Blairsville back in Heritage race
Defending champion Blairsville jumped into the thick of the Heritage Conference race with an impressive 28-8 Homecoming win against previously undefeated Saltsburg at Memorial Stadium.
The Bobcats (4-1) dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, grinding out 225 yards rushing and four touchdowns while keeping the high-powered Trojans offense in check.
The Bobcats limited Saltsburg to 24 yards on the ground and harassed quarterback Marty Steele.
Blairsville also got solid play from two sophomores, quarterback Adam Highberger and running back Nick Stone.
“We felt we could control the game, and we felt the best way to defend was to eat some clock. Our running game really clicked tonight,” Blairsville coach Ab Dettorre said.
The Bobcats had three TD drives of 60 yards or more that used at least 10 plays each, starting with their first possession of the game.
Blairsville got the ball on its own 39-yard line after forcing Saltsburg to punt on its opening possession. Highberger completed a pair of third-down passes to Stone for first downs then ran 18 yards to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Matt Strope (76 yards on 21 carries) ran two yards for the score. Kevin Garland added the first of his four PATs to give the Bobcats an early 7-0 lead.
Stone set up the next score, stripping the ball from Jamal Moore on a punt, giving the Bobcats the ball on the Trojans 19-yard line. Highberger hit Strope with a 17-yard pass on third-and-15. Mike Gaston scored from two yards out two plays later to give Blairsville a 14-0 lead with 29 seconds left in the quarter.
The Bobcats pushed the lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter with an 11-play, 61-yard drive highlighted by Stone’s 15-yard sweep. Strope capped the drive with his second TD of the night, a five-yard run. Steve Wilk stopped a Saltsburg threat in the second quarter with an interception in the endzone.
Steele and Mike Dunlap tried to get the Trojans back in the game on their first possession of the second half. Dunlap (five catches for 90 yards) caught a 37-yard bomb and a 14-yarder on third down, then capped the drive with a two-yard scoring toss from Steele. The pair combined on the two-point conversion to close the gap to 21-8.
Blairsville responded with a 65-yard, 10-play drive capped by Highberger’s 12-yard bootleg on a play he called at the line of scrimmage to give the Bobcats the 28-8 lead with 1:04 to play in the third quarter.
“They (Saltsburg) stretched us and made us work,” Dettorre said. “I’m real pleased with our kids. We had great play on both sides of the line. And Nick (Stone) did an excellent job. He’s a sophomore and a work in progress, but he made great progress tonight.”
Stone had 60 yards on six carries and three catches for another 27 yards. Highberger rushed for 41 yards and threw for 67.
“Their secondary did a nice job, and we coughed up some turnovers,” Saltsburg coach Glenn Richards said. “We were struggling to run the ball. Their coach had a good game plan. We had our opportunities but muffed them.”
Steele was 9 of 25 for 161 yards.