Moore combined speed and some nifty moves to spark the Trojans’ opening drive. He ran 53 yards and after a facemask penalty was added to the play, Johnstown was at the 13.
Brody LoBoi’s touchdown pass to Kareem Gibson was negated by an illegal shift, but Moore later ran 21 yards for a touchdown and 6-0 lead.
Westmont answered with Sam Curry’s 54-yard kickoff return. The Hilltop single wing produced big yardage on the ground, including Lukas Kleinmeyer’s 28-yard dash to the 2-yard line that set up quarterback Liam Moran’s touchdown. Mitch Causer’s extra-point gave Westmont a 7-6 advantage.
Westmont ran 12 consecutive plays on its next drive, which was capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Moran that made it 14-6 with 38 seconds left in the opening quarter.
“We just had a unique formation where we got numbers to one side and we felt good about it,” Barron said.
“We had success running the ball pretty much all night. We were taking 4, 6 yards a clip. We couldn’t score in the second half. They did a nice job of coming back and breaking a few big runs and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Curry gained 193 yards on 37 carries. Hilltop rushed for 252 yards and had no passing yards.
“It’s a tough offense to stop,” Penna said of the single wing. “I played against it when I coached at Ferndale against Windber. They’re toe to toe, and you’ve really got to stay home. We’re young. Our defensive coaches did a phenomenal job at halftime. Coach (Neil) Cobaugh adjusted.”
Johnstown’s Moore ran 30 yards on the next play from scrimmage but Hilltop’s Curry forced a fumble and Cody Sabo recovered.
Later in the first half, Johnstown advanced to the Westmont 21 before the drive stalled on downs.
The Hilltoppers then moved 73 yards in 11 plays that ate up 5:17 of game clock. Causer booted a 23-yard field goal with :11 left in the half, setting a 17-6 score.
“Great game plan by the Westmont coaches,” Penna said.
The Trojans stopped an early Westmont drive and got back into the game after Moore’s 29-yard run and junior Jayvon Braxton’s 51-yard touchdown burst made it 17-12 at 7:13 of the third.
Gibson, a sophomore, ran for 25 yards and caught a Moore pass for 29 yards to set up Braxton’s 2-yard touchdown to put Johnstown in front with 2:25 left in the third.
Moore’s two-point conversion run set a 20-17 score.
“You have to grow up fast in situations like this,” Penna said of his underclassmen. “We said we weren’t going to be denied.
“We were calm at halftime. I’ve got great leaders on this team and a great coaching staff. We put our heads together and good things happened in the second half.”
Barron saw some positives but said Hilltop isn’t in it for moral victories.
“We’re looking for the ‘W’, ” Barron said. “When you’re sitting at 0-3, you’re fighting an uphill battle. We’ve got to get that first one.
“I thought we had a nice effort. The defense played much, much better and kept us in the game.”