CRESSON - It's been an unusual football season for the Penn Cambria High School Panthers.
It began with four straight victories. Then came four straight losses and the resignation of head football coach Ernie Fetzer.
Suddenly, the Panthers needed two wins to finish the regular season and qualify for the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
Despite all the adversity, the Panthers achieved their playoff goal by holding off Somerset, 16-14, Saturday night in a game filled with flags and turnovers, and some entertaining football, too.
"It's great. I'm really happy for the kids," interim head coach Tony Tomaselli said following the victory.
"We try to tell them that adversity is part of life, and you have to deal with it," he said. "We had our share this year. We lost four straight, then we had the situation [Fetzer's resignation] a couple weeks ago.
takes full shape
Penn Cambria and Glendale filled out the District 6 high school playoff field by virtue of their wins Saturday night.
In addition, Glendale's victory against Ferndale gave Juniata Valley the third seed in 6-A via a tiebreaker.
By edging Somerset, Penn Cambria jumped over Juniata in the Class AA standings for the eighth and final spot in the field. The Panthers will play top-seeded Richland in the quarterfinals on Friday. The rest of the field, in order, is comprised of Ligonier Valley, Central, Tyrone, Cambria Heights, Forest Hills and Bald Eagle Area.
Glendale, as the eighth seed, travels to Bellwood-Antis in the 6-A quarterfinals on Friday.
Juniata Valley, meanwhile, is third and hosts Bishop McCort, while fifth-ranked Bishop Guilfoyle will travel to defending champion Penns Manor. Glendale's win gave Valley 10 extra points because the Hornets beat the Vikings earlier this season. That created a tie for third between the Hornets and Penns Manor at 1,260 power points. Juniata Valley, though, gets the higher seed because its opponents had a better winning percentage.
Portage clinched the second seed on Friday night and was set to host No. 7 Northern Cambria.
There will be a meeting at Altoona Area High School this morning to officially announce the pairings.
- Philip Cmor
"But, they adapted, and played their hearts out."
Following a Somerset fumble, Penn Cambria marched 47 yards behind the power running of Mack Behe and Devin Lawhead for its first score. Behe got the TD on a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter and Lawhead ran for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Behe suffered an injury early in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
A short punt put Somerset in business at the PC 48 midway through the second and quarterback Tanner Stull hit Jordan Wolkow with a 29-yard strike for the Eagles' first score. Stull's 2-point conversion tied it at 8-8.
Penn Cambria turned another Somerset fumble into a third-quarter touchdown. Brendan Eckenrode hit Jake Hurley, who split two defenders, for a 30-yard scoring pass down the middle. Justin Fuller ran for the two extra points and a 16-8 lead.
It was the first of three big plays by Hurley, a 5-foot-7 sophomore. After Stull hit Bryce Mostoller with a 15-yard TD, with 8:13 left in the game, Hurley knocked down a 2-point conversion pass at the goal line which would have tied the game.
Actually, Stull had run for a 2-point PAT, but it was nullified by a holding call.
"The holding penalty on the 2-point play. That was the ballgame," Somerset coach Bob Landis said. "If it's 16-16 and overtime, who knows.
"But, we'll be back. We're a young team."
Stull, who passed for over 200 yards and kept the Panthers on their toes with his ability to scramble, had one last fling in the closing seconds, but Hurley intercepted the pass at midfield, and the Panthers ran out the clock.
Hurley downplayed his role in the win.
"Just a little," Hurley said, smiling.
On the conversion, he said, "we were in zone coverage and I just floated and blocked the ball down."
On the pick at midfield, he noted, "we were in a deep coverage to prevent the big play and came up big."
"Jake's a player," Tomaselli of Hurley. "He's a competitor and a worker, and he knows how to win.
By gaining the eighth and final seed, Penn Cambria will visit top seed Richland in the first round of the 6-AA playoffs next Friday night. The unbeaten Rams defeated the Panthers in Week 8.
"It's been us against the world the last two weeks [wins over Westmont Hilltop and Somerset]," Tomaselli said. "We needed those two to get in the tournament, and we'll go down there [Richland] and give it our best shot."
Somerset finished 5-5, but qualified for the Class AAA playoffs.
"We're two points short of a home playoff game," Landis said. "If we had won tonight, we would have punched our ticket for a home playoff game. That hasn't happened to Somerset for I can't tell you when."
Somerset's first playoff test will be a visit to University Prep of District 8 in Pittsburgh next weekend.
"We're young, with only four seniors," Landis said. "We lost two close ones and could be 7-3, but we've learned some good lessons.
"Stull is a great player and I was pleased with our offensive line tonight," he said. "Just too many turnovers for us tonight," Landis added.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Somerset0 8 0 6 - 14
Penn Cambria0 8 8 0 - 16
PC-M. Behe 1 run (Lawhead run), 11:56.
S-Wolkow 29 pass from Stull (Stull run), 6:12.
PC-Hurley 30 pass from B. Eckenrode (Fuller run), 4:13.
S-Mostoller 15 pass from Stull (pass failed), 8;13.
RUSHING: Somerset-Boyer 16-80, Stull 7-25, TEAM 4-(-28). Penn Cambria-M. Behe 19-82, Lawhead 19-64, Fuller 12-33, B. Eckenrode 2-6, TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING: Somerset-Stull 14-30-2-204. Penn Cambria-B. Eckenrode 4-11-0-87.
RECEIVING: Somerset-Baker 6-85, Wolkow 4-44, Mostoller 2-46, Berkebile 1-20, Faulkner 1-9. Penn Cambria-Hurley 2-36, Keagy 1-50, Delerme 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS: Penn Cambria-Hurley, M. Eckenrode.