Mike Mastovich: Unselfish, balanced Penn Cambria is tough to defend (with statistical leaders)

·4 min read

Sep. 22—When Penn Cambria coach Nick Felus talks about balance, he is looking beyond the obvious statistical data that has his undefeated Panthers rushing for 863 yards and 11 touchdowns and passing for 810 yards and 11 scores.

"We take what the defense gives us," said Felus, whose 4-0 squad will travel to 1-3 Westmont Hilltop for a 1 p.m. Saturday game.

"We're not looking at 50% run and 50% pass," he said. "We look at what the defense is giving us. Having the skill players we have now allows us to spread the ball around and makes it tough on defenses to defend."

Defenses have difficulty contending with versatile four-year starting quarterback Garrett Harrold, who has completed 53 of 71 passes, a .746 percentage, for 803 yards, 11 TDs and only two interceptions.

Of course, Harrold also can run. His 49 carries for 263 yards and four rushing TDs prove as much. Harrold also has a knack for eluding or shaking tackles while delivering the big pass or making the key run.

"Garrett being a four-year starter helps tremendously," Felus said. "He has a great grasp of the offense."

But these Panthers are not a one-man show. Senior running back Zach Grove has rushed for 510 yards and seven touchdowns. This past week, Grove totaled 162 yards on the ground with three touchdowns and he returned an interception 59 yards for another score in a 39-34 victory over defending PIAA Class 1A champion Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic.

"Grove has great vision and he's patient," Felus said. "We run a lot of zone schemes. Zach has the vision and patience to be able to cut back. He's got great balance and great footwork.

"He's gotten bigger, stronger and faster.

"He's shown this year he can make the long run and run away from people. He is a complete back whether it's pass protection or getting the ball out of the backfield."

Senior Vinny Chirdon (16 receptions, 233 yards, six touchdowns), sophomore Gavin Harrold (12-160, one), senior Luke Shuagis (10-158, one), junior Carter McDermott (5-137, one) and Grove (9-102, two) have been targets of Garrett Harrold's passes.

"We have a group that this summer they really committed to the program we have with the weight training and conditioning," Felus said. "We took it a step further. We really worked on our passing game this summer."

The coach also likes the fact that his players aren't as concerned about who is making the play as long as the play is made by the Panthers.

"They all have different skill sets," Felus said. "The big thing is they're all unselfish. They don't care who gets the ball.

"They're very good blockers when they don't have the ball.

"They are team players. That helps us stay balanced as an offense."

"They don't care who gets the credit, as long as we're successful and winning. That's what matters most."

Special delivery?: High-scoring offenses and stifling defenses will be on the field at Windber Stadium during Friday night's battle of WestPAC unbeatens Berlin Brothersvalley and Windber.

But don't forget about the special teams.

Each team has a consistent placekicker and a solid punter.

Windber's Bryson Costa has an area-best 25 kicking points, one more point than Berlin's Connor Montgomery.

Costa has made 25 of 27 extra-point kicks. Montgomery has been good 24 of 25 attempts.

According to the team statistics, neither kicker has attempted a field goal.

Neither team has had to punt much. Windber's Costa has one boot for 44 yards this season.

Berlin's Ryan Blubaugh has eight punts for 326 yards, a 40.8 average with a long of 54 yards.

For more on the Berlin at Windber game, check out the upcoming preview in The Tribune-Democrat or on www.TribDem.com on Friday.

Pick 'em: Tanner Shirley is among the top quarterbacks in the region, with an area-best 898 passing yards (52 of 81), but Shirley also knows what to do when he's on the other end of a pass.

Shirley is tied for the area lead with three interceptions through four weeks.

Ligonier Valley's Haden Sierocky also has three picks.

Five players have scored 10 or more touchdowns through four weeks, according to statistics submitted.

Windber's John Shuster has an area-high 14 touchdowns and 84 points. Chestnut Ridge's Nick Presnell has 12 TDs and 72 points.

Cambria Heights' Tanner Trybus (68 points) and Conemaugh Township's Jon Updyke (66) each have 11 TDs. Penn Cambria's Grove has 10 TDs and 62 points.

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.