By BILL ALBRIGHT
Western PA Writer
NEW CASTLE — It wasn’t pretty at times, but for the New Castle Hurricanes, it was their fifth win in a row Friday night as they outlasted the Ambridge Bridgers,47-28, in a wild-and-wooly affair at Taggart Stadium.
After losses to Butler, Indiana and Blackhawk to begin the season, things looked rather bleak for the Hurricanes.
However, since that time, they have turned things completely around as they have reeled off five straight wins to qualify for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs that begin in two weeks.
As for the turnaround, NC quarterback Michael Bongivengo offered his thoughts on why it happened.
“We all decided on the Monday when we came back from that third loss and said, hey, we have to turn this thing around,” the quarterback said. “We knew we had a team that could do it and it was just a matter of getting confidence in ourselves to get it done.”
When asked why the slow start, Necahi coach Frank Bongivengo said it was puzzling for both the players and coaches.
“We were definitely scratching our heads at 0-3,” said New Castle head coach Frank Bongivengo. “We never expected to be at that point after the first three games, but we were. But where we are now is a tribute to these kids because they worked even harder. That is why they put themselves back in the position they are now.”
With the five wins, the Hurricanes are now 5-3 overall, but more importantly, they find themselves all alone on top of the Parkway Conference standings with a 5-1 log with two games left to play in the regular season.
“Right now we can do no worse than to tie for the conference title,” Bongivengo said. “Blackhawk and us each have one loss and I am assuming that Blackhawk won tonight over Moon. They (Blackhawk) have one more game next week against Ambridge so that (tied) is the worst we can be.”
As for the turn-around, Bongivengo said it was simply a matter of hard work and the desire to win.
“I am fully ecstatic with the way these guys have turned this around,” said Bongivengo. “I am really happy with the way they have progressed to this point in the season and I am especially happy with the way they want to win right now. When they take the field, they feel there is no team that can beat them.”
One major ingredient in the recent success of the Hurricanes has been the play of Michael Bongivengo, the son of the head coach.
In the win over Ambridge, the younger Bongivengo had yet another outstanding game as he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another. A look at the final stats had him with 15 completions on 22 attempts for 211 yards and the three scores.
“He is the guy that makes everything work,” said coach Bongivengo of his son. “We put a lot of pressure on his shoulders, he calls the plays, he calls our pass coverage’s and he is the guy who makes it go. He has made it go all year.”
When Bongivengo wasn’t filling the air with forward passes, Keith Keene was doing his thing on the ground as the junior tailback finished with 214 yards on 23 attempts and two touchdowns. Keene scored on jaunts of 58 and 35 yards.
Brandon Burley also had a big night for the ‘Canes with a pair of touchdowns, one on the ground and another through the airways, while Jajuan Jay also came up big by scoring the first two New Castle touchdowns of the night on TD receptions of 39 and 14 yards from Bongivengo.
If there was one thing that didn’t set well with Bongivengo in the win was the defense, after completely shutting the Bridgers down in the first half, allowed them to score 28 points in the second half.
“I just told the kids that I wasn’t happy with the way they let down in the second half,” he said. “We had them down 28-0 and all of a sudden, we allowed them to come down and score a few times and they kept scoring. Good teams don’t do that and that is one thing we have to get under control.”
As for the win over the Bridgers, the younger Bongivengo said it was just a simple matter of a good team effort.
“Everybody did what they had to do tonight,” said the quarterback. “The line was doing a good job blocking and our guys were getting open. When that happens and I can get the ball to my guys, I am pretty sure they are going to make some plays for us.”
After a slow start, Ambridge quarterback Zach Nichi came on strong in the second half to finish with 209 yards passing good for four touchdowns. At halftime, Nichi showed only one completion on 13 attempts before warming up his right arm.
Nichi’s favorite target was Kolby Addis who caught a half dozen balls, three of them for scores covering 12, 37 and 11 yards.
Not only did the two teams combine to score a total of 75 points in the game, they also got together for 760 total yards, the Hurricanes showing 523 yards of total offense while the Bridgers chipped in with another 237.