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Defense fuels Cal win over Edinboro

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 6:57 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
California wide receiver Nadir Brown eludes Edinboro defensive back Mike Hanhauser during their game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Adamson Stadium in California.

On one of the uglier Saturdays of this young football season, California (Pa.) worried less about style points and leaned on a suffocating defense to top Edinboro.

The Vulcans (3-0, 1-0) prevailed, 20-7, in their rain-soaked Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West division opener by forcing five turnovers, including four interceptions. The Fighting Scots (1-2, 0-1), who had to adjust to the absence of injured star senior quarterback Cody Harris, finished with 202 yards of offense.

“I told our team I'm not trying to get style points,” Vulcans coach Mike Kellar said. “I'll take wins — they're not all going to be as pretty as Kutztown was last week. Last week, (a 45-10 win), we were kicking on all cylinders. Kutztown came in here off a tough loss. It was beautiful out. But in the course of season, good teams win some games like this. I don't necessarily think we're a very good team yet, but we were able to pull it out.”

Edinboro's most eventful play of the first half only required the Fighting Scots to apply modest pressure to punter Andrew Cerett. The Vulcans' first drive ended badly, as the punt snap sailed over Cerett's head and into the end zone. Cerett, aware of the oncoming rushers, kicked the ball out of the back for a safety. Cerett took another safety in the fourth quarter after mishandling a snap.

Cal's bench watched the two biggest plays of the first half develop just a few feet in front of them. Senior wide receiver Trey Johnson caught a quick out, broke a tackle and tiptoed up the home team's sideline before going out of bounds at Edinboro's 15-yard line for a 53-yard pickup.

Cody Nuzzo kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the Vulcans ahead, 3-2.

Midway through the second quarter, Cal senior defensive back Dewey McDonald intercepted freshman Matt Bodamer's throw over the middle, picked up some blockers along the home sideline, and returned the ball 50 yards for a score.

“When I first caught it, I checked the sideline closest to me, and I was trying to get to that sideline,” McDonald said. “But then I saw all my blockers say come this way, so I cut it back, and then everybody escorted me to the end zone.”

Bodamer, who finished his high school career at District 9 Port Allegany as the PIAA's career passing yardage leader, and redshirt freshman Jon Girvin, a Northgate grad, combined to fill in for Harris, a two-time All-PSAC West second-team selection who has averaged 394.5 yards of offense this season.

Girvin, who earned the start because of his slight edge in experience, completed 13 of 34 passes for 120 yards. He threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.

Bodamer's only throw attempt was the pick-six. He gained 5 yards on his only rush.

Edinboro coach Scott Browning declined to go into details on Harris' injury but confirmed the quarterback is out indefinitely. The Fighting Scots also went into the game without their top running back, a starting wideout and their starting left guard.

“We're playing a lot of young guys out there this year, and we played a good football team,” Browning said. “They need to keep getting better. … There's a lot of football left.”

Sophomore running back Derrick Fiore scored the game's only offensive touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Fiore, a Ringgold alum, finished with 68 yards rushing on 22 carries. Junior Jeff Knox led the Vulcans with 92 yards on 21 carries.

“We were extremely conservative at times (on offense), but when I look out on the field and see the defense playing the way they are and the conditions being what they are, then I'm going to win ugly,” Kellar said. “Hell, I'll win ugly anytime I get the chance to.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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