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Big fourth quarter propels Forest Hills to victory

Written by: on Friday, October 16th, 2009

CRESSON, Pa. – Mucking through the Penn Cambria football field pregame Friday, Forest Hills’ veteran head coach Don Bailey was faced with yet another wet week.

“This is the 5th time in seven games that it has rained,” Bailey lamented. “We’ve got a good passing quarterback, but we just haven’t been able to throw the ball.”

It turns out that the passing game worked quite well this night.

Forest Hills (7-0) went to the air early and finished strong on the ground late, punishing Penn Cambria (5-2) with 20 points in a span of less than six minutes in the fourth quarter to win 27-6. The victory secured a conference championship for the Rangers, who finished undefeated in their slate of league games.

Neither team got a lot going in the first quarter, battling through the rain, snow, and even a little sleet to a scoreless tie. Penn Cambria finished the opening stanza with 18 total yards of offense, including minus-7 yards passing. Forest Hills fared slightly better, tallying 56 yards and four first downs.

The Rangers drew first blood when quarterback Zach Glessner hit a 19-yard touchdown pass to Chris Moss on a fade rout. The Rangers used an intermediate passing game initially, hitting receivers underneath the Panthers’ soft pass coverage.

“Once we got them inching (up), we threw a fade and beat them for a touchdown,” Bailey said.

But Penn Cambria struck like lightning. All-everything athlete Zak Newton, a Division-1 prospect, returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown, slicing the Ranger lead to 7-6. Newton’s two-point conversion keeper failed.

“He brings it to the table every night,” said Panther head coach Ernie Fetzer. Newton finished with 148 yards rushing and 156 yards of total offense for Penn Cambria.

From there, the game turned to a mudder’s brawl. The 7-6 score held up through halftime, and through the third quarter. Both teams were, figuratively, spinning their tires, that is, until Forest Hills erupted.

The luck started bouncing the way of the Rangers when Nick Dudukovich took a weak-side toss and scooted 34 yards to the end zone, giving Forest Hills a 14-6 lead.

Penn Cambria responded with a first down on its next drive, but what would have been a key third down conversion for a second first down on an 11-yard pass was negated by a motion penalty. That was PC’s second penalty of the night, and it proved to be very, very costly.

“It doesn’t come down to one play,” Fetzer said. “I thought we played very well for three and a half quarters tonight. They’re a very good football team and very balanced.”

Forced to punt, Newton kicked a line drive which rolled into the waiting hands of Moss, who took off for a 67-yard return to the Penn Cambria three. Three plays later, Chris Lazration scored from a yard out on his only carry of the game, and Forest Hills led, 21-6.

The Panthers muffed the ensuing kickoff, and Forest Hills recovered at the PC 48 yard line. Two plays later, Dudukovich took another weak-side toss and took it 45 yards to the house, sealing Penn Cambria’s fate and the Rangers’ conference championship.

“Nick Dudukovich is the type of player…you bottle him up all night long and then all of a sudden, he busts a big one,” Bailey said.

Correction. He busted two big ones. #23 finished the night with 160 rushing yards on 18 carries. As a team, Forest Hills ran for 202 yards – 149 of them came in the second half.

Glessner finished the game 11-of-18 for 151 yards and a touchdown. He’s now thrown for 589 yards and five scores this season.

Forest Hills totaled 353 yards of offense and 16 first downs. Penn Cambria, meanwhile, registered just eight first downs, 179 yards of total offense, and only eight yards passing. Take away Newton’s 156 yards of total offense, and the Panthers were limited to just 23 yards in the game.

NOTE: The win gives Bailey 297 victories in his career, leaving him three shy of the 300-win club. Bailey didn’t want to talk about that before or after the game, and hopes that a countdown to the milestone doesn’t happen.

Bailey’s now 297-80-8 through the midst of his 36th season at Forest Hills, a tenure during which he’s only coached three teams with losing records.

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