The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

October 12, 2012

Johnstown-Bishop McCort a key matchup

JOHNSTOWN — The latest chapter in the city rivalry won’t have a share of first place in the LHAC on the line.

And each team is fighting for a district playoff spot rather than resting at their more traditional spots near the top.

Still, when Johnstown (3-3) visits Bishop McCort (4-2) tonight at Point Stadium, a lot will be at stake.

“The rivalry means so much. Logistically we’re so close,” said Johnstown coach Tony Penna Jr. “This is our biggest rival. Everything is amped up. If we were playing checkers against them it would be the same way.

“The kids live in the same neighborhoods. They all know each other. That makes for some personal stuff that carries over to the football field. You don’ want that guy to say he got the best of you. It’s just a field thing. It doesn’t carry over off the field. I have  a ton of respect for their program. They play football the right way.”

While Johnstown continues to juggle its lineup to contend with injuries and lost personnel, the Crushers are getting healthy according to coach Kevin Sheridan.

McCort rolled past Westmont Hilltop 35-0 on Saturday. Two weeks ago McCort gave undefeated Richland its toughest test of the season. The Rams won 17-14 on a last-second score. That same Richland team routed Johnstown 42-0 in Week 4.

“I hope we’re on the rise,” Sheridan said. “We’ve worked hard this week. We’re getting healthier by the day and we’re still looking to put forth our best four quarters.”

Sheridan knows that even with multiple key injuries dogging the Trojans over the past month, Johnstown will be at its best against the Crushers.

“Johnstown is a big-play team,” Sheridan said. “It’s impossible to simulate their speed in practice. But playing sound defensive football, maintaining gap responsibility and leverage on the football is what can limit a big-play offense like Johnstown.”

Since the graduation of two-year starter Gervon Simon, the Trojans have used five different quarterbacks.

A trio of underclassmen has shown promise with junior Wuanyai Mayo stepping up in recent weeks. Junior scrambler Deion Moore ignited Johnstown in Week 3 but has been injured. Freshman Jeremy Updyke is another player with a big future who has contended with injuries.

Moore’s 425 rushing yards and four touchdowns lead Johnstown and his presence will be missed.

“We’re a team in transition,” Penna said. “We’ve got some key injuries in some key places. Friday night is going to be another deviation from what everyone is accustomed to seeing.  The kids are embracing it. They haven’t flinched one time. I couldn’t be prouder. This game and what it means speaks for itself. We’ll be ready to go Friday night.”

Two-way lineman Gap Barbin has led McCort. Quarterback Zaine Tomkowski moved atop the area passing statistics this week as he nears 1,000 yards. Jordan Spangler is a big-play receiver with 31 catches and 420 yards. He also is among the area’s top kickers.

“Zaine is growing in his understanding of how to manage a football game,” Sheridan said. “When he sets his feet and gets comfortable, he delivers the football accurately and on time.

“Jordan Spangler is an experienced receiver and he’s played a lot of football along side Zaine Tomkowski. Those two have a chemistry. Beyond that we’ve spread the ball around pretty well as of late. We have a couple tight ends helping us receiving, a few fullbacks and tailbacks. The ball is being spread around.”

Johnstown won the past two games in the series, including 41-20 last year. Prior to that, McCort had won six in a row from 2004 through 2009.

“Friday night is our homecoming,” Sheridan said. “We’re coming home against another city team, a familiar foe and a program that’s gotten the better of us the last two years. That makes for an exciting atmosphere in what should be a good match up.”

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