Turnovers spark Crushers

Trojans can’t rebound from big first-half deficit

Sentinel photo by TAMI KNOPSNYDER Mount Union's Pat Walker forces Bishop McCort's Imil Britt to fumble in the first half of Saturday's District 6 Class AA quarterfinal at Point Stadium in Johnstown.

JOHNSTOWN-The last play of the first half was a microcosm of the entire first half Saturday night for Mount Union against Bishop McCort.

Tavin McMickens blocked a field goal, and the ball rolled backwards near midfield.  However, Crushers quarterback Levi Cook scooped up the ball, eluded three Trojan tacklers, and found one of his receivers in the end zone for a touchdown.

The play put an exclamation mark on a first half that saw Mount Union lose two fumbles, throw three interceptions, and settle for a field goal after an 81 yard kickoff return.  The miscues and missed opportunities proved to be costly in a season ending, 56-10, road loss to Bishop McCort.

“That’s always the name of the game,” Mount Union head coach David Smith said. “When you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.  We turned it over a bunch.  That’s a quality opponent.  That’s a great football team, and you can’t give them opportunities like that.”

The biggest missed opportunity for the Trojans came midway through the first


After a 21 yard touchdown pass for the Crushers from Levi Cook to Elijah Benton, Daunte Martin took the ensuing kickoff near the ten yard line.  He initially fumbled the ball, but picked it up and ran up the middle.  Martin broke a tackle, cut outside, and appeared to be clear for a touchdown.  It was all for not, as a Crushers player was able to run down the play and got Martin to the ground at the BM 9.

That tackle proved costly for the Trojans.  Mount Union was not able to capitalize on the 81 yard return. After two short runs, Devin Kuhstos was sacked in the backfield for a loss of four yards.  The Trojans had to settle for a 27 yard field goal by Douglas Gearhart to trim the Crushers lead to 7-3.

“That hurt,” said Smith.  “We got a great return.  Our return guys did their job, and we just couldn’t get it going there.  It condensed the field for us.  Once we had the short field we felt comfortable, but their front seven really showed up.”

Mount Union appeared to have a spark, as it recovered a Bishop McCort fumble on the next play from scrimmage.  The fumble set up the Trojans offense at the Crushers 30 yard line.  The drive didn’t last long as Martin fumbled a handoff two plays later, giving the ball back to Bishop McCort.

The Crushers quickly took advantage of getting the ball back.  Andre Nash darted 47 yards on the next play.  Three plays later Anthony Walters scored on a nine yard run.  Levi Cook ran in the two point conversion after Bishop McCort faked the extra point to push the lead to 15-3.

The Mount Union fumble also started a series of bad possessions by the Trojans.  They had two straight possessions that ended in fumbles recovered by the Crushers, a drive that ended in an interception, a series that ended with a three yard punt, and an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Elijah Benton.

“It was nice to see the defense step up tonight and make some big plays,” Bishop McCort head coach Brian Basile said.  “That’s what it’s going to take if we are going to keep this thing rolling.  It’s going to take all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams.  Tonight, the defense did a real good job.”

Despite their poor play, Mount Union jumped back into the game midway through the second quarter.

After a Bishop McCort punt return touchdown was called back on a block in the back penalty, Mount Union got a key play from its defense.  Trevor Knapp undercut a route and intercepted Cook’s pass, giving the Trojans the ball at their own 14 yard line.  On the next play, Martin took a handoff to the right side, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, and dashed through the Crushers secondary. He eluded a Bishop McCort tackler near the Crushers 40 yard line, and ran into the end zone for an 86 yard scoring run. Gearhart added the PAT to cut the deficit to 19 points.

The Crushers quickly responded, though, and regained momentum.   They scored on a 29 yard touchdown run by Imil Britt to push the lead to 36-10.

Kuhstos then threw his second interception of the half to give Bishop McCort the ball back on their 39 yard line with 29 seconds left in the half.  Cook completed a short pass to Chris Miller, who pitched a lateral to Britt.  The hook and lateral netted 35 yards.  The Crushers moved the ball deep into Trojans territory, but was forced to settle for a 32 yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left in the half.

McMickens blocked the kick, but it turned into a touchdown when Cook scooped up the loose ball, scrambled, and found Zach Goins wide open in the end zone.  The score was Bishop McCort’s sixth touchdown of the first half.  Miller added the PAT to set the halftime score at 43-10.

“It was just a freak play, and they made the best of it” said Smith.  “We had him in the backfield, and just couldn’t bring him down.  He made a great play, and really negated what we thought was going to be a great play for our side.”

The Crushers added two second half touchdowns to set the final at 56-10.

Mount Union finished the year 5-6. The Trojans played seven teams that qualified for the playoffs, and started the season with a 5-1, holding their opponents to 13 points or less in three of the six games.  However, they closed the season on a four game skid, all to playoff teams.  The defense gave up 28 or more points in each of those games.

“We were really glad to finish the regular season 5-5, but that’s not where we wanted to be,” said Smith.  “They were a good group of kids.  I’m thankful to the kids that were committed to the program, but we are going to get ready to move on to the next one.”