Big plays by Central Cambria kill Golden Eagles Tyrone falls 21-10 in District 6-AA semifinal

Running room Tyrone senior tailback Shayne Tate cuts to his left, through a hole opened by Johnny Shaffer (85) and Jess Walk (5), during the Eagles District 6-AA loss to Central Cambria on Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park. Tate finished the season with 1,546 rushing yards. (The Daily Herald/Steve Michaels)

Who would have thought 13 weeks ago that an injury to Levi Reihart would have been enough to derail the Tyrone Golden Eagles?
Considering the way Tyrone played most of the season in the wake of an injury to senior running back Johnny Franco, who would have thought any injury could untrack the Eagles from a rematch of last year’s District 6-AA championship game against Bishop McCort?
But Saturday’s 21-10 loss to Central Cambria in the District semifinals at Mansion Park was proof of the good and bad of the broken leg that kept Franco on the sidelines for 10 weeks. Without him, the Eagles were forced to find other offensive options and develop an identity separate from the spread out, big-play look that it may have taken on had the injury never occurred. With Reihart out for most of the second half after bruising his throwing hand sometime in the second quarter, the Eagles lacked an identity, even with last year’s leading rusher playing every down.
“(Levi) had an injury. He had bruised his hand,” said Tyrone coach John Franco. “After we got behind by two scores, we went to the spread offense. Had we not been behind by two scores, we would have stayed with our regular offense. Generally if we’re ahead, we’ll just pound it. We made a decision if we were behind, we would go to that, but we had to be behind by two scores.”
There were two major reasons Tyrone trailed by two scores: the Eagles’ inability to produce inside the 20-yard line and Central Cambria’s penchant for making big plays. Tyrone’s last four possessions of the first half penetrated as far as the Red Devils’ 3, 6, 34 and 18-yard lines, and all Tyrone had to show for it was three points.
Central Cambria, meanwhile, played inside Tyrone’s 20 just once the entire game, but they had two scoring plays of 65 yards or more, and a defense that refused to give in with its back to the wall.
“That’s been the history of us all season,” Central Cambria coach Ken Bussard said. “We’ve struggled with our offense in the first half, and we sometimes put our defense in a hole, but they’ve bailed us out. Our defense kept it close for us, and at halftime we were able to go in and make some adjustments.”
There was more to the Devils’ big plays than just points. Instead, it was when they produced them. When Tyrone seemed poised to grab momentum and turn the game in its favor, Central Cambria was at its best.
The Red Devils first score came on a second-and-10 play after Johnny Shaffer missed a 37-yard field goal. Shane McGregor handed off to Adam Petrosky on what looked like an off-tackle play to the right that was going nowhere. But Petrosky stopped and lateraled the ball back across the field to Jeff Wasilewski, who had three blockers in front of him to open up space along the left sideline. Eighty yards later, Wasilewski crossed the goal line at the 5:51 mark to put the Devils’ ahead 6-3. The PAT attempt was no good.
“It’s called a flicker play,” said Bussard. “(We) put it in this week and it worked to perfection. Jeff was able to make a big one out of it.”
“I thought we had it snuffed out pretty good,” Franco said. “I don’t know how (Petrosky) got the ball off. But you win games by players making plays, and their kid made a great play by getting the ball back to him, and the other kid made a super play by running it.”
Up to that point, the Devils had run six offensive plays and punted twice, while surrendering a sack.
Central Cambria’s next game-changing play came soon after the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the game. On the Devils’ second play of the third quarter, Shayne Tate broke up a pass to Tim Myers that was intercepted by Jesse Walk at the Central Cambria 15. Two plays later, Tate scored from 6 yards out, and Shaffer’s PAT gave Tyrone a 10-6 lead.
On the ensuing possession, the Devils faced a 3rd-and-9 from their own 34 when McGregor hit Petrosky on a screen pass that the 5-foot-10 senior turned into a 65-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead for Central Cambria at 14-10 and take the wind out of the Eagles’ sails.
“The key was three times getting down in the red zone in the first half without getting any points,” Franco said. “The second key was after getting the big interceptions and touchdown to start the second half, they got the long screen pass and took all of the momentum we had. Third-and-long, if we get a stop there and get the ball back, I think it’s a different game.”
After forcing Tyrone to punt from its own 23 on its next series, the Devils’ used a short field to tack on their final score. Starting at its own 47, Central Cambria moved the ball 54 yards on 10 plays to go up 11. It was an in-your-face drive that consisted of nine running plays and a fourth-and-3 conversion on a 20-yard pass from McGregor to Wasilewski that set the Devils up at the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Matt Cornetti crashed in from the 1.
Wasilewski finished with 100 yards of total offense on two touches.
The game was played in Altoona on Saturday instead of Gray-Veterans Field in Tyrone on Friday after Tyrone Area High School closed its doors until after Thanksgiving break last Thursday as a result of the disruption caused last week by the threat of violence at the school. However, Franco said the change of venue did not affect the team. Instead, he said, they looked at it positively.
“There were a lot of disruptions this week, but the good thing was, the kids used football to get away from it,” Franco said. “I don’t think it really had any effect on the game. I thought (moving the game) was a good thing to do, and good for all the right reasons.”
GRID TIDBITS: Tate finished the game with 67 yards on 12 carries, allowing him to finish the season with 1,546 yards on 208 carries, the seventh-best single-season performance in school history… Franco completed 3 of 9 passes for 33 yards and two interceptions… Tyrone held a 17-10 advantage in first downs… Central Cambria will face Laurel Highlands Conference foe Bishop McCort in the final Friday. The Crusher defeated Philipsburg-Osceola 15-11 in the other semifinal.
Central Cambria 21 Tyrone 10
Tyrone 3 0 7 0 – 10
Central Cambria 0 6 15 0 – 21
Scoring Summary
First Quarter
T – Shaffer 20 FG 1:24
Second Quarter
CC – Wasilewski 80 run. (kick failed). 5:51.
Third Quarter
T – Tate 6 run (Shaffer kick) 11:07
C – Petrosky 65 pass from McGregor (Wasilewski pass from Petrosky) 9:24
C – Cornetti 1 run (Kimball kick) 1:49
First Downs 17 10
Yards Rushing 156 192
Pass Att.-Comp. 7-15 4-5
Yards Passing 77 90
Total Offense 233 282
Fumble-Rec. 2-0 1-1
Interceptions By 1 2
Pen./Yards 6-60 6-49
Punts/Avg. 2-38 3-33
Tyrone – Tate 12-67; Franco 25-77; Walk 2-9; Emigh 1-13; Reihart 1-(-10); Team 4-(-4).
Central Cambria – Wasilewski 1-80; O’Saben 12-72; Cornetti 6-23; McGregor 9-16; Petrosky 5-5; Bono 1-0;
Tyrone – Reihart 4-6-44, 0 TD, 0 Int.; Franco 3-9-33, 0 TD, 2 Int.
Central Cambria – McGregor 4-5-90, 0 TD, 1 Int.
Tyrone – Emigh 4-61; Shaffer 1-14; Tate 1-1; Walk 1-1.
Central Cambria – Petrosky 1-65; Wasilewski 1-20; O’Saben 2-5.