Bishop Guilfoyle starts quick, blazes past McCort-Carroll

Sep. 3—ALTOONA, Pa. — Tom Smith knew he was taking his football team into a hornets' nest.

Stinging from a first-week loss, defending District 6 Class 2A champion and state quarterfinalist Bishop Guilfoyle turned it into more of a house of horrors for the Smith's youthful McCort-Carroll Crushers in the first 22 minutes.

With McCort-Carroll embarking on the most brutal stretch of its schedule, the highly-motivated Marauders stifled the Crusher offense, jumped out to a 37-point lead and eventually rolled to a 51-7 Laurel Highlands Conference high school football victory on Saturday night at Mansion Park Stadium.

Among the few highlights for the Crushers was Angelo Gallucci's 1-yard sneak with nine seconds left in the first half to cut Bishop Guilfoyle's lead to 30 and avert starting the second half with the running clock. McCort-Carroll's touchdown was set up by Brock Beppler's 28-yard return of an interception from his own 36, which preceded Garrett Farabaugh's 35-yard catch-and-run with a pass over the middle from Gallucci.

McCort-Carroll was able to play the LHAC power to a standstill much of the second half before a Trevor Rehm touchdown catch with 9:25 left finally put it beyond the 35-point difference. The Crushers fell to 0-2.

"We knew they'd be really good," Smith said. "We came in with the attitude that we wanted to give it our best shot tonight, and when we felt things begin to slip away, our objective was to get better. I think we did do some things in the second half to get better."

Smith experimented with freshman Bentley Bainey taking over at quarterback at the start of the third quarter for Gallucci, who played receiver. Smith said not to read anything into the move, he just thought it was a good opportunity to get Bainey some throwing reps against varsity competition.

It was a rough outing, though, for the Crusher offense as a whole — it managed just 68 yards.

McCort-Carroll fell behind 37-0 when Jacob Kissell intercepted Gallucci and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown at the 6:51 mark of the second quarter. The play epitomized the frustrations the Crusher offense endured in the first half.

Before Beppler's interception, McCort-Carroll didn't run a play in the Marauders' side of the field, and six of the Crushers' plays went for negative yardage, including a second-quarter safety for the second week in a row.

In fact, McCort-Carroll hadn't been able to get to its own 40 until Farabaugh broke off an 18-yard run to near midfield late in the first half, but Kissell's sack of Gallucci pushed the Crushers back and forced a punt.

In its 20-15 Game 1 loss to Central Cambria, McCort-Carroll had a respectable 246 yards in total offense, but three plays accounted for 150 of them, including a 77-yard Gallucci-to-Beppler pass.

"We can't expect the defense to keep going at them when you're down by 30 points," said Farabaugh, who had 30 yards rushing in addition to the 35-yard reception, of the need for the offense to be able to sustain drives.

Part of the Crushers' struggles are attributable to inexperience: McCort-Carroll started six sophomores on each side of the ball. Three of them on offense were linemen, where a junior started, as well.

"It's youthfulness and the need to develop cohesion on the offensive line," Smith said of the key to getting that on track.

After holding McCort-Carroll three-and-out on the first drive of the game, Bishop Guilfoyle went right to work on a 21-yard pass from Chase Kissell to Ryan Hagg and a Hagg 21-yard run. Eight plays after receiving the Crushers' punt, Kaden Wyandt bulled into the end zone from the 3 for the first of his two touchdowns.

After four negative plays and a short punt on McCort-Carroll's next possession, Wheeler broke out a trick play where a handoff to Hagg turned into a 32-yard pass to a wide-open Braden Reilly.

Hagg capped the first-quarter scoring in a more conventional manner with a 24-yard run. Hagg finished with 139 yards in total offense.

"We knew we had a good team, but last week we didn't have an identity. This week, we wanted to get competitive, and I think we showed that," Hagg said.

The Marauders bounced back from a 17-7 loss at Bald Eagle Area.

"We had a great week of practice," Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. "Two things can happen after a loss, but it really helped us refocus."

McCort-Carroll's schedule doesn't let up with games against Chestnut Ridge and Richland the next two weeks.

"When you're in this league, it's a grind," Smith said, "but this football team understands the grind."