CAMBRIA — For more than three quarters Friday night, the Cambria-Friesland prep football team used a bend-but-don’t-break defense to hang with undefeated Johnson Creek.
But in the final few minutes of the game, the Toppers finally broke, as the Bluejays scored three quick touchdowns to bury Cambria-Friesland and pick up a 34-7 victory in a Trailways Small Conference game.
Cambria-Friesland (2-2, 0-1 Trailways Small) recovered a pair of Johnson Creek fumbles deep in Hilltoppers territory to keep the Bluejays from blowing the game open prior to the fourth quarter.
Trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Cambria-Friesland put together its best drive of the game, marching from its own 6-yard line into Johnson Creek territory. The drive eventually stalled, and a good punt from senior Mason Owen pinned the Bluejays at their own 6-yard line.
That was when Cambria-Friesland’s defense finally broke. Johnson Creek quarterback Justin Swanson ran the ball on the next play, going up the middle of the field, slipping a pair of tackles on his way to a back-breaking 94-yard touchdown run that gave the Bluejays (4-0, 2-0) a 21-7 lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds to play.
The Toppers tried to claw back into the game, and looked like they was successful in doing so when Owen made a one-handed grab down the middle of the field on a pass from junior Kobe Smit and raced all the way to the end zone for what appeared to be a 90-yard touchdown. But the play was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Cambria-Friesland couldn’t move the chains after the flag and had to punt, and on the very first play of Johnson Creek’s next possession, Swanson threw a strike to sophomore end Skylor Griffiths for a 32-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-7 with 5:26 to play.
Cambria-Friesland’s next drive ended in an interception, and the Bluejays tacked on their third score of the quarter with an 11-yard run by senior Sam Budig to make it 34-7 with 2:13 to play.
Johnson Creek struck quick with a touchdown on its second possession of the game, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Swanson to Griffiths to take a 7-0 lead.
A pair of special teams gaffes helped set up a touchdown for each team in the first half. The first one came when Cambria-Friesland failed to field a short kickoff following Johnson Creek’s first touchdown, and the Bluejays jumped on the loose ball at the Cambria-Friesland 25-yard line. That set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Budig that made it 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Cambria-Friesland got its first break when the Johnson Creek punter fielded a low snap from one knee, forcing a turnover on downs that gave Cambria-Friesland the ball at the Johnson Creek 28-yard line. The Toppers lost 5 yards on their first three plays, but then converted on fourth down when quarterback Joseph Pulver hit a wide open Griffin Hart for a 33-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-7.
“We had way too many miscues early in the ballgame and they got up two quick (touchdowns) on us. Then even with 8 minutes left, it’s 14-7 and we’re in there,” Cambria-Friesland coach Jim Bylsma said. “But until our guys learn to pay attention to detail and be more precise on their technique, we’re going to have a tough time.”
The touchdown pass from Pulver was the lone highlight of the game for him. He was injured earlier in the game, and though he tried to play through the injury, was taken out of the game for good early in the second half. That meant Smit was forced into quarterback duty the rest of the way.
“Hats off to Kobe. He got thrown into the fire and played well,” Bylsma said.
Cambria-Friesland will try to bounce back next Friday night when it plays at Deerfield.
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Johnson Creek 14 0 0 20 — 34
Cambria-Friesland 0 7 0 0 — 7
JC — Griffiths 9 pass from Swanson (Griffiths kick), 4:43, 1st.
JC — Budig 9 run (Griffiths kick), 2:35, 1st.
CF — Hart 33 pass from Pulver (Pulver kick), 7:41, 2nd.
JC — Swanson 94 run (Griffiths kick), 6:45, 4th
JC — Griffiths 32 pass from Swanson (Griffiths kick), 5:26, 4th.
JC — Budig 11 run (kick failed), 2:13, 4th.
First downs — JC 23, CF 16. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — JC 41-274, CF 28-78. Passing yards — JC 112, CF 83. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — JC 9-17-0, CF 4-16-2. Fumbles-lost — JC 2-2, CF 0-0. Penalties-yards — JC 7-59, CF 5-47.
Rushing: JC, Swanson 16-143. CF, Raymond 15-80.
Passing: JC, Swanson 9-17-0-112. CF, Smit 3-15-2-50.
Receiving: JC, Griffiths 7-89. CF, Hart 1-33.