NORTHERN CAMBRIA – Doubt started setting into the minds of the Northern Cambria players at halftime Friday night. Sam Shutty could see it in his players’ eyes and body language.
Trailing by double digits to West Shamokin following an uninspired first half, the Colts saw their undefeated season slipping away. But their fortunes changed in a big way in a wild, up-and-down fourth quarter.
Northern Cambria scored 29 straight points in the final quarter and stormed back from a 14-point deficit to claim a 49-48 victory over West Shamokin in a Heritage Conference football game at Duffy Daugherty Stadium to improve to 4-0 and remain atop the conference standings.
Owen Prasko ran for 113 yards and four touchdowns, Isaac Noll had a team-leading 141 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Colts survived.
“At halftime, I thought we were down and out,” Shutty said. “Our kids were doubting. You could see it in their eyes, and we as coaches, it’s our job to raise their level and raise their expectations to get them to believe that we can come back. We did it last year. We were down by two scores (against West Shamokin) last year and we did come back. But not in that fashion.”
West Shamokin scored with 29 seconds to play in the third quarter and took a 34-20 lead entering the fourth. After a long return on the ensuing kickoff, the Colts took over on the Wolves’ 30-yard line and they put together a quick-hitting scoring drive, capped by Noll’s 5-yard touchdown run, to get within 34-27 with 10:10 to play in the game.
Northern Cambria then blocked a punt on the Wolves’ next possession, and Noll scored again on a 1-yard plunge with 6:08 to play to bring the Colts within 34-33. After a successful two-point conversion, the Colts took their first lead of the game, 35-34.
Three plays later, the Colts’ Peyton Myers intercepted West Shamokin quarterback Bo Swartz near midfield, and his return along with a Wolves’ penalty set up Northern Cambria at the West Shamokin 12-yard line with less than five minutes to play.
Gavin Dumm scored on a 6-yard run with 3:38 remaining, and following another successful two-point conversion, the Colts took a 43-34 lead. But the excitement was far from over.
Two offensive plays later, West Shamokin fumbled, and Prasko stretched the Colts’ lead to 49-34 on a 41-yard touchdown run with 2:54 to play, his fourth rushing touchdown of the night.
But West Shamokin wouldn’t go away. The Wolves needed just four plays to cover 70 yards on their ensuing possession and Swartz’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Owen Stover brought them within 49-42 with 1:59 remaining in the fourth.
West Shamokin then recovered an onside kick and scored just 26 seconds later on Swartz’s fourth touchdown pass of the night, getting within 49-48 with 1:33 to play. Rather than kicking the extra point, the Wolves went for a two-point conversion, but Swartz’s pass fell incomplete.
West Shamokin attempted another onside kick, but this time the Colts recovered, and Northern Cambria took over, got a first down and ran out the clock.
West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough said he doesn’t regret going for the two-point conversion with the game on the line.
“Not at all,” he said. “We were playing to win the game. That was our thought process there.”
“What can you say?” Shutty said. “It is as expected. I told our boys yesterday and in pregame, I expect nothing less than a nail-biter. It’s going to come down to the last minute of the game or last second because every time we play this team … it comes down to the last person who has the ball.”
West Shamokin scored on its first possession of the game, putting together an 11-play, 71-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead with 4:53 to play in the opening quarter.
Prasko scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard run with 9:38 to play in the second quarter to bring the Colts within 7-6. The teams exchanged touchdowns on the ensuing two possessions, with Prasko’s 4-yard scoring run bringing the Colts within 14-12 at the 3:09 mark.
The Wolves scored again on their next possession for a 20-12 lead, and after Northern Cambria quarterback Michael Hoover was intercepted with just over a minute to play in the first half, Swartz connected with Stover for a 50-yard touchdown pass, giving the visitors a 28-12 halftime lead.
In the final 52 seconds of the first half, the Colts drove the ball inside West Shamokin’s 5-yard line, but they couldn’t capitalize as their drive stalled.
They certainly atoned for it in the second half.
“The first half just wasn’t good,” said senior Gavin Dumm, who added 43 rushing yards and a score. “It just seemed like everyone’s head was off their bodies. We couldn’t execute anything. … As soon as I walked in the locker room, everyone’s heads were down. Everyone was quiet, but just the speech Shutty gave us, I think it turned it around for everyone.”