Greensburg hammers LH
If the Steelers defense of the 1970s was known as the "Steel Curtain," then Greensburg Salem's defense should be called the "Rubber Band."
Greensburg Salem's defense turned away Laurel Highlands four times on fourth down in a critical 14-7 Homecoming victory at Offutt Field.
With the victory, Greensburg Salem secured a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season.
"I told our kids they need to stop playing in these cliffhangers, because they're going to give us coaches gray hair," Greensburg Salem coach George Kemerer said jokingly after the win.
After committing four turnovers and falling behind 14-0 at halftime, Laurel Highlands responded by scoring on its opening drive of the second half. Quarterback Matt Humbert capped the impressive 9-play, 86-yard drive by connecting with Greg Palladino for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Following a three-and-out by Greensburg Salem, Laurel Highlands (3-4, 2-2) again moved the ball, putting together a 14-play drive, before running back Corey Nesser was stopped on fourth and 1 at the 8.
"That was a bad (play) call on our part," said Laurel Highlands coach Scott Knee. "Our kids left it all on the field and never quit."
The Mustangs wouldn't go away as Palladino intercepted an errant pass from Chris Marsh, giving Laurel Highlands the ball at its own 33 with under four minutes to play.
"Our defense did a great job keeping us in the game," Knee said.
After a clutch 21-yard reception by Andre Ramsey on fourth and 20 kept the drive alive, Humbert completed three more passes and had a third-and-4 at the Greensburg Salem 17 with less than one minute to play. But Greensburg Salem's defense rose to the challenge as Anthony Manley broke up the next two passes, the second in the end zone, to seal to victory.
"Our secondary did a great job tonight against a good passing offense," Kemerer said.
In addition to Manley's efforts, Jacob Zeoli registered two interceptions, while Mike Bonanno picked off one.
Offensively, Greensburg Salem (4-3, 3-1) was led by running back Brandon Sticca's 116 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
Overcoming his three first-half interceptions, Humbert completed 16 of 35 passes for 185 yards. His leading receiver was Tony Patitucci with five catches for 47 yards.
Despite the loss, Laurel Highlands remains in the driver's seat for the fourth and final playoff spot from the Keystone Conference. The Mustangs will secure their first playoff berth since 1989 with a victory against Mount Pleasant Area next week or in the season finale against arch-rival Uniontown Area.
"Next week is paramount for us," Knee said. "It's do or die."
With the victory, Greensburg Salem moves into a tie with Uniontown for second place in the Keystone. The Golden Lions finish the regular season with games against conference rivals Yough and Derry Area.