Highlands' rally falls short
HOLLIDAYSBURG — On a night when Hollidaysburg and Highlands nearly combined for 600 yards of offense, several defensive stops in the final minutes stood out the most, as the Golden Tigers defeated the Golden Rams, 33-26, in the season opener for the teams Friday.
Hollidaysburg, which led 22-0 early in the first half, got into trouble in the second half when Highlands broke out an offense in which it lined up players all over the field.
“We didn't see much of it on tape,” Tigers junior linebacker Greg Dinges said. “But we felt we were ready for almost anything. We had some slip-ups early and allowed some big plays, but then we caught on to it.”
Hollidaysburg led, 25-14, at the break.
Dinges scored on a 9-yard run in the first quarter, and then quarterback Brian Urban went to work in the second quarter. He scooped up one of three Highlands fumbles and returned it eight yards for a score. He also hit Kaleb Springer with a 17-yard touchdown pass, sandwiched in between two Eric Miller field goals (20 and 21 yards).
“We were down 22-0, and we felt like we gave it to them with that fumble recovery for a touchdown,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “You give anyone 22 points, and that is a tough comeback.”
Highlands scored twice in less than three minutes in the second quarter — on a touchdown run by Blake Leri (85 yards) and a Leri 46-yard touchdown pass to Allan Cratsenberg — to cut the lead to 22-14.
Going to what Albert called his “Confusion” offense in the second half, Highlands cut the lead to 25-20 at the 5:05 mark of the third quarter. The Golden Rams used that offense to move down the field for a 5-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Jackson.
“I felt like our kids ... we just needed to calm down when they got into all their exotics and do what we do,” Barton said. “We knew what to look for. We just had to stop freaking out by all the stuff that was going on. It was a challenge, but when push came to shove, our kids stepped up. I was really proud of them.”
The Golden Rams took a 26-25 lead when Leri scored from 1 yard out with 10:43 to go in the game. The two-point pass attempt failed.
Zane Brunner, however, made the key offensive play for the Golden Tigers, returning the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Scott Franco is a staff writer for the Altoona Mirror.