Bishop McCort quarterback Zaine Tomkowski and Danny Ferens, his Penns Manor counterpart, took a couple quick seconds after teams went through post-game handshakes and headed toward their respective coaches to share a few words.
According to Tomkowski, nothing of importance was said, but there’s no doubting that following the senior’s performance that he earned the respect of Ferens, and probably just about everyone else at Pat Corrigan Field.
Tomkowski threw three touchdown passes and rushed for two more as sixth-seeded Bishop McCort defeated third-seeded Penns Manor, 32-29, Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class A playoffs.
“We didn’t say much, but that team over there is very good and it was a great competition,” Tomkowski said. “That was probably my favorite game of the year. It was a great game for our team. We never quit.”
Tomkowski completed 8 of 13 passes for 213 yards and touchdown passes of 29, 67 and 18 yards.
In fact, only one of Tomkowski’s completion went for less than 15 yards, and that came on a six-yard completion to Tyler Rugg midway through the fourth quarter to help keep a time-consuming drive moving.
Statistically speaking, he proved to be the equal of Ferens, a 6-foot-1 mobile quarterback capable of dragging defenders for 10 yards – like he did on the Comets’ touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to draw within three points – or make defenders look silly – like he did on the first play for scrimmage for Penns Manor, which was a 78-yard touchdown run for Ferens.
“I wouldn’t say (Tomkowski) had something to prove because Zaine and (Ferens) are so different in terms of how they play,” Bishop McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. “Zaine’s focus is on getting better every week. He has a really good arm. He throws well, especially on the run. When he gets comfortable, he can really get in a rhythm.”
Tomkowski found that rhytym early and rarely missed a beat the rest of the way.a
His pump fake on McCort’s first pass play resulted in a
29-yard touchdown to Jesse Spangler.
In the third quarter, Tomkowski connected with Spangler again, this time on a 67-yard touchdown to put the Crushers, who play seventh-seeded Northern Cambria at Point Stadium on Saturday, up 25-14 with 1:56 remaining before the fourth.
Ferens, who was slightly hampered with a stomach virus, wasn’t done.
He scored on a 1-yard run for his third rushing touchdown and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Gromley pulled the Comets (9-2) within a field goal with 5:47 left in the fourth quarter.
Ferens, a four-year starter, finished with 246 rushing yards and 66 yards passing.
He also lost a fumble and Spangler, who caught three passes for 111 yards, intercepted the final pass of Ferens’ scholastic career in the end zone to preserve the victory with just over a minute remaining.
“That kid is just unbelievable,” Penns Manor coach Billy Packer said. “For four years with us here, he was just an amazing athlete.”
Bishop McCort (8-3) has a few of those, too. Count Tomkowski, whose first rushing touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal at the Comets’ 2 among them.
“From what we heard, (Ferens) was a great quarterback and I saw that tonight,” Tomkowski said. “I wanted to show that I could compete.”
And Bishop McCort wanted to establish the run game, which they did on its opening drive.
Senior Dustin Belsky finished with 74 yards on 22 carries, which was just enough to keep the Penns Manor defense respectful of the run.
That’s when Tomkowski started looking deep to his talented receivers – Spangler, Ryan Siwy and Luke DiFrancesco.
“Our run game was not up to par the majority of the season. With some personnel changes and a dedication to establishing a ground game, we were able to do it,” Sheridan said. “We have a real strong split end and a strong flanker. With Zaine, he’s understanding the right times to look or them downfield.”