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Northern Cambria steals the homecoming laurels

Written by: on Sunday, October 5th, 2008

NEW FLORENCE, Pa. – For the fan of the rough-and-tumble, physical, run-oriented football game, look no further than District 6’s Heritage Conference.

If you’re looking for a team to play during your school’s homecoming weekend, don’t schedule Northern Cambria.

The Colts (3-3) scored a go-ahead touchdown with 2:34 left in the game, then denied the Rams (4-2) any chance of a comeback by knocking down a last-ditch pass attempt, escaping 12-8 Saturday afternoon in New Florence.

For Northern Cambria, the win was a welcome result – the Colts had had trouble with their run defense and had been outscored 76-43 in their last two games.

“We made a couple different changes,” Northern Cambria head coach Paul Taranto said.  “We brought a couple people up from the secondary.  I knew if we stopped the run, we had a very good chance at beating them.”

Stuff the run Northern Cambria did, holding the host Rams to just 81 yards on 37 carries.  For a Laurel Valley offense which averaged 181 yards rushing per game entering the day, the game rushing total was anything but a keeper stat.

“Give credit to Northern Cambria,” veteran head coach Gerald Page said.  “We told our kids that they had a better team than their 2-3 record indicated.

“Records,” Page continued, “don’t mean anything.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Colts staked themselves to a 6-0 lead with 8:28 left in the second quarter when Isaac Lieb scored on a two yard fullback dive.

The Lieb score capped an impressive nine play, 99-yard, 4:32 drive, and was highlighted by three Anthony Penska completions of 24, 42, and 14 yards.

But Laurel Valley could have had two additional first half scores, but the Rams’ red zone offense stalled twice, with drives ending at the Colts’ 1 and 15 yard lines, respectively.

The Rams, though, weren’t out of the game.  Senior Matt Black blocked a Ryan Novella punt late in the first half, and Laurel Valley cashed in on the miscue.  Patrick Hall found Paul Tantlinger on an eight-yard scoring pass, and following the successful two-point conversion, led the game, 8-6.

It seemed the 8-6 score would hold up for the remainder of the game.  Neither NC or LV could get much going in the third quarter, and both ground games were struggling to find any form of consistency.

Finally, with 7:09 left in the game, Northern Cambria got its break when the Rams connected on an 11-yard punt, giving the Colts the ball at the red and black 35 yard line.

Ten plays and 4:30 later, Penska followed his blocking and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a one yard keeper, giving the Colts a 12-8 lead.  The two-point conversion failed, leaving Laurel Valley with a chance to win the game with a touchdown.

But Hall’s fourth down pass intended for Tantlinger was batted down, and Northern Cambria took two knees to escape with a much-needed victory.

The Colts rushed for just 78 yards in the game, paced by Lieb’s 12 carries for 42 yards and Andrew Paronish’s 16 carries for 41 yards.

Novella caught three passes for 80 yards and Scott Knar chipped in with four catches for 50 yards.  Penska threw for 134 yards on the day.

Laurel Valley’s leading rusher, Marcus Welshons, was held to 14 yards on 13 carries.  Chris Morrow added 26 rushing yards for the Rams, while Clayton Nanassy added 29 yards on nine attempts.

Tantlinger caught three passes for 54 yards and the touchdown, while Hall ran for 12 yards and threw for another 73.

“(This game was either) a good one to win or a tough one to lose,” Page said.  “This week, we didn’t come out on top.”

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