• By Ryan Spring
    PATTON — Most outsiders believed this season could be one of rebuilding for Chestnut Ridge.
    Think again, as the Lions improved to 5-0 after a second half rally to beat Cambria Heights on Friday night, 23-8.
    Chestnut Ridge put up 333 yards in offense, but turned the ball over twice and also missed a field goal that kept the Highlanders hanging around.
    “We knew Cambria Heights would be a tough opponent,” said Shoemaker. “They had six returning starters off their best team in school history. They have a winning attitude and a lot of tough kids.”
    The Highlanders held an 8-7 lead at halftime with the Lions set to receive the second-half kickoff, which they did from their 20-yard line.
    On the first play, Logan Pfister hit Derrick Weaver for an 11-yard pass and a first down. Three snaps later, Pfister looked in Weaver’s direction again. Weaver caught the ball, then juked a defender and raced downfield for a 39-yard gain to the Heights 25.
    Four runs by Jared McGill, the last a score from a yard away, put the Lions in front for good. They went for two with Pfister flipping the ball to Matt Whysong, who threw to Mason McVicker for the conversion. That put Chestnut Ridge ahead, 15-8, with 9:11 left in the third quarter.
    Both teams had to punt twice over the remainder of the period, and Cambria Heights was lined up to kick the ball away again with under nine minutes to go in regulation.
    A high snap forced Tyler Trybus to chase after it, and his knee hit the ground with the ball in hand for a safety that gave the Lions a little more breathing room plus another possession.
    After the Highlanders kicked off, Ridge went from its own 33 to paydirt as a heavy burst of rain and wind sent fans from both teams running for cover.
    McGill put the finishing touches on the victory with a 25-yard touchdown run, breaking through three tackles and into the clear on the Heights side of the field. The Lions missed the conversion with 2:39 on the clock.
    The first points of the night didn’t come until there were three seconds left in the opening quarter. Earlier, the Lions had great field position at the Highlanders’ 39, but Pfister’s pass on first down was intercepted by Zach Farabaugh.
    However, Heights couldn’t take advantage, and a curious punt on a third down was shanked. That put Chestnut Ridge in even better shape at the 32.
    From there, the locals needed eight plays to get in the end zone. That included a fourth-down conversion, a 23-yard pass from Pfister to Jacob Mowry, who just got a foot down along the sideline for the completion.
    Two plays later, Pfister ran for what would have been a score, only to have the Lions flagged for holding. After an incomplete pass, Pfister rolled out on third down and tucked the ball under to go 19 yards untouched for the touchdown. Ian Anderson’s extra point made it 7-0.
    Cambria Heights responded with a 13-play, 62-yard drive that used up nearly seven minutes. Seth Link scored on a two-yard touchdown, and he also ran in the two-pointer with 5:18 remaining before halftime.
    The Highlanders recovered a fumble on Ridge’s possession, but Angel Snyder’s sack of Link set them back from the start and they had to punt again.
    Chestnut Ridge took the ball at its 17-yard line with 1:23 to go. On first down, Pfister and Weaver connected on a deep ball for 43 yards. Pfister lost yardage on the next snap, but threw it to Weaver for 10, and then ran for 14 more and a first down at the Heights 21.
    With the clock winding down, the Lions used the sideline and a timeout to extend the drive and move the ball to the doorstep of the goal line. However, they were forced to try a field goal, and Anderson’s 21-yard attempt missed by inches to the right with 10 seconds remaining.
    Though the Lions did enough on offense to win, Shoemaker was looking for better play up front.
    “We need to execute better,” he said. “We didn’t handle their stunting very well, and we’ll need to correct those things moving forward. But it’s all part of getting to where we want to be. We’re happy with the first half of the season, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the schedule.”
    Pfister completed 15 passes for 193 yards, with Weaver catching five balls for 124 yards. Weaver also had a strong punting night with a 46-yard average on three kicks.