It’s homecoming tonight at Point Stadium for Bishop McCort, and there isn’t a better way to celebrate the evening than playing a backyard rival.
But admidst tonight’s pageantry will be somewhat of a twist. An oddity, really.
Both the Crushers and Hilltoppers, staples of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, will be seeking their first victories of the season in Week 6, a position neither school is accustomed to – although records can be thrown by the wayside between these schools.
“This is neighbor versus neighbor, we know what’s a stake,” Westmont coach Pat Barron said.
The LHAC will also be in action tonight at Altoona’s Mansion Park, where Bishop Carroll and Bishop Guilfoyle are both vying for a fourth victory of the season and an opportunity to improve a district playoff position.
The kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.
The lights will be bright at the Point for the Crushers’ special night, while there wasn’t any need for a pep talk by either Barron or Bishop McCort coach Kevin Sheridan to pump up their squads for this game. It’s old-school here, as it all breaks down to running and tackling.
“For our kids, they’ve worked hard and battled,” Barron said. “It’s going to be a physical game and I think they’re ready for the challenge. A good performance tonight would give us a jump start to the rest of the season, and meeting some of the goals that this team has set.”
It’s been the same kind of mindset at McCort, which opened the season with a pair of close losses to Bishop Carroll and Forest Hills before dropping games to Somerset (21-3), Bedford (49-0) and Richland (70-21).
“Every week, we’ve been breaking down to smaller and smaller parts, making sure that we improve on the little things,” Sheridan said. “We practice the right way and we believe that if we do that, success will come because everything else is really out of our control. We just have to put faith and trust into all parts of our performance.”
Quarterback Blake Wade has completed 33 of 76 attempts for 385 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Crushers, as Marc Smith leads McCort’s rushers with 267 yards on 62 carries. Receiver Nemo Trexler has caught 14 passes for 149 yards and a TD.
On defense, the Crushers are led by Smith, Ethan Neiderhiser and Drake Leech, who have 41, 40 and 39 tackles, respectively, on the season.
“McCort’s a good team, they’ve had a lot of bad luck as well,” Barron said. “They have some pretty good players, and we anticipate a physical game with a lot of emotion in the air.”
Westmont, which dropped tough games to Forest Hills and Cambria Heights in the opening weeks of the season before running into buzzsaws – Johnstown (47-18), Somerset (42-14) and Bedford (54-10) – is led by running back Sam Curry, who has rushed for 545 yards and three TDs on 108 carries. Quarterback Liam Moran has turned in great numbers after the first five games, completing 44 of 78 passes for 596 yards and six scores. Moran’s favorite target has been Colin Barron, who has made 25 catches for 367 yards and five TDs.
Barron leads the Hilltoppers’ defense with 46 stops.
“Westmont has the ability to pound the football in that single-wing, get the right down and distance, and shorten the game,” Sheridan said. “The difference obviously will be whoever makes the plays and has the strongest defense will win the game.”
As for emotion, the Crushers have won the last 12 games of this series.
“It’s a pride thing,” Sheridan said. “Any time local teams and guys know one another, a competitive nature comes out in those situations. It’s a Saturday night in front of a homecoming crowd against your city rival, and I know the guys are excited for the challenge.”
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Bishop Carroll (3-2)
at Bishop Guilfoyle (3-2)
The Huskies took a step back last Saturday night when their offense struggled to put points on the board after outgaining a surging Central Cambria squad 170-10 in the first half at Loretto. The Red Devils took advantage of an early interception, and finally wore down the Bishop Carroll defense late in the third, marching 69 yards on seven plays with under five minutes remaining and taking a 14-7 lead on Will Seymour’s 6-yard dive. Central Cambria sealed the win with an 18-play drive, capping the night’s scoring on Colby Crimmins’ 23-yard field goal.
Bishop Carroll, which had the ball at the Red Devil 1-yard line twice in the first half, started last week’s game a little sluggish, according to Huskies coach Greg Snyder. It was a problem addressed early this week with a key conference and district clash with the Marauders on the horizon.
“I think the kids did a great of job of moving on and putting last week’s game behind us,” Snyder said. “We have to do a better job of finishing drives, and that’s something we’ve worked on this week. But we’re moving on and I believe the kids are learning from their mistakes and are working harder. That’s really all we can do, move forward and get better each week.”
And Tyler Janosik is just the man to lead the Huskies to their fourth win, as the senior quarterback has rushed for 445 yards on 93 carries, scoring five touchdowns. On defense, he leads the Huskies with 47 tackles. A strong defensive team, the Huskies have a total of five players, including Janosik – Alex Keim (42), Kenny Weiland (35), Marty Lessard (34) and Alex Repko (31) – with more than 30 tackles on the season.
Snyder, however, sees the Marauders as a mirror image of his squad.
After losing its first two games of the season to Bedford (13-10) and Richland (43-14), Bishop Guilfoyle has sprung to three straight LHAC wins – including an eyebrow-lifting 40-14 romp over Forest Hills two weeks ago. The Marauders handled Penn Cambria 35-0 last week.
“They remind me a lot of us on defense,” Snyder said. “They’re very quick to the ball. They have a lot of great athletes and very capable of making big plays, so we have to be ready.”
Junior Brandon Chadbourne leads the Marauders’ defense with 47 tackles from his defensive back spot, while senior linebacker Nick Little owns 46, including nine tackles for losses.
On offense, Bishop Guilfoyle is paced by senior Damon Rickens, a slash-type quarterback who has completed 14 of 35 passes for 132 yards through five games while rushing for 55 yards and a score. Junior Sam McCloskey is the Marauders’ top rusher, gaining 242 yards on 43 carries and three touchdowns. Junior Matt Gormley is the team’s top receiver with eight grabs for 93 yards and a TD.