Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bishop McCort's playoff journey takes flight

Bishop McCort has moved the football more successfully through the air than on the ground during the 2012 season, but the Crushers aren't following all the trends infiltrating passing games at the high school level.

The Crushers' offense isn't a spread. They don't always line up in shotgun formation. It's certainly far from dink and dunk.

To the contrary, Bishop McCort is not shy about taking chances downfield. Those gambles paid off with a 32-29 victory last Friday at Penns Manor in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class A playoffs.

Old-time fans of the Oakland Raiders would have come away impressed by the performance of Bishop McCort senior quarterback Zaine Tomkowski, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns.

That's an average of 26.4 yards per completion. Move over Daryle Lamonica and Ken Stabler.

"Zaine has a really good arm and he throws well on the run," Bishop McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said following the victory over the third-seeded Colts that gave the Crushers (8-3) a home game Saturday night against Northern Cambria (8-3) in the semifinals.

But, in an interesting twist, Bishop McCort set up its highly effective passing game by running the football with a moderate degree of success against Penns Manor.

The Crushers ran 37 times for 120 yards. It was just enough to open things up in the passing game.

"We knew going into the game when we watched these guys (Penns Manor) on film, their defense is so strong, we simply can't win just by throwing the football," Sheridan added.

On McCort's opening drive, senior Dustin Belsky went at the Penns Manor defense on a succession of run plays and it set up the game's first touchdown.

Tomkowski's first pass attempt was a classic dropback, complete with a double arm pump fake to freeze the defense, and it allowed receiver Jordan Spangler to get behind the defense. Spangler made a nice catch on the high-arching 29-yard touchdown.

"We wanted to establish the run game," Tomkowski explained. "Once we did that, we wanted to go over the top, especially when they put eight, nine guys in the box."

Tomkowski later connected on a 67-yard touchdown pass to Spangler, who had three catches for 111 yards and had the game-saving interception with a minute remaining. Ryan Siwy added an 18-yard touchdown reception. Tomkowski's 211 passing yards were his most since a Week 4 win over Bedford.

"I get very greedy out there," Tomkowski said. "I always want to go over the top for it all."

His play against Penns Manor helped the Bishop McCort defense overcome another amazing performance from Comets quarterback Danny Ferens, who battled a virus to rush for a season-high 264 yards in his final high school football game.

"I would say Danny Ferens is unlike anyone we've seen in a while," Sheridan said. "The last kid we ran into who could run like that was Antwuan Reed."

Tomkowski may not run like Ferens, but he sure can throw the football.

For the season, Tomkowski has completed 99 of 183 passes for 1,511 yards and 12 touchdowns against five interceptions. Impressive numbers made more so considering that Bishop McCort, unlike many Class A teams still playing, doesn't get to play a schedule full of inferior competition.

Spangler has 49 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns. Luke DiFrancesco is also a big-play threat. He has 25 catches for 513 yards and four scores.

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