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Northern Cambria gets late downs to edge Blairsville, 29-26

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

“The team that made the last mistake loses, and we made the last mistake,” said Blairsville coach Ab Dettorre.

The Blairsville Bobcats could have used just one more Northern Cambria Colts mistake late in the fourth quarter last Friday.

But the Colts weren't as accommodating as they were earlier in the game, and the last mistake belonged to Blairsville in a 29-26 loss to the Colts in a Heritage Conference game in Northern Cambria.

A missed blocking assignment on a Blairsville punt four minutes into the fourth quarter gave NC defensive end Josh Platko a clean shot at punter Colt McMillan. Platko made a full block, then recovered the ball at the Bobcats 14.

The Blairsville defense had limited the Colts (3-1) in the second half up to that point after Northern Cambria posted 135 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter.

But NC quarterback Jeff Hogan converted on a third-and-7 snap, completing an 11-yard TD pass to Adam Polites, and Polites gave the Colts a temporary 21-20 lead with the extra-point kick.

The Bobcats (2-2) did not answer quickly.

Quarterback Scott Thompson, who was sacked eight times, was brought down the last time by linebacker Alex Atkins for a 7-yard loss, followed by an incompletion.

But Thompson scrambled out of trouble on third down to find running back Cameron Livingston far down field.

Thompson was flattened by Atkins after releasing the ball to draw an unnecessary roughness flag, but the biggest part of the play was Livingston getting behind defenders Polites and Tyler Olish to make a 58-yard reception. The penalty tacked on six more yards, setting up a 12-yard plunge by Thompson to put Blairsville back in the lead, 26-21, with 5:01 to play.

Late in the game, the Colts were starting their last drive at their own 31 and it began with a 5-yard penalty.

But the last mistake of the game had already been made by the Bobcats. The Bobcats were hoping that wasn't true, but NC executed its next 13 plays and picked up five first downs without a hitch.

“Fortunately, we got the first downs when we needed to,” said NC Coach Paul Taranto. “The first downs really saved us and made the clock management a lot easier.”

The Colts lined up in the power-I for the most part, often called two plays in each huddle so that they could keep Blairsville off balance, and marched 74 yards rushing primarily up the middle. The smallest gain of the series was running back Nate Zachesky's 2-yard dive to return the lead to Northern Cambria with just 21 seconds left in the game.

The Bobcats weren't through, and though the clock was clearly against Blairsville, the Colts had to respect Blairsville's ability to make the unlikely happen.

Thompson took off on a 23-yard run to the 50-yard line to give the Bobcats one last shot at a desperation pass with four seconds left. That pass was slapped down by defensive back Dartagnon Suchar to end the game.

Blairsville took the early lead when linebacker Luke Ratkus jumped a swing pass to Suchar and ran it back easily for a 15-yard pick 6. Bob Thompson's kick made it 7-0 Blairsville.

Colts errors followed with a holding call and a delay of game penalty on their next offensive series, capped by a shanked punt that netted one yard. Scott Thompson was the beneficiary of a helmet-to-helmet hit that tacked 15 yards onto a rushing play that had gained nothing, and Blairsville scored two plays later on a 15-yard scamper around the right side by Livingston.

But then it was like flipping a switch. The Colts moved Suchar from tailback to quarterback primarily to run the ball and cut the lead to 14-7 with a penalty-free, 72-yard, four-play drive, all rushing. Derek Bearer crossed into the end zone on a 27-yard run.

Then Suchar got around the left corner and down the sideline on a 51-yard touchdown run with 3:43 remaining in the first half.

The Bobcats kept the Colts off the scoreboard in the third quarter and recaptured the lead on one of the most entertaining runs of the season thus far by a Blairsville running back. Livingston danced his way through several Colts tacklers to break free into the secondary and score on a 46-yard run.

Livingston had only five offensive touches in the game, but he made the most of them with 141 total yards. Suchar led the Colts with 117 rushing yards, and Zachesky reached 108 rushing yards on his game-winning touchdown.

John B. Smathers is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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