District 6 champion Northern Cambria enters 'uncharted territory' in state quarterfinal

Nov. 23—Thanksgiving morning workouts.

A competition among three of the region's remaining playoff teams to learn who wore the most creative pajamas to holiday practice.

Most importantly, a spot among the final eight teams in the PIAA Class 1A tournament.

The Northern Cambria High School football team has entered unfamiliar land after the Colts won the program's first District 6 1A title on Saturday.

"We're in uncharted territory," said Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty, whose 10-3 team will face District 4 champion Canton in the state quarterfinal round at 5 p.m. Saturday at Mansion Park in Altoona.

"What do you do on Thanksgiving? What do you do on Wednesday when we have a half-day of school? What do you do on Friday?" Shutty asked rhetorically. "As a coaching staff, you have to have the answers. There is a lot of uncharted territory we haven't been in as a coaching staff and as a team.

"That's what it's about being a part of the team and answering those questions."

The coach is certain about the challenge the Colts will face against 11-1 Canton.

"We've been watching a lot of film," Shutty said. "They're a big, physical team. They present a lot of challenges. The experience they bring, it's next level stuff. When you get to the final eight, that's what you expect.

"A lot of depth in their skill positions. They're very good everywhere. They're well-balanced."

Warriors senior running back Riley Parker has rushed for 1,290 yards and 24 touchdowns on 136 carries, an average of 9.5 yards a run.

Five other Warriors players have 216 or more rushing yards this season, including senior Weston Bellows with 419 rushing yards and four TDs, and senior Hayden Ward with 374 yards and seven scores.

"They have speed and size everywhere," Shutty said. "They are definitely a run-heavy team. Not that we haven't seen the run, just the type of backs they have and the type of line they have will be a challenge up front. They have some heavy bodies running the ball with speed behind them."

Northern Cambria senior quarterback Owen Bougher became the Colts' single-season passing leader two weeks ago.

His 9 of 13 performance for 139 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions helped Northern Cambria come back to beat top-seeded Penns Manor 12-6 in the District 6 title game at Mansion Park.

Bougher also moved into the top spot among area passers this season with 2,210 yards (146 of 241). He's thrown 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.

"We have a big senior class, a lot of leadership," Bougher said. "Our line is pretty young, but they're solid."

Senior Peyton Myers is the area's leading receiver with 63 catches for 1,101 yards and 10 TDs. Sophomore Ty Dumm caught both touchdown passes against the Comets last week and is fifth in the area with 690 receiving yards and 11 TDs on 37 catches.

"It means a lot. We'll be in the history with Northern Cambria," Dumm said after the district title win. "It's amazing."

Shutty said the jubilation throughout the Northern Cambria community lasted throughout the holiday week, although his Colts refocused in preparation for Canton.

"It's all that everyone was talking about all Sunday, and going to school on Monday, I think the boys felt like super heroes," Shutty said. "Everyone was congratulating them and talking about the game.

"We were escorted up in Carrolltown by 20 fire trucks, the ambulances and the police department. People were lining the streets," the Colts coach said. "It was an amazing turnout from the community and the support was a special thing that not everyone gets a chance to go through. It's something you don't want to let it go."

For a second straight week, the Colts held some practices on the artificial turf at Central Cambria High School. On Thanksgiving, Northern Cambria will be joined by PIAA playoff teams Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (Class 2A) and Central (Class 3A) in a pajama contest.

Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler invited the Colts to join in a Marauders' tradition, Shutty said. The three teams photograph players in pajamas during the morning practice and post on social media.

The formula has worked for the Marauders, who have four state championships, including one last season in Class 1A.

"They've always done that," Shutty said. "It's a good idea."