Highlands' upset bid falls short against Montour
Highlands had plenty on the line going into Friday night's game against No. 4-ranked Montour.
Coming off of last week's nonconference win over Albert Gallatin, the Rams were poised to give first-year coach Dom Girardi his first big upset win.
Highlands built an early lead before the Spartans used their power running game and a bend-but-don't-break defense to score 21 straight points en route to a 24-14 victory in a Northwest Nine matchup.
“Our kids decided at halftime that we're not going to let them score anymore,” said Montour coach Lou Cerro, whose team trailed 14-3 in the second quarter. “We made it a little hard on ourselves with some stupid penalties, but besides that I'm pleased with our performance.”
Leading 14-10 to open the second half, Highlands (3-3, 2-3) received the second-half kickoff and went right to work. The Rams lulled Montour (5-1, 5-1) to sleep with a 19-play drive that fizzled at the Spartan's 19-yard line. The drive took 8 minutes, 56 seconds, but the Rams came away with no points.
Highlands' clock-eating drive sparked a momentum shift. Montour marched 81 yards to take its first lead of the game at 17-14 when quarterback Kavon Morman called his own number and scored on a 1-yard keeper with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
“Highlands made some big plays in that third quarter,” Cerro said. “They took up most of that quarter, and we stopped them on that fourth-down play and we scored in the first two plays of the fourth quarter. I think it was a big momentum switch, and our kids really took a gut check and got it done.”
Highlands' quick-strike offense was ineffective, turning the ball over on downs on the game's final three possessions of the fourth quarter.
Montour running back Jake Tomas scored on 1-yard run to stretch Montour's lead to 24-14 late in the fourth quarter.
“The second half, we had a long drive and didn't come up with points; they had a long drive and did, and really that's the difference,” Girardi said.
Highlands opened the scoring early in the second quarter when quarterback Seth Cohen spotted Ryan Signorella for a 73-yard touchdown pass to give Highlands a 7-0 lead. Montour kicker Nolan Hutter kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Cohen hooked up with Signorella once again on a 59-yard touchdown pass that showed Signorella's open-field running skills as he set up his blockers all the way down the field. Cohen finished 18 of 36 for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Signorella had 136 yards on three receptions.
“Those runs that Ryan Signorella made were unbelievable,” Girardi said.
The Spartans began to show why they're one of the top teams in Class 4A when they put together a six-play, 59-yard drive that was capped off by a Dustin Snyder 2-yard run to close the score to 14-10 as the first half came to a close.
Montour quarterback Kavon Morman finished 7 of 14 for 106 yards.
“I'm so proud at how hard the kids worked this week,” Girardi said. “It was the best week of practice that we've had. They laid it out there, and we talked about having to play four quarters of football and we did that, but we just came out on the short end of the stick to a very good team.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.