MILL HALL — With not many fans in attendance on Friday night due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans’ thoughts floated up to the press box at Don Malinak Stadium on the campus of Central Mountain High School.
And they didn’t know how to act, either.
“I don’t think this has happened at home in a lot of years,” one fan exclaimed.
The only people not stunned by the result on Friday night — the Wildcats football staff and players.
Central Mountain dominated up front on both sides of the ball and kept Shikellamy off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats opened up Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I play with a dominating, 33-6 victory in coach Jim Keiser’s Shikellamy debut.
“We knew missing (senior center Jared) Oakes was going to be problem,” Keiser said. “The heart was there. ... I don’t know ... too many mistakes, too many dropped balls, too many overthrown balls, but it wasn’t just that.
“The fact of the matter is, they were better up front than we were.”
The Wilcats (1-0 overall and HAC-I) hit a big play on their first play from scrimmage, a 39-yard double pass from Peyton Johnson to Nick Long, but the Braves defense stiffened, and took over on its own nine after a punt.
Shikellamy put together a 14-play drive, 40 yards coming on a pass from Drew Balestrini to Davis Marshall to convert a third-and-eight. The Braves failed to score when Central Mountain blocked a 32-yard Jon Gittens’ field goal attempt.
The Wildcats put together a 75-yard, 20-play drive to take the lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Central Mountain converted three third downs, and two fourth downs to keep the drive alive. Nearly 10 minutes after the blocked field goal, quarterback Brett Gerlach scored on a quarterback sneak, and Tyler Weaver’s extra point gave Central Mountain a 7-0 lead with 4:40 left in the first half.
“Most of the these guys have been with me for four years, and they’ve really bought in. They really worked hard in the offseason. I’m so proud of our line and how well they played,” Central Mountain coach James Renninger said. “That kind of success that we had on that long drive, that can only breed confidence. We did some really good things on that drive.”
It would be all Central Mountain after the long drive. The defense forced a quick three-and-out, and on the first play from scrimmage, Johnson got behind the Shikellamy secondary and ran down Gerlach’s long bomb for a 69-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 2:30 left in the first half.
The Wildcats were able to score another touchdown before halftime. Shikellamy was forced to punt from its own 20, and Gittens took off on a fake punt. He looked to have it, but Central Mountain’s Kaden Falls was able to make a diving, shoestring tackle to stop Gittens two yards short of the first down.
Gerlach found Johnson with 40 seconds left in the half, but a missed extra point made it 20-0 at the break.
The Braves took the second-half kickoff, converted a fourth down on an encroachment call to get across midfield, before Anton Stratts sacked and forced a Balestrini fumble on the next play, recovering at the Shik 45. Ryan Pentz (11 carries, 113 yards, 2 TDs) carried six straight times, the last from 10 yards out to give Central Mountain a 26-0 lead.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN 33,
Shikellamy (0-1)`0`0`0`6 — 6
Central Mountain (1-0)`0`20`6`7 — 33
CM-Brett Gerlach 1 run (Tyler Weaver kick)
CM-Peyton Johnson 69 pass from Gerlach (Weaver kick)
CM-Johnson 14 pass from Gerlach (kick failed)
CM-Ryan Pentz 10 run (pass failed)
CM-Pentz 2 run (Weaver kick)
S-Drew Kuenseler 1 run (run failed)
RUSHING — Shikellamy: Coltyn Sempko 11-43; Rashaun Martin 4-39; Drew Balestrini 7-32; Chase Morgan 2-20; Gage Wolf 7-17; Jon Gittens 1-8; Drew Kuenseler 1-1, TD; Isaac Shaffer-Neitz 1-0; Elijah Fernandez 1-0; Bradyen Wertman 2-(-4). Central Mountain: Ryan Pentz 11-113, 2 TDs; Micah Walizer 8-24; Brett Gerlach 6-12, TD; Julian Wilt 2-11; Zack Weaver 2-3; Landyn Carson 1-16; Evan Eposit 2-2; Peyton Johnson 3-(-1).
PASSING — Shikellamy: Balestrini 5-8-0 for 69 yards; Wertman 1-1-0 for 11 yards. Central Mountain: Gerlach 6-8-0 for 116 yards, 2 TDs; Johnson 1-1-0 for 39 yards.
RECEIVING — Shikellamy: Davis Marshall 2-44; Sempko 2-13; Brayden Long 1-12; Conner Fitzgerald 1-11. Central Mountain: Johnson 4-100, 2 TDs; Nick Long, 3-55.