T-D HS Football

Forest Hills protects coveted playoff spot

By: By Pat Rothdeutsch

PHILIPSBURG — When Forest Hills leapfrogged two teams last week into the eighth – and final – District 6-AA playoff playoff position, its task for this week became crystal clear: Protect that spot with a victory over Philipsburg-Osceola.
Mission accomplished.
With difficulty. And without Joe Donoghue.
The Rangers struggled without Donoghue and were only able to carve out out a slim 14-7 halftime lead. Steady senior backup quarterback Tyler Shima stepped in and, led by a monster second half by Hakeem Blough, Forest Hills scored 20 unanswered points and pulled away from the game Mounties, 34-7.
It wasn’t anything close to the way the Rangers had the game drawn up.
Donoghue went down late in the first quarter and did not return, and after a long, second period drive by Philipsburg-Osceola, Forest Hills found itself in a dogfight with the 1-8 Mounties.
In a game that Forest Hills had to win to stay in playoff contention, Shima was able to stabilized the offense, and Blough took over from there.
Blough finished the night with 122 yards rushing and two offensive touchdowns on second-half runs of 35 and 29 yards, and then he put the game away with an electrifying 75-yard interception return that cemented the win.
“We had some key injuries to good players in the first half,” Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said, “and we had to regroup in that second half.
“Our seniors were not going to be denied a chance to go to the playoffs. So they played their hearts out; they had everybody fired up. Our offensive line did a good job of blocking their front, and Shareef Blough had an awesome second half.”
Forest Hills struck first in the game. On its first possession, Philipsburg turned it over on its own 15-yard line after a high snap sailed over the head of quarterback Curtis Marsko. Three plays later, Donoghue took it in from the 1 to make it, after a failed extra point, 6-0.
The Rangers showed signs that this would be an easy one after they forced a Mountie punt and promptly marched 38 yards on just three plays for their second touchdown. Quinn Deflauro did the honors after he was led with a perfect pass by Donoghue into left side of the end zone. A two-point conversion made it 14-0.
But that would be all for Forest Hills in the half.
Through a combination of a stiffening Philipsburg-Osceola defense and the right-leg injury to Donoghue, the Mounties stopped Forest Hills cold in its next three possessions.
Given some time to breathe, the Mountie offense came to life in the first minutes of the second quarter.
Philipsburg-Osceola took over on its 23-yard line and marched 77 yards on 16 plays for a touchdown that put it squarely back into the game. Mason Pryde took it in from the 4, and Nick Boumheri’s kick made the score 14-7.
Shima was able to get Forest Hills into scoring position at the 15 of Philipsburg-Osceola with under 30 seconds to play on the second quarter, but a holding call and a sack ended the threat and the teams went into the locker rooms with the score still 14-7.
“Hats off to Philipsburg, though,” Bailey said. “They played their hearts out for a 1-8 team. But we knew we had to regroup in the second half and start running the ball.”
Which is exactly what the Rangers did.
Blough ignited Forest Hills with a 35-yard strike in the latter stages of the third quarter to open a 20-7 Ranger lead. Just over four minutes later, on Forest Hills’ next possession, he did it again. This time for 29 yards and a 27-7 lead.
The clincher came when Philipsburg-Osceola, trying desperately to make something happen, ran an ill-advised halfback pass. Blough had it all the way. He picked it off, dodged two tacklers, and was gone without being touched down the right sideline.
“We were fortunate, again,” Bailey said. “Give the credit to the senior and offensive and defensive lines. They sucked it up in the second half.”
Now it’s off to the AA playoffs for the Rangers, their final seeding yet to bedetermined.