BLAIRSVILLE – Northern Cambria outshined Blairsville in most major offensive categories. One exception: The scoreboard.
The Bobcats forced four turnovers and made the Colts pay for nearly every one of them as Blairsville secured a 22-12 victory on Friday night in a Heritage Conference football game at Ernie Widmar Field at Memorial Stadium.
Northern Cambria rolled up 396 yards, and limited Blairsville to 160 total yards. Blairsville junior Devin Witmer intercepted Mike Hoover three times, however, and the Bobcats recovered a fumble as well.
“We’re sloppy. Our theme this week has been execution and getting better at the small things, the little things,” Colts coach Sam Shutty said. “I thought we had a really good week at practice with execution, how to adjust and how to get things done in the thick of things. And it really didn’t show tonight.”
Northern Cambria committed seven penalties for 85 yards. Several of those infractions wiped out big-yardage plays.
“I’m really disappointed in the fact we weren’t able to persevere through penalties and things like that,” Shutty said. “Just mental breakdowns, mistakes. The things that plagued us all year, and the things that we really, really spent a lot of time on.”
Isaac Witmer gathered in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Zak Artley in the first quarter. Artley found Sincere McFarlin for the two-point conversion pass to stake Blairsville to an 8-0 lead.
Hoover, making his first start at quarterback since Sept. 13, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Owen Prasko in the second quarter to pull the Colts within two. The junior missed two previous games because of a high ankle sprain that he suffered on Sept. 13 at Purchase Line.
“(The ankle) was fine. It was good. No problems,” said Hoover, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 246 yards.
“I made a lot of bad decisions out there. I played a bad game; plain and simple. I had to play better.”
Devin Witmer played despite missing two days of practice, according to Blairsville coach Rick Artley, because of an elbow injury.
“We weren’t sure if he was even going to be able to make it tonight,” Artley said. “He got the clearance from his doctor. And for him to have three interceptions tonight, that was key.”
A scoreless third quarter preceded a two-touchdown outburst by McFarlin. He wrapped scores of 29 and 50 yards around Hoover’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Dumm.
Blairsville managed but 52 rushing yards. McFarlin led the Bobcats with 80 rushing yards, nearly all of which came in the second half.
Artley summarized it as a classic case of the pass setting up the run.
“At the start of that second half we looked to throw the ball more,” Artley said. “And when we threw the ball more, I think it opened up. But then we started running back inside, and they started coming inside. And we were able to get on the outside, and that’s when (McFarlin) made his most yardage.”
The Colts’ Adam Kopera led all rushers with 113 yards on 22 attempts. Prasko led all receivers with eight catches for 80 yards.
“We made stops. They moved the ball well. Mike’s a good quarterback, and he threw some good balls down the field,” Artley said.
The Colts (2-5) play host to conference-leading Ligonier Valley on Friday night. No one needs to remind Shutty of the tall order Northern Cambria faces.
“At this point I think right now we have to see the character of our team,” Shutty said. “I told those guys, ‘I’m not going to stop working. I don’t care if we’re playing an NFL team. You’re part of this team; I’m part of this team. We made a commitment to each other at the start of camp that we’re going to work hard for each other.’ I’m going to continue to do that as long as there’s a football season, and we have a football game and we have a football team.
“I’m going to work hard as I can and I expect them to work as hard as they can.
“And I think we’re going to have a good practice; and whatever happens happens. But we’ve got to get better regardless.”