MONESSEN – Fort Cherry head football coach Jim Shiel might’ve been thinking, “Here we go again.”
A year ago when Shiel’s Rangers hosted Monessen in a matchup of two 2-0 teams, Fort Cherry was locked in a tight contest – until halftime got close. That’s when the wheels came off, and Monessen ended up earning a 29-point victory.
This season, the meeting was going even better for Fort Cherry, which held a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter. In under six minutes of game time, the Rangers found themselves trailing.
But Koltan Kobrys wasn’t going to let history repeat itself.
After falling behind early in the third quarter, Fort Cherry scored 21 straight points, Kobrys scored five touchdowns and Fort Cherry earned a huge 49-33 victory at Monessen in the WPIAL Class A Black Hills Conference.
“I was just trying to get back at them,” said Kobrys, who was injured in the game last year. “I have to give a lot of credit to my line. There were a lot of cut-back lanes, a lot of holes. It made the job easy for me.”
Kobrys was certainly Fort Cherry’s workhorse, rushing for 195 yards on 24 carries and catching another six passes for 69 yards. Three of his receptions went for touchdowns.
The game seemed to turn shortly before halftime and the beginning of the third quarter. Monessen (2-1, 2-1) grabbed a 25-21 lead after running 26 straight plays from scrimmage and scoring 18 straight points, and Fort Cherry’s offense looked shaky, going three and out on its first possession. But a mistake opened the door for the Rangers (3-0, 3-0) to mount a comeback.
A high snap on a Monessen punt attempt gave Fort Cherry the ball at the Greyhounds 32-yard line, and it took the Rangers all of three plays to score on a Kobrys 25-yard run.
Shiel decided to be a bit daring and went for an onside kick, which Fort Cherry recovered. That drive ended with Kobrys’ fourth touchdown of the game and a 35-25 Rangers lead.
“We were going for it,” Shiel said. “We told (Anthony Kampian) to kick it hard down the middle, and that’s what he did. That was Coach Dysert.”
Fort Cherry was getting the job done on offense and special teams, and then it was the defense’s turn to step up and make a play. Alex Babirad stepped in front of a Noah Rullo pass and picked it off at the Rangers 40-yard line. Two plays later, Babirad caught a quick slant pass from Matt Heslin and scampered 56 yards for a 42-25 lead with 9:45 remaining in the game.
Monessen turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions.
Shiel had to be happy to see that as the Fort Cherry defense previously had chances to snuff out Monessen drives. The Greyhounds converted several third- and fourth-and-long situations to keep scoring drives alive.
But the story was mainly Kobrys, who rattled off a 41-yard run on the third play of the game, caught a 5-yard touchdown a few plays later, had a 76-yard kickoff return to set up Fort Cherry’s second score, then caught the Rangers’ third touchdown on a third and goal.
“I’m not really worried about touchdowns,” said Kobrys. “When I score a touchdown, the team scores a touchdown. It’s all about the ‘W.’ But (scoring five) does feel great.”
The victory puts Fort Cherry in a tie for first place in the conference with Clairton. It was also particularly impressive because Monessen had allowed just seven points all season. The Rangers currently the own the most potent offense in the WPIAL.
“I knew that we had a talented team, but I’m not sure the players knew it,” said Shiel. “I knew we could score points. But they didn’t know how good they could be. Today they made a giant step.”
Rullo completed 13 of 23 passes for 193 yards for Monessen, but 170 of those yards came in the first half. Javon Brown caught six passes for 111 yards.