Norwin topped in homecoming shootout
With its losing streak over, Norwin couldn't put together its first winning streak in two years on homecoming night.
The Knights got locked in an offensive battle with Connellsville for the second straight year, as the two teams combined for 899 yards of offense, but it was the Falcons who came out on top again with a 44-29 win in Quad East Conference play on Friday.
While the defense had been the strength for Norwin (1-4, 1-4) this season, the offense had its biggest game yet. The Knights were led by freshman quarterback Nick Amendola, who had 90 yards rushing and was 16-for-26 passing for 269 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Casey Rebosky was the biggest recipient of Amendola's throws, as he finished with 170 yards on eight catches, including touchdown catches of 57 and 55 yards.
Connellsville (2-3, 2-2) was led by running back Jordan McCrae, who finished with 173 of his team's 378 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“It's fun to play a game like that,” Rebosky said. “That's the game of football right there. It was back-and-forth the whole game, and they just got the edge on us at the end.”
“We made some big plays on offense, but defensively, inexperience in some of the things we were doing hurt us,” Norwin coach Art Tragesser said. “(Connellsville) is a decent team, and they have some speed.”
Norwin trailed, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter, but that's where the Knights' highlight reel began.
Kyle Baum caught a 22-yard touchdown pass to put Norwin on the board, and late in the second quarter, Dylan Zgurich hit a booming 54-yard punt to the sideline that the Knights downed at the Connellsville 3-yard line.
That punt allowed the defense to record a safety by stopping Falcons' quarterback Jade Maher in the end zone after a fumble, and on the ensuing possession, Rebosky caught his first long touchdown to cut the halftime lead to 21-15.
Connellsville scored first in the second half, but the Amendola-to-Rebosky connection worked again to make the score 28-21 after a missed extra point.
“The passes were on,” Rebosky said. “As soon as you turned around, they were right there.
“(Amendola) was phenomenal. We've all known he can run. The last couple weeks, he's been tearing it up running-wise, but this week, he really started lighting it up with his throws.”
Tragesser seconded the praise on his freshman quarterback, but also pointed out that the best Norwin passing game of the year was an 11-man effort.
“We have some guys that can really catch the ball, but one of the biggest things today was that we had time to throw,” Tragesser said. “I think our line did a nice job tonight protecting on the pass, and when you can set up and throw, you can get it to our guys who can catch and run with it.”
Connellsville added a field goal to end the third quarter, but Norwin came right back with a 12-yard scoring run by Baum on a reverse. Sean Bowen tossed a fake extra point to Anthony Schiavone for the two-point conversion, which pulled the Knights to within two.
The Falcons extended the lead to 37-29 on a 1-yard run by Maher, but a missed extra point kep Norwin in the game with 7:20 left. The Knights drove to the Norwin 45, but faced a fourth-and-7 to keep the drive alive.
Amendola dropped back to throw but was force to scramble, but despite spinning and breaking away from three different defenders on a play that lasted more than 10 seconds, he was pulled down short of the first down marker to end the potential tying drive.
“How about that last play?” Tragesser said. “He's got a good future ahead of him.”
The immediate future for Norwin holds a 7:30 p.m. Friday conference game at Kiski Area (2-3, 2-2), which is on a three-game losing streak after opening the year with wins over Connellsville and Altoona.
Kiski Area, like Norwin, has struggled to run the ball at times, but the Cavaliers have gotten good passing from first-year starter Ricky Carter, much of which has gone to his leading receiver, Joe Brungo.
In spite of last week's defeat, the Knights are still confident as they head to one of the WPIAL's oldest venues, Davis Field in Vandergrift.
“We got the loss (against Connellsville), but you don't win every game,” Rebosky said. “We're going to keep putting up a good fight and giving 100 percent. We can't ask for more than that.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.