Sep. 4—EBENSBURG — Fittingly for Military Appreciation Night at Central Cambria, Chestnut Ridge won it in the trenches.
Nick Presnell and Jonah Hillegass combined for 218 yards and six touchdowns rushing as the Lions’ small but veteran line opened up huge holes to pave the way for a 56-21 Ridge victory in Laurel Highlands Conference high school football action on Friday night at Central Cambria Stadium.
Chestnut Ridge evened its record at 1-1.
“It’s awesome. Last year, sometimes it was almost like a stalemate. We couldn’t get off the ball. This year, our run game’s explosive. It’s a great feeling,” said Hillegass, who scored on runs of 20, 25 and 27 yards and rambled for 75 yards on just six carries.
Hillegass actually ended up third on the Lions’ in rushing yards because Presnell broke an 80-yard run with just 3:45 left, giving him 147 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile, slot Trevor Weyandt turned in a 47-yard scoring jaunt late in the third quarter and ended up with 81 yards on the ground.
Chestnut Ridge finished with 328 yards on the ground. The Lions piled up 219 in a Week 1 loss to Central. Chestnut Ridge starters Daniel Moore, Luke Moore, Noah Deremer, Isac Kaufman and Ian Melius aren’t particularly big — only Kaufman weighs more than 195 pounds — but they consistently opened big gaps in a Central Cambria defense with seven returning starters.
Three of the Lions’ front five are in their third year as starters.
“We’re not the biggest. We know our assignments. We communicate well. We’re strong, we’re scrappy and we just get off the ball good,” Luke Moore said.
Nate Whysong added 129 yards through the air for the Lions, including a 51-yard touchdown connection with Matt Whysong, as Chestnut Ridge bounced back from a competitive 41-28 opening loss to Central.
“We knew that would be a big challenge. I think we got a step better,” Chestnut Ridge coach Max Shoemaker said. “You can’t go wrong with a strong rushing attack. We’re hoping to refine it.”
Chestnut Ridge led 21-7 at half on the strength of the first two Hillegass touchdown runs. Hillegass’s second score provided a quick answer a little more than a minute after the Red Devils used a steady diet of Hobbs Dill runs to set up some fourth-and-4 misdirection: Dill got the ball but instead passed to Nolan Wyrwas all alone for a 28-yard touchdown that got Central Cambria within a touchdown with 4:17 left in the second quarter.
Dill finished with a game-high 148 yards on 20 carries before cramping up late in the third quarter and being pulled for the night.
The Red Devils dipped to 0-2. They allowed 240 yards on the ground in a 48-0 loss to Bedford in their opener.
“Obviously, we have a lot of do-your-job-football errors that lead to that production,” Central Cambria coach Shane McGregor said. “We return a lot of guys from last year, but we’re also breaking in some guys at crucial positions. You’ve got to play assignment football. If you don’t, they will score.”
The Lions took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter thanks to Presnell’s 1-yard plunge at the 1:09 mark of the first period. The play was set up by Nate Whysong’s 35-yard pass that he adeptly lobbed over the coverage to Matt Whysong.
On Chestnut Ridge’s very next offensive play, after a short Red Devil punt gave it the ball at the Central Cambria 20, Hillegass encountered little resistance going right up the middle all the way to the end zone to make it 14-0.