COCHRANTON — Injuries in sports are something no one wants to see. After taking a hit covering a punt return, Cambridge Springs linebacker Xavier Castillo was taken off the field on a stretcher and then moved to an ambulance. Fans in both blue and red looked on, praying for the best. It was less important that there were still over nine minutes left to play.
Yet in those final minutes, a Jared Taylor punt return sparked a Cambridge Springs 13-12 comeback win over Region 2 rival Cochranton on Friday night at Cochranton Stadium.
“That one was definitely for (Castillo) and Jaden (Grubbs),” said Taylor. “We love them dearly. It sucks to see them go down. It’s not just about that punt return. There were key blocks. It was great that we all came together as a team there.”
“I don’t know what’s going on (with Castillo),” said Cambridge Springs head coach Justin Grubbs. “I was just proud of the way the kids stepped up and played for their partners, played for their teammates and really gave it their all for the last nine minutes.”
Cambridge Springs improves to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in Region 2. Cochranton moves to 1-7 and 1-3 in region.
“After that injury, (the Blue Devils) came out and they smacked us around a little bit. That was a long delay, but both teams had to go through it,” said Cochranton head coach Joel Murray. “I think it did galvanize them as it should. That team came together.”
It was a neck-and-neck game throughout and ultimately just one point decided these two teams for the second straight season.
In the first quarter, Cochranton struck first with a punt return of their own. Stephen Martinec bobbed and weaved through his blockers and found a seam down the left sideline for the opening touchdown.
The lead was short-lived as early in the second quarter, Wyatt Barzak tossed an interception to Taylor who brought the ball all the way back to the Cochranton 13-yard line.
In three plays, the Spa found the end zone. Trent Wheeler took the quarterback keeper up the right side and rumbled in for the score. His extra-point kick went through the uprights for the 7-6 lead.
That lead held all the way to halftime despite the Blue Devils being heavily outgained 117-13 in first half yardage. The big difference was in turnovers with Cochranton surrendering three to zero for the Spa.
Cochranton began the third quarter with a long drive. On 3rd-and-13, Barzak found Jack Martiec for a 12-yard gain. On the fourth down attempt at Cambridge’s 26-yard line, Barzak was stuffed at the line to result in a change of possession.
After halting Cambridge on its next possession, Cochranton got the ball back at the Spa 47. A pass interference call moved the Cardinals closer and eventually Jon Gallo broke through the second level for a 22-yard touchdown.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved Cochranton 15 yards back for the conversion try and the pass attempt was not completed leading to a 12-7 Cardinals lead.
“It came down to a point. We had a lot of crucial calls against us,” said Murray. “We got to clean that up.”
The Blue Devils got their chance to get back the lead on Taylor’s punt return. The senior scooped up the ball and picked his lane. Similar to Martinec’s earlier touchdown, the blockers formed a wall that allowed Taylor to roll all the way to pay dirt and the 13-12 lead with 7:36 to play.
“We don’t give up. We have heart, that’s all we have,” said Taylor. “We have heart, we play with heart. In the end, we come out on top.”
The Blue Devils still needed a pair of stops defensivley to hold on. Their first stop came largely due to Cochranton penalties. The Cardinals 1st-and-10 turned into a 4th-and-40 resulting in a punt. Cochranton ended up with nine penalties for 90 yards. Cambridge had just seven for 57.
“We got to clean up the penalties. I don’t know what they were, but they were a lot to not many,” Murray added.
On the final drive, the Cardinals moved down the field and eventually got to the Blue Devils 44, but a hobbling Barzak threw an underthrown pass deep to Gallo which was picked off by Dylan Gibbons to seal the win.
“It’s been a rough year, it really has,” said Grubbs. “These kids have really persevered, really grown together as a team.”
For Cambridge Springs, Taylor had just 13 rushing yards, but added a punt-return touchdown and an interception to lead the team. Wheeler added the rushing score and 24 yards of offense.
For Cochranton, Gallo led the attack with 85 rushing yards, 54 receiving yards and a touchdown run. Stephen Martinec tallied 24 receiving yards and a punt-return score.