Ford City withstands Freeport's furious rally

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

Ford City survived a third quarter scare and defeated Freeport, 34-20, in a WPIAL Class AA Allegheny Conference matchup at Freeport's James E. Schwartz Memorial Field.

Freeport trailed by 19 points at the half, and 26 points midway through the third quarter before scoring three touchdowns in 4:18 to cut Ford City's lead to six points.

“We grew up tremendously in the second half,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “We are not a young team anymore. The difference from last week to now is that we believe. The kids believe.

“We replaced 10 kids from last season and had kids in there last week who had never taken a snap, but we grew up.”

After Freeport (0-2, 0-2) cut the lead to six, Ford City was faced with a third-and-six from its own 38. All the momentum was on Freeport's side of the ball, but sophomore Herm Rush gained 12 yards to give the Sabers a first down.

He followed that with a 6-yard run, and then Freeport's defense jumped offside. Rush added a 13-yard run and on the next play, senior August Mantini scored from 26-yards out to effectively end Freeport's rally.

“You saw what we had this week with these kids,” Ford City coach John Bartolovic said. “You saw Garrett (Virostek), (August) Mantini and Rush, a sophomore, running hard.

Ford City (1-1, 1-1) had a decided edge in rushing yards, 284-170. Chantz Schrecengost led the Sabers with 150 yards rushing and one score on 14 rushes. Mantini and Virostek missed last week's game with Shady Side Academy and they combined for 73 yards and three scores. Junior quarterback Andrew Romanchak led Freeport with 100 yards rushing and two scores on 15 carries.

Ford City's Michael Bartosiewicz completed 2 of 4 passes for 56 yards, including a 51-yard score to Cody Peppler. Romanchak completed 3 of 13 passes, all to sophomore Brandon Hochbein, for 56 yards.

“That first quarter was just a mess,” Bartolovic said. “You just can't take care of the ball the way we did. Plus we had some dumb penalties.”

Two big plays highlighted the first half for both teams. Midway through the second quarter, with Ford City leading 12-0, Freeport had a fourth-and-goal from the 1, but Logan Thimons was stopped short of the end zone.

Then, with no timeouts remaining and just 36 seconds left in the first half, Ford City took possession at its own 49. Bartosiewicz lofted a perfect pass to Peppler, who then beat a pair Freeport defenders to the end zone.

The first quarter featured a flurry of turnovers.

Ford City's first play on offense resulted in a lost fumble. On Ford City's next possession punter Tyler Blaniar was roughed and that negated a nice return inside Ford City territory.

Three plays later, Bartosiewicz was intercepted by Freeport's Tigger Troup. That gave Freeport the ball inside Ford City territory. Two plays later, Ford City's John Bittner recovered a fumble. On the very next play, Ford City gave the ball right back to Freeport when Dylan Hochbein recovered a fumble at Ford City's 40.

The Yellowjackets looked to be in business but the subsequent eight-play drive ended on a fourth-down run when Steven Lassinger came up one yard short of a first down at the Ford City 14.

Ford City's offense finally settled down and embarked on an 86-yard drive highlighted by Schrecengost's 52-yard run to the Freeport 5 yard line. Schrecengost scored on the next play.

Freeport's next possession stalled and Ford City took possession at the Freeport 19. Three plays later, Mantini scored on a 5-yard run.

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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