By Frank Foreman
An early-season showdown between a pair of Region 2 title hopefuls takes place at Cochranton High School Field tonight as the Cardinals (1-0) play host to Cambridge Springs (1-0) at 7 p.m.
Both teams took care of business in Week 1, but each squad took vastly different routes to earn the opening-night victory.
On the visiting side of the ball is Cambridge Springs, an experienced team that ran all over Saegertown en route to a school-record 68-0 victory.
On the other side is Cochranton, a squad that scored early, played tough defense and made crucial plays down the stretch to pick up a 14-13 road win at Seneca.
Now, both undefeated teams square off to see who will get an early leg up in one of the most competitive regions in the district.
“That’s what makes it exciting,” Cochranton head coach Nate Liberty said of the big Week 2 matchup against Cambridge Springs. “It’s good to have a big game right off the get go to see how good your team is and how well we prepared throughout the summer.”
Considering the Cardinals take on Mercyhurst Prep next Friday, another strong team in Region 2, grinding out a victory over Cambridge Springs might take on even more importance.
“It’s very important. We have Mercyhurst Prep after Cambridge Springs, so we have to do well now,” Liberty said.
Cochranton will focus on slowing down a potent Cambridge Springs running attack that totaled 305 yards on the ground, led by running back Colton Noble’s 163 yards rushing. Noble, combined with quarterback Devin Walker’s ability to get to the corner on the option may just be the difference in the game.
“They have a very good quarterback and a big running back,” Liberty said. “Their offensive line gets off the football quick. We just need to be disciplined and stick together. Bend, but don’t break.”
Last season, Cochranton dominated Cambridge Springs in what wound up a 49-14 blowout. This year’s version of the Blue Devils appears to be much different.
Cambridge Springs has returned a slew of position players in 2013, and if last Friday was any indication, this season’s Blue Devils are a far cry from the team Cochranton saw a year ago.
“We had a lot of things going against us last season. We were just a very young team,” Cambridge Springs head coach Clint Rauscher said. “We made mistakes last year, and we are doing a good job of not beating ourselves up over making mistakes this year.”
Rauscher has a lot of confidence in his team’s offense, including through the air, an element of the Blue Devils have yet to showcase this season.
“I was hoping to throw more last week but it didn’t lend itself to that,” Rauscher said. “It is one of our strengths. We have the ability to throw the football, and there will be more of that (tonight).”
As far as it being a big game, Rauscher doesn’t hide the fact that in order for Cambridge Springs to accomplish what it hopes to do in 2013, tonight’s contest must fall in favor of the Blue Devils.
Playing the underdog card doesn’t hurt either.
“For us, it’s big,” Rauscher said. “Cochranton has been labeled the region favorites, and if we want to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, we have to grab this game right now. It’s a big opportunity.”