Written by: Doug Keklak on Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Although sporadic in nature, the Johnstown-Bishop McCort rivalry dates back to 1933 and is one of the fiercest in Cambria County. When it first started, Bishop McCort was simply known as Johnstown Catholic. The moniker was changed in 1961when three buildings were added to their original structure that was erected in 1922.
The current structure that is Greater Johnstown High School was originally constructed as Cochran Junior High School. This was at time when the population of Johnstown was such that called for three junior high schools to feed students to its high school (Joseph Johns and Garfield were the other two). The former Greater Johnstown Central High School was a behemoth building which was necessary for some of the large graduating classes the school had in its heyday. The Class of 1980 was the final graduating class at the old building. It was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a regional MRI Center.
Now that the mini history lesson is out of the way, let’s move on to the football rivalry itself. Over the course of the history of these two programs, it’s not by any stretch of the imagination the biggest rivalry overall. Johnstown has had much longer and consecutive rivalries with McKeesport, Windber and Altoona. However, since 2001, when Johnstown left the WPIAL and joined District 6 and the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, the cross-town rivals meet on a yearly basis. Going into the 2013 installment of this game, the Trojans have a 17-11-1 all-time lead in this series but as we’ll explore further, it is really a tale of two series.
The Trojans and Crushers played their first group of games in the series between 1933-1938. Johnstown won all those contests and outscored then Johnstown Catholic 158-0. The two teams went on hiatus until 1953 when the played each other each season until 1959. Again, this grouping of games was dominated by the Trojans. Johnstown won all seven games in this portion of the series and pitched lopsided shutouts of 40-0, 46-0, 41-0 and 43-0.
Because of the lopsided nature of these games, the schools did not play again until 1973. That contest was one of the hardest fought in the series to this point. Although the Trojans ultimately prevailed 14-12 and maintained their undefeated all-time record against the Crushers, many McCort faithful recall the great performance of future Notre Dame Fighting Irish All American and Denver Bronco Pete Duranko. Some great archival footage of this game can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOAaHMjXcP8
The teams took a fifteen-season break before meeting again in 1989 which was not only the first time the Crushers defeated the Trojans, but started a shift of momentum in the series in Bishop McCort’s favor. The teams tied in 1991 and Bishop McCort soundly defeated Johnstown 27-8 in 1992. The schools took yet another hiatus until the current series started in 2001.
Since 2001, Bishop McCort has dominated the series, going 9-3 through 2012 as the teams meet every season now that they are section mates in the LHAC and are guaranteed to play every season. Only 2003, 2010 and 2011 saw the Trojans better their rivals.
So, while this rivalry has been somewhat one-sided in either school’s favor depending on what time of the series we’re talking about, it is still a bitter rivalry. Perhaps it’s because less than a half mile separates the two schools. Also, when dealing with a private school, you have situations were many of these kids live in the same neighborhoods but don’t go to school together.
Fast forward to this year, the same holds true. With Johnstown entering the game at 2-4 and McCort 1-5 it didn’t have the flash of say, the 2006 or 2011 installments that had the Trojans undefeated and Crushers at 5-1.
Despite a steady first half rain that left potential spectators at home, the Trojans overcame a halftime deficit of 21-14 and a three quarter time deficit of 28-21(which actually saw them trail 28-14 for a good chunk of that quarter) and scored 20 fourth quarter points to down their rivals in the 30th edition of this city game.
Sophomore quarterback Jeremy Updyke had 211 yards passing and threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the winning effort. A Jesaiah Wilson interception was the key in the late game comeback that set up the first of two Jayvon Braxton touchdown that never saw the Trojans give up the lead again on the night.
Johnstown improves to 3-4 and will host Bishop Carroll next week while Bishop McCort drops to 1-6 and will host Cambria Heights. For the Crushers, the loss clinches their first losing season since 1979.
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