Key special teams play turns tide as Armstrong pulls away from Greensburg Salem

Friday, October 8, 2021 | 11:44 PM

It was a game that featured two of the top quarterbacks in the WPIAL.

But the biggest play came on a special teams miscue that turned into something good for Armstrong.

The Riverhawks were lining up for a field goal early in the second quarter, but the snap rolled back to the holder, who happened to be quarterback Cadin Olsen. The cool Olsen grabbed the ball, faded back and found Isaiah Brown wide open in the end zone.

Armstrong (5-2, 3-1) never looked back.

Olsen tossed three touchdown passes — two to Brown in the second quarter — and Armstrong rallied to defeat Greensburg Salem, 33-16, on Friday at Armstrong Stadium in a WPIAL Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference battle.

Olsen completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards, but it was the running of Alex Patton, who rushed for 137 yards, that proved to be the difference.

“It was the biggest play of the game,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “We kept getting back into the game, but we were never in a situation to take the lead and that score was the difference.”

Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said it was planned, but it’s something to team works on every Thursday at practice.

“We have a PAT period at practice,” Fabian said. “If there is a bad snap, we go into a fire drill. It helps to have a 6-foot-5 quarterback who can throw off his back foot from 25 yards away. It was a heck of a play by Cadin and for Isaiah to get down field.”

Greensburg Salem grabbed a 3-0 lead with a nifty opening drive behind the running of J.C. Wallish and the precision passing of quarterback Hayden Teska, who completed 18 of 35 passes for 262 yards.

Undaunted, Armstrong countered with a similar drive, mixing the running of Patton and Olsen and the arm of Olsen, who capped the drive with a 13-yard screen pass to Patton for a 6-3 lead.

It took the Golden Lions (4-3, 2-2) two plays to reclaim the lead, with Teska and Cody Rubrecht connecting on a 79-yard touchdown pass for a 10-6 lead. Rubrecht had eight catches for 174 yards.

Then came the play of the game. The Riverhawks were lining up for a field goal, but the snap was bad and Olsen heaved an 8-yard touchdown pass to Brown for a 13-10 lead.

The Golden Lions halted the Riverhawks’ next two drives on interceptions by Matt Wallace and Raequan Rollins.

But the Riverhawks weren’t to be denied on their next possession as Olsen hit Brown on a 5-yard score with 8 seconds left in the first half for a 20-10 lead at the break.

Armstrong scored on its first possession of the second half, with lineman Jewlius Barnes scoring from the 1.

Teska scored early in the fourth quarter for the Golden Lions following a 39-yard pass to Rubrecht, but Armstrong converted a Greensburg Salem turnover into a touchdown as Patton scored on a 7-yard run.

“We took what they were giving us,” Fabian said of his team’s running back. “They were playing coverage, and Alex and Cadin were able to run affectively.”

Fabian was also pleased with how his team handled the Golden Lions’ passing game.

“We had a busted coverage on the one score, but overall we played well,” Fabian said.

Keefer said his team just didn’t make enough big plays.

“We got a couple turnovers in the second quarter and didn’t seize the momentum,” Keefer said. “We got a field goal off our first drive, but we’d rather have gotten six. We just have to finish off drives better.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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