to a game in five or six years.
“This is our first home game of the season. The fact that we get to play it in this game makes it extra special for us.”
Cambria Heights and Northern Cambria played each season from 1960 through 1992.
Since then, the game often was left off the schedule because of conference or district playoff conflicts. The Highlanders played in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and the Colts were in the Heritage.
The Coal Bowl was played in 1994, 1995 and 1997. Then there was a stretch of four straight meetings from 1999 to 2002 and games in 2004 and 2005.
A seven-year layoff followed until the rivals met three consecutive years from 2012-14.
Now, the series is back.
“It makes it special because we finally have a rivalry,” said Shutty, whose Colts dropped close games to conference heavyweights Purchase Line and Homer-Center in the opening weeks of this season.
“We’ve always been the lone school from Cambria County (in the Heritage),” Shutty said. “We kind of turned one into a (rivalry) with Penns Manor. But we’ve always been an outsider looking in. Now with Cambria Heights coming into our conference, we do have that connection.”
Cambria Heights posted a 6-4 record in the 1960s and again went 6-4 against the Colts in the 1970s.
Northern Cambria dominated the series in the 1980s with a 7-2-1 mark.
The Highlanders went 4-3 against the Colts in the 1990s and are 5-3 in the series since 2000.
The lone tie was a scoreless game in 1985.
Northern Cambria won six straight games from 1979 to 1984 before the ‘85 deadlock. The Highlanders beat the Colts 7-0 in 1986 and 10-0 in 1987, going three years without allowing a point in the series.
“Now the players and the team can know what their parents and grandparents talk about,” Lewis said. “It means a lot to our community and our players’ families as well.”
Penn Cambria junior quarterback Garrett Harrold has excelled on the ground and through the air for the 2-0 Panthers.
Harrold has rushed for 377 yards on 39 carries, second-best in the area. He also has passed for 284 yards, completing 21 of 41 passes.
The Panthers beat Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic 27-14 on Saturday at Mansion Park, the first Penn Cambria victory over the Marauders since 2011.
Harrold rushed for 235 yards, including touchdowns from 65 and 11 yards on Saturday. The Panthers netted 399 yards on the ground, including 109 by Zach Grove.
Conemaugh Township quarterback Tanner Shirley leads the area with 530 passing yards and is among the leaders with 133 rushing yards for the 1-1 Indians.
Just for kicks
Portage’s Dylan Tubbs is 9-of-10 on extra-point attempts and he made his only field goal attempt of the season from 43 yards in a 38-21 win over Meyersdale. Tubbs has an area-best 12 kicking points.
Right behind is Bedford’s Lizzy Martz, who has made 11-of-12 PATs.
Chestnut Ridge’s Jack Moyer also has 11 points, making each of his extra-point kicks.
Ligonier Valley’s Ryan Harbert is tied for the area lead with Penn Cambria’s Zach Eckenrode, as each has 27 tackles. Harbert has 13 solo stops.
The Rams are 2-0 in the WPIAL Class 2A Section 1 after a 26-14 win at Elizabeth Forward.
Ligonier Valley’s Jacob Hay leads the area with four sacks, and the Rams’ Billy Sugden has 21 tackles and three sacks.
Kaden Faas also has 21 stops and Miles Higgins has two sacks for Ligonier Valley.
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.