Central Bucks West 26, Erie Cathedral Prep 14
ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) _ Dave Binder scored on three short runs and the Central Bucks West defense stifled Erie Cathedral Prep in the second half Saturday to take the Pennsylvania Class AAAA football championship with a 26-14 victory.
The Bucks (13-0) plodded through the first half, but Binder’s rushing and three Erie Prep turnovers turned the game around in the wet and snowy third quarter.
Erie Cathedral Prep (14-1) gained only three yards in the period, and two fumbles and an interception in the fourth period set up three more CBW scores.
″We had one really bad stretch for a period there of seven to eight minutes and everything just fell apart,″ said Erie Prep coach Mina George.
The victory was the first for an Eastern Class AAAA team since state championship games were first played in 1988. This year also marks the first time a non-Pittsburgh area school has won the title.
The Ramblers led 6-0 after Mark Tate’s 11-yard run with five seconds left to go before halftime, but Erie Cathedral Prep couldn’t move the ball again until after CBW’s last score.
Tate carried the ball 20 times for 99 yards in the first half, then gained only 24 yards on five carries after halftime. The 123 yards gave him 1,999 for the season.
″We just decided to play harder,″ Central Bucks West coach Mike Pettine said. ″We told them if we kept tackling like that (in the first half), I would the first one over there to congratulate them because they deserved the game.″
Binder’s first score came on a 2-yard run at the end of a 63-yard drive, putting CBW up 7-6. The Bucks, who had been limited to just 60 yards on three first-half possessions, got a lift from the score.
″I felt a surge of energy along our bench,″ Pettine said. ″I said, ’That’s all we need now. One point.‴
But more came quickly for Central Bucks West. On its next drive, Erie Prep quarterback Harry Izbicki mis-tossed a pitch behind Shantel Hilliard at his 19, and Bryan Vitron saved the ball for the Ramblers at the 1.
Two plays later, Jim Sitter punted into a stiff wind only to the 19, setting up Binder’s second score, a 1-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
Tate fumbled at his 42 on the next play, but CBW couldn’t score. Then Izbicki’s fumble at his own 2 was recovered by the Bucks’ Ryan Moore to set up Binder’s third score, another 1-yard run.
″I don’t think the elements played too much of a role in this game,″ Tate said. ″We just made a couple of mental mistakes, big crucial mistakes and they cost us the game.″
After Binder’s last score, Central Bucks West’s Steve DeLuce picked off Izbicki and returned the ball 40 yards to the Erie Prep 29. Four plays later, Matt Soncini fumbled the ball at the 12, but the ball was recovered by Scott Mill in the end zone to put the Bucks up 26-6. Dorian Hager carried seven times for 63 yards on Erie Prep’s final drive and scored from the 4 with 1:07 left in the game. He added a two-point conversion.
Binder finished the game with 78 yards rushing on 15 carries. The foul weather interrupted both teams’ passing games. Izbicki had 11 yards passing on two completions. Greg Moylan had 20 yards, also on two completions.
CBW outgained Erie Prep on the ground 194-174.