EMPORIUM – In a game marred by turnovers and missed opportunities, Cameron County (1-1) used a fourth-quarter rally and two overtime sessions to topple Johnsonburg (0-2), 22-20.
The Rams led up until the last five minutes of the game before Cameron County sophomore Tony Olivett broke free for a 38-yard run to the right after taking advantage of several missed tackles.
Olivett was in from four yards out on the next play right up the middle and teammate Matt Fragale broke through for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8.
"They had a pitch and broke two tackles in the backfield and he took it, and that hurt us, one play right there and that was it," said Johnsonburg head football coach Jesse Schreiber. "Had we been able to stop them there, it would probably be a different game.
"We made some mental mistakes but they still did a tremendous job."
Johnsonburg sophomore running back C.J. Herbstritt, who finished the night with 83 yards on the ground, went down on the ensuing kickoff with an apparent injury and while he walked off the field without assistance, he did not return to the game.
"We lost our running back during the course of the game and that hurt us, and we had to move a few players around there," Schreiber said.
Without Herbstritt, the Rams went 3-and-out and Cameron County senior Ray Berry came up with a blocked punt against Johnsonburg senior Jaryd Servidea to gain excellent field position at the Rams' 22-yard line with a chance to take the contest in regulation.
However, consistently sloppy play ran rampant again as the Red Raiders coughed up the ball twice, the second time for good as Johnsonburg senior Steven Zimmerman fell on an Andrew Lathrop miscue.
The Rams moved down the field after a fluke play as Johnsonburg junior Quinn Luhr fumbled as he prepared to throw; Johnsonburg senior Troy Padasak recovered the loose ball and gained nine yards on the possession. Luhr completed his next three passes, an 8-yard offering to junior Frank Kocjancic, who finished with 13 receptions for 154 yards in the second varsity football game of his career; a 9-yard pass to a diving Johnsonburg junior Shane Bickford; and a 3-yard dump to Kocjancic. After a run for no gain and an incomplete pass, the Rams moved the chains on the Red Raiders' second defensive pass interference call of the night.
The 15-yard slap moved the ball to the 18-yard line with 19.4 seconds on the clock but the Rams couldn't cash in.
After an incomplete pass by Luhr, the quarterback cut up the middle for five yards but time ran out before the Rams could get off another play.
With each team starting off on the 10-yard line in overtime, Luhr hooked up with Kocjancic in double-coverage for a 9-yard touchdown reception in the front of the end zone near the right pylon. Kocjancic bobbled the ball before gaining possession for the upper hand. An extra point by Kyle Sheldon was blocked but Johnsonburg took a 14-8 lead.
Cameron County wasted no time with their offensive possession and immediately broke the plane with a diving 10-yard run to the popular right pylon to knot the score at 14-14. Looking to end the game, Cameron County kicker Val Thompson's attempt sailed wide left.
The Red Raiders were up first in the second overtime session and three straight rushing plays brought up a 4th-and-goal from the 5-yard line but senior Nick Stuckey broke free up the middle to take a 20-14 lead. After the Rams jumped offside on the first extra point try by Thompson, Red Raider head coach Mark Morelli elected to try for two points and the gamble paid off as Stuckey broke through to take a 22-14 lead for the home team.
After a 5-yard run and incomplete pass from Luhr, the dynamic duo of Kocjancic and Luhr hooked up again, this time with the junior wide receiver diving out of the end zone to pull in a 5-yard touchdown grab to cut the lead to 22-20.
"Frank is quite an athlete and that's a great duo, and they made quite a few plays happen [Friday night]," Schreiber said.
After conferring to draft a play for the 2-point conversion attempt, Luhr found Kocjancic diving to his left but the referee indicated the ball hit the ground first to end the game.
"It's a tough loss but both teams battled hard in this game," Schreiber said. "We're a young football team and a win here would've really helped with our confidence but we're going to come back Monday and keep on working. We did a lot of good things this week whereas last week against Coudersport, we were out of the game in the first quarter.
"Our players fought hard but still made a lot of turnovers-- really both teams made a lot of turnovers-- I don't know if it was because it was a muggy night or what but either way, that's way too many turnovers for us."
Herbstritt was running hard out of the gate early for the Rams and had runs of 17 and 14 yards on the visitors' first possession of the game. Johnsonburg cashed in on a roughing the passer call against the Red Raiders during a 9-play drive that saw Luhr hook up with Kocjancic for a 21-yard touchdown catch at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter for the 6-0 lead.
On the Red Raiders' next five possessions, they turned the ball over.
On their sixth straight running play after the Rams scored, Stuckey lost the pigskin at the Johnsonburg 46-yard line with 5:53 to go in the first quarter.
The Rams again moved the chains thanks to passes of 14 and 28 yards from Luhr to Kocjancic. Facing a 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Luhr fumbled the ball and Cameron County recovered at the 7-yard line to end the threat.
The home team then rattled off nine straight rushing plays and three first downs but the unlucky 10th play saw Zach Austin lose the football on the snap.
The play was the first of three consecutive turnovers on three consecutive plays.
After Austin coughed up the football, Herbstritt lost his first of the night as the Red Raiders regained possession at the Johnsonburg 48-yard line.
Cameron County sophomore Tucker Britton then dropped back to pass but was picked off by Luhr.
The Rams got two first downs, including an 18-yard pass to Kocjancic from Luhr before the junior quarterback threw an interception of his own.
The Red Raiders regrouped and rattled off 14 straight rushing plays to get to first down at the Rams' 20-yard line but after Austin recovered his second fumble for a 5-yard loss, Britton pitched another pick to Luhr at the 5-yard line. Luhr returned the ball 38 yards to the 43-yard line.
After a 20-yard offering to Kocjancic to get to the Red Raider 37-yard line, Luhr fumbled the ball away to Cameron County junior Antonio Johnson to end the half.
"We adjusted and saw something in the scouting where we thought we could take advantage and we did," Schreiber said. "In the second half, we just couldn't move the football as well as we did [in the first half] and I give their coaching staff a lot of credit for adjusting."
The Red Raiders opened up with six plays in the second half before punting. The Rams' first possession saw an 8-play drive end after senior Steven Zimmerman, on the offensive line, caught a tipped ball for no gain.
Servidea was hit late on the punt attempt to keep the drive going and an 11-yard pass to Kocjancic and a defensive pass interference call four plays later kept the drive alive.
On 4th-and-18 at the Cameron County 28-yard line, an incomplete pass from Luhr ended the threat in the early goings of the fourth quarter and turned the ball over on downs.
The Red Raiders were hit with a holding call to set up 1st-and-25 at the 15-yard line but a bad snap to Britton rolled into the end zone and Johnsonburg sophomore Eric Bevacqua pounced on the quarterback for the safety and 8-0 lead just 30 seconds into the last quarter of play.
The Rams went 3-and-out after the free kick and punted with nine minutes to play. Fragale fumbled on first down but recovered possession. Facing 3rd-and-15, Austin coughed up his third fumble of the game and Bevacqua recovered at the Cameron County 31-yard line with 7:50 on the clock.
The Rams were again unable to capitalize and Luhr threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-8 at the Red Raider 29-yard line to turn the ball over on downs.
After a roughing the passer call on Johnsonburg on second down moved the ball near midfield, Olivett broke free down the sideline for a 38-yard trek to the 4-yard line before scoring with 4:21 to play. Fragale's 2-point conversion run tied the game at 8-all.
"Quinn [Luhr] is a young quarterback making only his second start but I really think they're maturing right in front of our eyes," Schreiber said. "We give them credit as they work hard all the time in practice and they're listening to us. There wasn't much pressure on him in the first half but in the second half, they put a bit more on him. I thought he did a great job and played a great game.
"I think our coaches and kids did a nice job but it's a tough one to lose. Our players were up for it and our coaching staff did a nice job preparing them this week but it's just a tough one to lose."
Johnsonburg 6 0 0 2 6 6 - 20
Cameron County 0 0 0 8 6 8 - 22
J – Frank Kocjancic 21 pass from Quinn Luhr (Luhr kick failed), 8:21, 6-0
J – Tucker Britton (CC) tackled by Eric Bevacqua (J) for safety, 11:30, 8-0 J
C – Tony Olivett 4 run (Olivett run), 4:21, 8-8
J – Kocjancic 9 pass from Luhr (Kyle Sheldon kick failed), 14-8 J
C – Matt Fragale 10 run (Val Thompson kick failed), 14-14
C – Nick Stuckey 5 run (Stuckey run), 22-14 C
J – Kocjancic 5 pass from Luhr (Luhr conversion pass failed), 22-20 C
C Team Stats J
52-168 Rushes-Yards 38-98
5 Passing Yards 163
173 Total Yards 261
Passing: Johnsonburg: Quinn Luhr 15-28-163-3-1. Cameron County: Tucker Britton 1-3-5-0-2, Zach Austin 0-1-0-0-0.
Rushing: Johnsonburg: C.J. Herbstritt 20-83, Troy Padasak 1-12, Michael Shuey 5-8, Frank Kocjancic 2-5, Quinn Luhr 10-(-10). Cameron County: Tony Olivett 9-64, Tucker Britton 15-41, Andrew Lathrop 6-26, Matt Fragale 9-19, Zach Austin 9-9, Nick Stuckey 4-9.
Receiving: Johnsonburg: Frank Kocjancic 13-154, Shane Bickford 1-9, Steven Zimmerman 1-0. Cameron County: Nick Stuckey 1-5.