Bobcats Win In Mudslide Over United
ARMAGH — Win number five was a snap for the Blairsville Bobcats as they spoiled the United Lions Homecoming. Blairsville took advantage of numerous United special team mistakes on their way to a 23-0 victory over the Lions in a game played in an absolute quagmire at Thomas Madill Athletic Field.
“This was a big win because our kids maintained their poise through some very difficult conditions,” said Bobcats Coach Ab Dettorre. “The field altered some things, but we basically did what we wanted to do. I think that says a lot for our team.”
Old-timers will remember when Armagh High School played football on what was literally a pig farm. Last Saturday, it was Turn Back the Clock Afternoon at United, because the field resembled a pig farm.
Kids love to play in mud, so these two teams must have had a ball. Mud was everywhere, particularly between the 30s. It took only a few plays for game numbers to become unreadable. United did not warm up on the field, opting instead to loosen up in the gym. The Bobcats held a scaled down pre-game because of the horrendous conditions.
“That’s the worst field I’ve ever been on,” said Dettorre. “I remember Connemaugh Valley back in 1988 when they had six inches of water but it eventually drained off. This was unbelievably bad. I know they put a lot of money in there but I’m not sure what they have to show for it now. I can’t imagine (United Coach Chris Matava) is too happy with it.”
Blairsville (5-1) hosts Northern Cambria tonight, and the Colts are the lone unbeaten team in the Heritage Conference.
To say that United (2-4) struggled a little with its punting would be an understatement. The Lions had one punt blocked, and three other bad snaps led to losses totaling 80 yards.
Two of the miscues led to touchdowns, and a third resulted in a safety.
“Our problems with our punting game opened the game up no question,” said Matava, “but one or two plays didn’t decide this. We have to overcome (the mistakes) and for a while we did a good job.”
The Lions avoided a scare midway through the first quarter when Kevin Wissinger’s first punt was blocked by Matt Strope. But the Lions forced a Bobcats punt.
United was not so fortunate late in the first quarter. Wissinger saw a punt snap sail over his head and he was tackled at the two yard line by defensive end Issac Jackson.
Two plays later, sophomore QB Adam Highberger scored from a yard out to give the Bobcats the only points they would need. Kevin Garland added the extra point to make it 7-0.
“The snap situation was really detrimental for them,” said Dettorre. “We were able to take advantage.”
Blairsville had an apparent touchdown nullified just before halftime. Freshman safety Andy Ostach picked off an Andrew Clevenger pass that deflected into his arms and he raced 62 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block in the back. “The interception would have been nice,” Dettorre added. “To put them down 14-0 at the half would have been a tough situation to be in.”
“To be down just 7-0 at the half, with the conditions of the field, one play could change the game around,” agreed Matava. “With one play we could be on top but instead they came out and made some great plays.”
The Bobcats added some insurance on the opening possession of the second half. Starting at their own 32, it took them only three plays to score. The drive was capped when Highberger found Nick Stone down the right sideline and Stone cut across the field and slogged his way through the mud 63 yards for a touchdown. Garland’s second extra point made it 14-0.
“We knew the game certainly wasn’t over and we felt we had to come out and establish ourselves,” said Dettorre. “Adam challenged the defender and feathered the pass in real nice and Stone cut across the grain and perhaps overlooked was the crushing block that was thrown by Andy Ostach to spring him.”
Highberger only threw nine times and completed five for 111 yards.
“Highberger had some time to roll out there and let Stone go up the field and he made a great run after the catch.
“After that I think our heads dropped a little bit and we didn’t play as well. They made the big plays and we didn’t. Credit Blairsville, they were able to move the ball with the conditions from the second quarter on and they did what they had to.”
The Lions weren’t able to move the football on their first possession of the second half and were forced to punt.
The horror show continued as Wissinger couldn’t get the kick off and was tackled by Strope for a big loss at the United 43 yard line.
It took Blairsville just seven plays to plod their way for their third touchdown, a 15 yard burst up the middle from fullback Mike Gaston who scored his thirdrd touchdown of the season with 2:13 to play in the third quarter. Garland’s third extra point and 15th of the season extended the lead to 21-0.
The Bobcats tacked on two more points on a safety when Wissinger fail on another snap over his head in the endzone to set the final score at 23-0.
Blairsville’s defense, which recorded its first shutout of the season, held the Lions to just 69 yards, although the low total was aided by the United punt team. The Bobcats pressured QB Andrew Clevenger and recorded six sacks.
“We told our team it would come down to who can move people up front in these conditions,” commented Matava. “They started moving us, especially in the second half.”
“Our defense has been consistent most of the year,” said Dettorre.
“But we’ve gotten a lot better with our contain and we’ve gotten better overall. We have a nice group of linebackers who compliment our front four.
“Our front four has really come along. They are all big and mobile. We have a lot to do yet but we are getting there.”
The Lions’ best opportunity came on the opening drive of the game. They drove the football from their own 19 to the Bobcats 6 before stalling. The drive featured a 43 yard run by tailback Adam Mack and a 20 yard run by fullback Adam Capitosti.
“We continue to do the same thing,” Matava said. “We drive it down but we can’t finish and get it in the endzone. I think if we could drive down and score early it will be a big boost for our kids but when we don’t it’s like here we go again.
“We just have to learn to finish drives. Until that happens it’s tough on the kids.”
While United continues to rebuild, they will play out the string looking for continued improvement while traveling to Penns Manor (0-6) tonight.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats are focusing on Northern Cambria and a strong finish that they hope can propel them back into the playoffs.
“Northern Cambria has a good team,” Dettorre cautioned. “They are not 6-0 because they wished for it.
“They have speed, they’re not real big but they do a lot of nice things. Their quarterback Tim Brawley is a major concern because of his arm and mobility. We’re looking forward to the challenge but we know it won’t be easy.”
Most likely extending the win streak to six in a row won’t be a snap.
Notes:Matt Strope led the Bobcats with 50 yards on 13 carriesÉReserve tailback Bob Varholic ended up leading the Lions ground game with 59 yards on 5 carries as both teams played reserves the final few minutesÉStarting tailback Adam Mack added 46 yards on 9 carriesÉThe Lions lost another player to injury, center Alex Robinson may be lost for the seasonÉUnited has not scored more than one touchdown in any gameÉAfter throwing an interception, Andrew Clevenger redeemed himself by intercepting a Highberger pass just before halftime.