Two teams looking to rebound after Week 1 losses will meet this afternoon at Price Field.
Westmont Hilltop dropped a one-sided contest to Forest Hills last week in Sidman, putting a blemish on the opening of Pat Barron’s tenure as the Hilltoppers’ coach.
Cambria Heights lost in a high-scoring affair to visiting Richland in what had been tabbed as a potential signature game for a much-improved program coming off a 5-5 season.
Each team is 0-1, but Westmont and Heights both hope to take a positive step in the 1 p.m. Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference match-up.
“The biggest thing is we need to keep getting better,” said Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis, whose team lost 38-20 to a Richland team that mixed the pass and run on offense and had five sacks on defense. “We’ve had a good few days of practice. The kids worked hard.
“We have to eliminate some of our mistakes. We have to fix those mistakes and make sure they don’t happen at Westmont.”
Heights senior quarterback Nathan Bearer completed six passes, with half of those good for touchdowns.
Senior Andrew Brawley hauled in three catches for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior running back Donnie Contorchick gained 84 yards on 12 carries. Brawley had an interception on defense.
“There were some encouraging things with our offense but we could be better,” Lewis said. “We were missing assignments. People were going the wrong way. If we eliminate those things, we can be more balanced and the threat of big plays is there.”
Westmont lost, 44-0, at Forest Hills as the Rangers limited Westmont’s single-wing offense to 138 rushing yards. Lukas Kleinmeyer gained 62 yards on seven attempts, many of those coming on counters. Hilltop was able to move the ball on occasion, but couldn’t put together a scoring drive.
“Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well at times. I thought the kids did pretty well with the offense,” Barron said. “Coming out, we moved the ball and had two first downs and were in a third-and-1 to keep the chains moving. We didn’t get it done. At the end of the first quarter, it was 10-0 and we had the ball on their 30-yard line and couldn’t put points on the board.
“If we can keep Heights from making big plays and if we swarm to the football we can make it a battle this week.”
Barron is wary of Heights’ multiple threats on offense.
“You’ve got to be prepared for their trick plays,” Barron said. “We’re preaching fundamentals, proper tackling technique and swarming to the football.
“They use a lot of formations. (Former Westmont coach) Darren McLaurin is their offensive coordinator. I’ve played under him. I’ve run a lot of those trick plays in the past. They lull you to sleep and they go for the home run ball. Our defensive backs have to be ready. They run the ball the whole game and set you up, and then they take their shots.”
Lewis has concerns about defending Westmont’s single-wing.
“It’s definitely an unconventional offense. It’s difficult to prepare for,” Lewis said. “Each week, they’re going to understand it a little bit more and get a little bit better at it. They come right at you. They have a nice offensive line.
“They’ve got some really nice misdirection plays. Just about when you load up to stop the run, they’ll come out and pass the ball too. They make you defend all areas of the field.”
Barron supports the school district’s decision to revive the traditional Saturday pregame parade in which the team buses are escorted to the field by fire trucks, police vehicles and ambulances during the drive from the high school to the middle school field.
“The kids have been talking about it. Hearing from parents, faculty and staff, they’re excited about it,” Barron said. “For these kids, it’s showing them traditions of the past and how it’s done. We’re one of the few games on Saturday. A lot of people will come up and look at it. It’s a great way to enter your stadium when you have the fire trucks blowing the whistles and the sirens.”
Lewis said his team will adapt to playing an afternoon game.
“We didn’t play a Saturday game last year,” Lewis said. “You want to make sure your kids are prepared for it and ready to go.
“We’re a veteran football team. The bottom line is it’s still football. I think the kids will be motivated and ready to go.”
North Star at Ferndale, 1 p.m.: North Star is stinging after a 13-10 upset loss to visiting Portage last week.
Ferndale officially is 0-0 because the Yellow Jackets’ game at Conemaugh Valley was halted by a lightning delay with 7:35 left in the third quarter. The Blue Jays led 40-18 at that point, and play will resume on Sept. 18.
Thomas Miller rushed for 108 yards to pace North Star against Portage.
His touchdown from 5 yards out midway through the final quarter gave the Cougars their first lead of the night. But Portage used Chris Onder’s 35-yard run on a reverse to the North Star 6-yard line to set up the game-winning touchdown. Mustangs quarterback Evan Price scored on a keeper.
Because of PIAA rules, North Star will miss quarterback Brantley Rice, who was ejected during the Portage game.
Ferndale quarterback Chad Eisenhuth ran the first play from scrimmage 80 yards for a touchdown Saturday at Conemaugh Valley.
Eisenhuth returned a kickoff 88 yards for another score just prior to the game’s being halted. Eisenhuth also threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Sajatovich.