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Warriors rout Northern Cambria in PIAA quarters
ALTOONA — This week during practice Canton coach Tyler Sechrist said he saw fire in his players eyes. On Saturday the Warriors let that fire loose, rolling to a 42-13 win over Northern Cambria during the PIAA, Class A football quarterfinals.
“These seniors, they know it’s their last rodeo,” Sechrist remarked. “They know every play could be their last, and, this time of year, one bad game, and it’s all over, so, they’re just excited to finish. That has been our word for the year, and I think they’re excited to do that.”
Canton couldn’t have played a better first four minutes as they dominated in all three facets of the game – Weston Bellows took the opening kick-off to the house, Hayden Ward had a touchdown run, and Riley Parker had an interception return for a score – putting themselves up 21-0.
“I know that our team, when we perform to the best of our ability is a great, and elite team, but I did not expect to have 21 points in our first three drives, with one defensive touchdown,” Brenen Taylor said.
They would go up 28-0 late in the first with a Riley Parker touchdown run. Northern Cambria would answer with a touchdown of their own to make it 28-7 at the first horn.
Both defenses settled in the second quarter as the game turned into a slog, but Hayden Ward’s second touchdown of the day, just before half, made it 34-7.
A long Hudson Ward score halfway through the third quarter put the game into the mercy rule for Canton.
“There was a bit of nostalgia coming back here, and I think that got us a little more fired up to play,” remarked Parker.
He led a strong Canton attack on the ground with 112 yards rushing on 11 touches, including a 60-yard run that set up their final score of the first half.
It was a team effort, though, as the Warriors ran for 300-yards on the dot off 40 carries. A total of five players had 40 yards or more on the ground.
Hudson Ward finished with 57-yards on three carries, Holden Ward had 48-yards on seven touches, Hayden Ward ran for 44-yards on seven carries, and Weston Bellows pounded out 41-yards on eight rushes.
“That’s huge,” Bellows said about them having that many threats to carry the ball. “To be able to not know who the ball is going to be handed to. Most teams have one, maybe two backs that you’re expecting to get the ball, and to be able to have three, four, or five guys do that, I thin is huge for us.”
While the Colts defense eventually settled in, their offense never got a handle on Canton’s physicality. The Warriors front four dominated up front, as nose guard Gage Pepper led them in tackles with 11.
Brenen Taylor and Hudson Ward had nine tackles each, while Mason Harold and Bellows both finished with five tackles.
Parker and Ben Fitch each had a pick, with Parker also getting a fumble recovery off a big Michael Davis hit.
In fact, Canton was one big Northern Cambria rushing play and a bad punt snap away from another shutout.
“On that big play, coach (Bellows) admitted that he went off the game plan a little bit,” said Taylor. “We tried to send a double middle blitz, and they found a seam, and you got a huge run.”
The Colts couldn’t get their athletes into the open field consistently, thanks largely to Canton’s pursuit and sure handed tackling.
“I feel like we’ve got some of the best tacklers in the state, with getting low and hitting hard,” said Taylor.
Most importantly, they weren’t fooled with Northern Cambria’s misdirection. The Colts ran a lot of reverses, and counters, but, for the most part, Canton snuffed them out by staying disciplined.
“That was in our game plan,” Taylor said. “We had saw that they run a lot of counters, and showing like it’s going to be a jet sweep and running back, so we told our D-ends every single play, ‘stay home, do your job, and you’ll get that tackle.’”
They held Northern Cambria’s 2,000-yard passer Owen Bougher to 71 yards through the air on 9-for-20 with two picks. Their 1,000 yard receiver had just three catches for 24-yards, while Xander Dolansky led the team with five catches for 43-yards and a score.
On the ground Colton Paronish had 70-yards rushing on 11 carries, but 64-yard came on one play. In fact, after that play Paronish’s next three carries went for negative yards.
Canton will play in the State Semi-Final for the second year in a row and face Steelton-Highspire. The team they beat in the first round last year. Kickoff is set for 7pm this coming Friday at Shamokin High-School.