By Jim Hunter
GUYS MILLS —
The Spa defense got downright nasty in the second half against Maplewood.
After yielding 21 points in the first half, Cambridge Springs coach Clint Rauscher gathered his assistant coaches at halftime and fixed the defensive breakdowns.
Delivering several vicious hits (a couple resulting in flagrant fouls), the Blue Devils shut out the Tigers in the final two quarters to snap a two-game losing streak in a 35-21 victory on Friday night in Region 2 action.
Cambridge Springs (6-2 overall) improved to 6-1 in the region, while improving Maplewood (4-4) dropped to 3-3.
When Rauscher shut the lockerroom door at halftime, the favored Blue Devils were tied with the upstart Tigers, 21-21.
The Spa boss got his message across to his players during those 15 minutes.
“We just squared some things away,” he said. “Our defensive alignments were atrocious in the first half ... mainly in the backfield. We straightened out the problems at halftime.”
The Blue Devils sure did.
After senior running back Colton Noble scored on a 6-yard run to give the Blue Devils a 28-21 lead with 10:13 left in the game, the Spa defense showed its true mettle on two defensive stands.
Set up by Dane Barker’s two completions for 24 yards and a 15-yard, roughing-the-passer penalty, the Tigers had first-and-goal at the Blue Devils’ 7.
On third-and-goal at the 4, Barker — rolling to his right — got pressured by defensive lineman Juston Tapper and threw an incompletion.
On fourth down, Barker tried to hook up with split end Jeremy Dahl over the middle in the end zone, but the pass deflected off Dahl’s hands and into Spa defensive back Zach Stafford’s hands for an interception.
Time remaining in game: 6:33.
Nearly two minutes later, Noble pretty much sealed the deal with a 59-yard touchdown romp to increase the Spa’s lead to 35-21.
The Tigers had some fight left in them.
Opening with a 25-yard completion from running back Miller Peters to Noah Marvin on a flea-flicker and following with a 28-yard completion from Barker to Peters, Maplewood was in the Blue Devils’ red zone again.
After another flagrant foul against Cambridge Springs, the Tigers had first-and-goal at the Blue Devils’ 2.
Maplewood went backwards instead of forward.
On the fourth-and-goal at the 3, Spa defensive back Braden Baidime shot into the Tigers’ backfield and tackled Barker for a five-yard loss.
Maplewood coach Bryan Borkovich reflected on the Tigers’ inability to score in the red zone afterwards.
“We didn’t make the big plays when needed,” he said. “It was obvious they (Cambridge Springs) were focusing on shutting down our running game, so we resorted to the passing game. And, I felt we did a pretty good job in throwing the ball.
“It’s a tough loss, but we are heading in the right direction.”
“I was really concerned about this game,” he said. “We didn’t play very well last week against Fort LeBoeuf and Maplewood was on a two-game winning, including a big win over Mercyhurst Prep.”
Both Cambridge Springs and Maplewood were on the offensive in the first half.
Spa running back Zach Stafford broke loose for 39- and 42-yard touchdown runs and Tyshaun Johnson and Brandon Bishop caught 18- and six-yard touchdown receptions.
The second half? A different story.
Game notes: Noble had another monster game with 187 yards rushing on 22 carries ... Stafford also cracked the 100-yard mark with 106 yards on 10 hauls ... Johnson was Maplewood’s top ground gainer with 65 yards on five totes, but no carries or yards in the second half ... Barker completed 10 of 24 passes for 108 yards ... Noble and sophomore defensive tackle Josh Ebright delivered the Spa’s most vicious hits.