Bryce Bair-Jake Ardary-Trenton Boltz -Kole Lichtenfels-Luke Hribar

From left are Bishop McCort defensive back Bryce Bair, linebacker Jake Ardary, and defensive lineman Trenton Boltz watching their teammate linebacker Kole Lichtenfels recover a fumble in front of Forest Hills center Luke Hribar, during a PIAA Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference game in Sidman, PA., Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

SIDMAN – Bishop McCort Catholic was in a “taking” mood on Friday night.

The Crimson Crushers took away some of the celebratory vibes as a large crowd gathered for the first varsity football game played on the renovated G.H. Miller Field.

On the new artificial turf and under the bright LED lights, Bishop McCort forced five Forest Hills turnovers – four in the first half – and took a three-touchdown advantage in a Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference game between two teams desperate for a victory.

A dramatic comeback by the home team had the Rangers in position to win the game in the closing seconds. But Bishop McCort’s Jordan Page came up with his team’s third interception as the Crimson Crushers held on for a 21-15 win.

“It was huge getting the turnovers,” Bishop McCort coach Brian Basile said. “We talked about getting turnovers before the game and cashing them in. 

“Guys making plays. We talked about how it’s time for guys to start making plays.”

Bishop McCort (2-3) opened the game with a 13-play, 65-yard march that included heavy doses of runs by Brendon Bair (23 carries, 98 yards, two TDs). 

Quarterback Will Miller broke loose on an 18-yard touchdown run and Will Haslett’s extra point made it 7-0  with 5:39 left in the opening quarter.

“A special night here. What a great new field,” said Basile, a 1977 Forest Hills graduate. “We felt we had to get out to a fast start and keep the ball out of their hands. That was our game plan in the first half, just grind it out and keep the ball out of Myers’ hands. 

“You saw how quick he can take them down the field in the second half.”

Forest Hills was poised to answer after three solid runs resulted in a first down, but the Rangers lost the ball on a fumble recovered by Kole Lichtenfels at the 29-yard line.

Four plays later, Bair scored on a 4-yard burst to make it 14-0 at 2:12.

Forest Hills moved to the Crimson Crushers 31-yard line but Bishop McCort’s Grant Jeanjaquet intercepted a pass in the end zone. 

The Rangers forced a punt from the Bishop McCort 18-yard line, but Page recovered a fumble on the return. Bishop McCort took over at the Rangers’ 40. Jake Ardary’s 24-yard reception on a fourth-and-6 screen pass set up Bair’s 5-yard touchdown run with 1:39 left to make it 21-0.

“You can’t go anywhere without a line,” Bair said. 

“The guys up front were blocking and doing everything we asked them to do.”

Forest Hills moved to the Bishop McCort 14-yard line with 11 seconds left in the half. Amir Ortega-Andrews intercepted a pass on the final play of the quarter.

“We thought it was huge getting up three scores before the half,” Basile said. “But hats off to Forest Hills. We knew they’d battle us to the end. If anybody left at halftime, it’s their own fault. It went right down to the end and kept everybody on the edge of their seats.”

Forest Hills sophomore Damon Crawley stopped Miller on a run and stripped the ball before running 60 yards for a touchdown. Lucas Smay’s extra point pulled Forest Hills within 21-7 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.`

Crawley ran for 52 yards during a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by his 6-yard dash with 5:05 left in the game. He ran the 2-point conversion to make it 21-15.

Crawley finished with 86 rushing yards on 15 carries.

“Damon is a heck of an athlete and he has all the ability to be one of the best running backs in this league,” Forest Hills coach Justin Myers said. “He made some big plays offensively and defensively. He was probably the best player on both sides of the ball tonight.”

The Crimson Crushers had three first downs before turning over the ball on downs at the Rangers’ 19-yard line with 1:25 left.

Junior quarterback Zach Myers had completions of 11, 18 and 25 yards and narrowly missed on a potential home-run pass that just overshot a receiver in Crimson Crushers’ territory.

The Rangers moved to the Crushers 28-yard line, but an illegal shift moved the ball back 5 yards. On first down, Zach Myers (10 of 21, 153 yards) passed to the end zone, where Page intercepted and ran out the ball with :02 left.

“Our defense works hard and we play as hard as we can,” Bair said. “Every practice we always emphasize running to the ball, stripping the ball. That’s the little things that win you games.”

The Rangers remain winless through five games, though they were in tight games the past two weeks. 

Forest Hills is 0-5 for the first time since the 1974 team had to forfeit its first five games on the way to a 4-6 mark in Don Bailey’s first season as coach.

“We played very well in the second half of the game,” Justin Myers said. “The first half we came out and we didn’t play like we should have. At halftime we went in the locker room and there were no X’s and O’s. There was no need for X’s and O’s. It was a time for them to find their manhood and find out what they can do.

“They came out in the second half and they proved what Forest Hills Rangers football is supposed to be."

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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