November 20, 2010 - Portage Stadium - Portage, PA
Bishop McCort will be returning to Mansion Park Stadium for the ninth time in the past ten seasons for the District 6 championship football game following a 28-20 win over Portage. The Crushers were outgained for the second straight game, but made the big plays on both sides of the ball to earn the victory.
"We didn't execute as well as we would have liked tonight," said head coach Ken Salem. "But we had guys step up tonight like Christian Leech, Zach Varga, Anthony LaRue, and Jesse Cooper. When the game was on the line and we needed big plays, these guys made them. All year long we've had playmakers coming into their own. Tonight we had some outstanding individual plays that helped the team.
McCort received the opening kickoff and began the series in the "wildcat" formation with Anthony LaRue taking the snaps from center. After seven running plays, the Crushers faced a third-and-13 at the Portage 48. Jesse Cooper, who was injured in the previous game against Bellwood-Antis, came on the field and connected with Christian Leech for a touchdown. Jordan Spangler's kick put McCort ahead 7-0 with 3:55 gone in the period.
Portage started a drive at their 21 and moved the ball down the field with the help of pass completions of 39 and 14 yards to set up first-and-goal at the BM 6. Three rushes set the ball at the one, but the Crushers' defense stopped the Mustangs for a one yard loss. Portage was able to tie the score with 3:22 left in the first half using an 80 yard drive in just six plays with Dean Bimle taking a five yard pass from quarterback Jake Bryja and a Josh Bracken PAT kick.
McCort took the lead again late in the third quarter. The Crushers were able to take advantage of an eight yard punt and began a drive at its 48. With Cooper still running the offense, McCort moved the ball to the Portage three. On third-and-goal, LaRue went back to the wildcat position and carried the ball into the endzone for a 14-7 lead. The Mustangs tied it again on a one yard run by Bryja with 7:43 left in the fourth.
Cooper and Leech hooked up on another big pass play covering 58 yards to the Mustangs one. Zach Varga picked up the final yard which put the Crushers ahead 21-14. On second down of the Mustangs' next drive, Leech intercepted a pass and carried it to the Portage 41. Two plays later, with LaRue once again operating out of the wildcat, the Crusher senior scampered 26 yards for another score. Spangler's PAT made it 28-14 with 4:55 remaining in the fourth period.
Portage moved the ball rather easily in its next possession, covering 73 yards in 11 plays capped by a 10 yard TD pass from Bryja to Andrew Blair. Bracken's try for the point after was blocked. The Mustangs' onside kick was recovered by McCort which allowed the Crushers to run out the clock for the 28-20 victory.
Salem was asked about the "wildcat" formation. "We really liked the way that we were able to run the ball out of this set. We are going to continue to develop it. When LaRue was in at quarterback, we were able to run our best power offense of the night. When Cooper was in, we had a really nice opportunity to throw the football. We executed that well at times."
"You have to give Portage a tremendous amount of credit tonight. We were a little bigger than they were up front, but their battled like crazy and played their hearts out. They did a fantastic job of moving the football against our defense and really gave us fits inside the tackles. Portage defended their home turf with a tremendous amount of pride."
"We are really excited to go back to Mansion Park. Our kids expect to practice on Thanksgiving Day and to represent our conference and our school in the championship and we are extremely pleased to be able to put ourselves into this position after a tough start to the season."
"I am really proud of our kids who have worked hard and continued to believe and to stay with us all season long. It's been a process of getting kids to understand the system and to develop their roles and I think we are seeing a really nice blend of seniors, juniors, and sophomores working as a team to enable us to advance in the postseason. Nine times to championship game out of ten years is quite an accomplishment and we need to be sure that we play our best to make to most of this opportunity.