Lions’ mistakes short-circuit offense in loss no. 11
NORTHERN CAMBRIA–Plagued with turnovers for the second week in a row, United suffered its second loss of the 2003 season here–and their 11th in a winless streak which began with the opening game of 2002.
Northern Cambria turned United mistakes and its own ability to make big plays into a 32-6 victory.
One bright spot for the Lions occurred midway through the third quarter, when Adam Jones broke four tackles, dashing down the left side for a 58-yard touchdown run on a fake punt.
United will be hoping for more such moments Saturday afternoon, when it crosses the Conemaugh River to visit backyard rival, Laurel Valley (2-0).
Northern Cambria (2-0) travels to Penns Manor (0-2) tonight.
Said Matava of his Lions, “The key for us is working on our offense. We see signs (of improvement) every week, but we can’t get everything clicking at once.
“We’re stuck on that hump. We need something good to happen….When you’re losing, it is so difficult to get that first win again.”
Matava noted, “There are little things we can’t get a grasp of.”
At the top of the list would be grasping the ball. United coughed it up five times–four fumbles and one interception. And another pick by a Colt ended the Lions’ attempt at a conversion, after Jones’ TD.
Matava said his Lions have been drilling regularly in hopes of ending miscues in the backfield.
“We run through (the hand-off) every day with our backs,” he said. “It’s not automatic; you can’t overlook it.”
The game isn’t the only thing United lost last week. Two key players were sidelined by injuries.
Kicker and wide receiver Kurt McGinnis was admitted to a hospital “as a precaution” after apparently clicking helmets with an NC player while unsuccessfully de-fending NC’s third-quarter TD pass.
Colt Tim Brawley scored on the pass from his back-up QB, Ken Younger, but missed the PAT kick.
Matava reported Tuesday that McGinnis likely will be sitting out the rest of the season.
United’s starting quarterback, freshman Sean Domer, left the game with a twisted ankle in the first series.
Domer’s status for the Laurel Valley game is “day to day,” Matava noted Tuesday.
Turnovers notwithstanding, United’s backup QB, sophomore Chuck Boring, turned in a credible performance during the remainder of the game, Matava said: “He stepped in and did a good job.”
United’s coach also praised Jones, who took to the field in the second half, after starting tailback Stephen Oleksa developed a calf problem.
Jones “was at fullback last year, but we moved him to tailback this season,” Matava noted. “He has that breakaway speed and the ability to break tackles.
“He’s strong and physical. He ran very hard for us tonight.”
“We played decently in the first half,” Matava said of his Lions. But, the Colts “came out on fire in the second half. They took it to us….They beat us off the ball.”
Colts Coach Frank Paronish was less impressed with his team. “We’re capitalizing when they make mistakes, but the consistency is not there,” Paronish said.
“A lot of our big plays were made on our athleticism, but we’re not playing as a unit yet,” he observed. “We’re still not where we need to be.”
Northern Cambria was picked off just once and committed no fumbles.
NC also put its backup QB–Younger–into action at the top of the second quarter, after Brawley was stunned by a hit on a punt return.
Paronish said, “We wanted to get Younger involved, and that was our opportunity.”
Given Younger’s 6-1 height, his coach noted he has the ability to see defensive patterns developing.
Brawley soon resumed his leadership role behind center, with Younger returning for some additional experience in the game’s final quarter.
Northern Cambria scored one touchdown in each of the first two periods.
The Colts began their second drive from their own 20 yard line, after blocking a United field goal attempt marred by a bad snap.
Highlights of the drive included an 11-yard pass from Brawley to Colts senior Erik Smith, a 44-yard carry by Matt Miller and two more caught passes–for a combined 12 yards and a first down at the United 10.
With nearly three minutes remaining in the initial period, Miller completed the trip into the end zone, carrying the ball around the left corner.
Leo Magulick’s two-point run was cut off by Lion defenders Jones and Brett Cameron.
Neither team had much success in the air early.
United found itself back behind its own 30, following an offsides penalty. Then Boring was picked off by Colt John Donatesta–who returned the ball to the Lions’ 4.
Donatesta carried in the touchdown on the following play, and Brawley called his own number for the two-point conversion, giving Northern Cambria a 14-0 halftime lead.
NC had control of the ball for all of the third quarter, save for United’s four–play TD drive.
The Colts came out of the box with their third touchdown series. Magulick got things started with a 39-yard carry and handled most of the remaining yardage, including the seven-yard TD. Brawley was tripped up on the conversion attempt.
Getting the ball back at its own 43 after United’s sole score, Northern Cambria appeared to reach the end zone once more in eight plays. But Magulick’s 23-yard TD run was negated by a holding penalty.
Helped along by two dead ball penalties against the Lions, Northern Cambria again crossed into the end zone–this time with no objections–just as the fourth quarter began.
Magulick capped the drive, burrowing through the center of the line from six yards out. Brawley’s PAT kick was wide, placing the score at 26-6 in favor of the hosts.
On the subsequent possession, United had the ball for all of one play. Boring was tackled in the backfield and the ball popped loose and was covered by Colt Duayne Rieger at the Lions’ 20-yard line.
The ensuing pass from Younger to Brawley scored Northern Cambria’s final six points while triggering McGinnis’ injury.
In their last possession of the evening, the Lions marched from their own 10 to the NC 8–with Jones providing much of the yardage, including an initial 40-yard carry.
But the drive ended in a double-whammy, a fumble and a penalty against United.
UNITED STRUGGLING–Spectators at Northern Cambria were treated to a unique halftime show. Student musicians from United and NC lined up side-by-side on the field for a friendly battle of the bands–with the groups taking turns presenting their numbers.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Jeff by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .