WINDBER – As the reigning Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference champions, Richland is expected to get every team’s best shot on a weekly basis. Friday was no different, as an urgent 0-2 Forest Hills squad jumped ahead early as the Rams faced their first deficit of the season.
Richland had the requisite response on the ensuing series. One week after tallying 85 rushing and 410 passing yards, the Rams used a more balanced approach with 329 rushing and 225 passing yards (554 total yards) against Forest Hills. A 27-point third quarter helped Richland soar with a 54-12 victory at Windber Stadium.
“As an alum, I was proud of the way Forest Hills’ kids played,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “I told our kids in the locker room, ‘Their backs are against the wall, they don’t want to go 0-3. They’re going to come out fighting, clawing and scratching with everything they have.’ That’s exactly what they did.
“Our kids responded. We came back, took care of business and did what we needed to do to get a big win.”
Forest Hills fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2000. After scoring a touchdown on their first drive, the Rangers failed to capitalize on the early momentum.
“Our kids came out fired up this week,” Forest Hills coach Justin Myers said. “The kids were awesome all week long.
“In the first half, I thought we played great. If you take away a couple of their big plays, we’re right there at halftime.”
Forest Hills forced a Richland punt to begin the game. A 73-yard pass from Zach Myers to Brad Madigan on third-and-24 flipped the field. Jake Delic’s cutback run went for a 7-yard score to ignite the home crowd. The conversion run failed midway through the first.
Richland needed just five plays and 1:20 to answer. After Trevor Tustin’s 39-yard scamper, Kellan Stahl (10-for-17 with 168 passing yards and four total touchdowns, three rushing) rolled right after a play-action fake and found Caleb Burke for a 6-yard touchdown connection. Jacob Sabol’s conversion run put the Rams ahead for good with 4:00 left in the first.
Using their patented no-huddle offense, the Rams traveled 74 yards in five plays, taking 1:41 off the clock. Stahl rolled to his right and found Koby Bailey for an 8-yard touchdown early in the second.
After Forest Hills turned it over on downs, Stahl hit Burke on a curl route.
The dynamic senior cut back against the grain and outraced the defensive pursuit on a 35-yard touchdown. Colin Pawcio’s kick made it 21-6 at halftime.
Forest Hills fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half. Tustin (134 rushing yards on seven carries) found paydirt from 10 yards out for the touchdown, which was the first of three in a span of 28 seconds.
Damon Crawley picked the ensuing kickoff up at his own 8, burst through a seam and outraced the kicker for a 92-yard touchdown return.
On a squib kick, Tustin retrieved the ball at his own 23 and accelerated to the left sideline on a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“It was kind of wild,” Bailey said of the sequence including back-to-back kickoffs returned for touchdowns. “We didn’t want to kick to 5 (Crawley). He does a great job, ran it back and scored. Trevor Tustin is a phenomenal athlete. We had a great return set up, he found the hole and nobody could catch him.”
Touchdown runs by Stahl (12 yards) and Tyler Reed (2 yards) increased the Richland advantage. Autumn Facci’s extra point made it 48-12, which started the running clock with 4:43 left in the third.
In the fourth, Ryan McGowan caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Sam Penna to close the scoring.
Forest Hills was held to minus-17 rushing yards and 131 total yards.