By Jim Hunter
The Blue Devils swallowed a bitter pill Friday night at Erie Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Although Cambridge Springs suffered a 35-14 loss and was nearly doubled in total yards by Mercer, the Spa players know they could have very easily stole the District 10 Class A playoff game from the Mustangs.
With 2:04 left in the third quarter, the Blue Devils’ Colton Noble scored on a one-yard plunge to get the Spa within 22-14.
Then, on three consecutive plays from its own 1, the Cambridge Springs defense stopped the Mustangs from scoring, adding more adrenaline to the Spa bench.
The Blue Devils then were bitten.
A costly Spa fumble and Mercer quarterback Logan Clarke’s 10-yard touchdown run with 5:58 left in the game put the “mighty mo” back on the Mustangs’ bench and ended the Blue Devils’ season.
Cambridge Springs finish with an 8-3 record. Mercer (9-2) will play Lakeview — a 61-6 winner over Maplewood — next Friday at a site and time to be determined.
Coach Clint Rauscher’s Blue Devils also had a late wake-up call.
Managing only three plays in the first quarter, Cambridge Springs fell behind 15-8 as the Mustangs outgained the Blue Devils in total yards, 128-4.
The Spa’s touchdown?
Sophomore Zach Stafford returned a kickoff 74 yards and Gavin Hohn scored on the two-point conversion.
With 6:35 remaining in the second period, the Mustangs — after another costly Spa fumble — increased their lead to 22-8 as Clarke hooked up with Jarred Davis on a 30-yard scoring play.
Cambridge Springs threatened to score in the closing minute of the first half as the Blue Devils drove to the Mustangs’ 14. On fourth-and-5, Noble made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone, but his momentum carried him out of bounds.
Whatever Rauscher said at halftime, it worked.
On the Spa’s opening possession in the third quarter, the Blue Devils went on a 16-play drive. However, the drive stalled when Mercer stopped Noble short on a fourth-and-four carry at the Mustangs’ 8.
Cambridge Springs got the ball back immediately as defensive back Kristofer Silbaugh made an outstanding diving interception catch on Mercer’s ensuing first play from scrimmage.
Five plays later, Noble crossed the goal line to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 22-14.
On the Blue Devils’ following defensive stand, linebacker Luke LeSuer and defensive back Stevie Reisenauer delivered the “D” licks.
The Spa’s comeback attempt then fizzled.
Playing his last game in a Spa uniform, Noble led the Blue Devils on the ground with 66 yards on 20 carries. Stafford rushed for 59 yards on 11 totes.
The multi-skilled Clarke was a double weapon completing 9-of-16 passes for 192 yards and rushing for 70 yards on 13 hauls.