It’s been quite some time since Philipsburg-Osceola football won a season opener.
But thanks to Matt Johnson’s powerful running and the connection between P-O quarterback Bubba Slogosky and wide receiver T.J. Thompson’s connection, the Mounties defeated West Branch 32-14 on Friday night at L.T. Drivas Memorial Field.
The win harkened back to 2011, the last time P-O opened the season with a win — against Chestnut Ridge to jumpstart its most recent winning season at 9-3.
P-O coach Mike Mann hopes that history is a sign of things to come.
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“Honestly, I’m just happy,” Mann said with a smile. “There are so many emotions after that win, I’m losing my voice. It was a big opening win for these guys. They needed this confidence.”
The Mounties played with self-belief in their second consecutive win dating back to 2016’s season finale win over St. Joseph’s, which ended a 36-game losing streak.
The P-O offense racked up 424 yards of offense and 17 first downs in its first game operating a spread-option attack.
The effort on the ground was led by Johnson, who rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Senior captain Brandon Anderson chipped in a rushing and receiving score, as well.
Through the air, Slogosky completed 10-of-22 passes for 199 yards and a score. Thompson was Slogosky’s go-to target, catching five passes for 112 receiving yards.
“Me and T.J. have been friends since birth,” Slogosky said. “Every day we’d be in the backyard when we were young. Even still, together we just go out and throw together. We have good chemistry.”
It showed early.
At the start of P-O’s third drive, an illegal motion and five-yard loss drove the Mounties all the way back to their own 2-yard line.
But on second down, Slogosky handled a shotgun snap in his own end zone, got his feet beneath him and let it fly with two receivers streaking down the right sideline.
Thompson and his defender went up for the heave, and it appeared West Branch’s corner came down with it — the stadium PA announcer even announced it as an interception.
Seconds later, though, he had to apologize, and West Branch fans stopped shaking their cowbells in celebration. Somehow, Thompson emerged with the football.
“When I was running the route, I instantly thought it was way overthrown,” Thompson said, shaking his head. “I just kind of went up and jumped over top of him. ... He caught it, and I took it from him.”
Thompson’s 38-yard snare ignited the Mountie offense. Johnson sprinted 35 yards on the next play, and — six snaps later — the back barreled into the end zone for a one-yard score, P-O’s first points of the 2017 campaign.
And the Mounties didn’t stop scoring.
On their next drive, Slogosky and the Mounties went for it on a 4th-and-7 on West Branch’s 32-yard line.
Identifying one-on-one coverage on the outside, the quarterback put it up for Thompson, and he didn’t disappoint — making a 30-yard leaping catch that teammates later compared to Allen Robinson’s memorable grab against Michigan at Beaver Stadium a few years ago.
Slogosky capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Anderson.
P-O led 14-0 and made it a three-score game rather quickly. A 13-yard run by Johnson gave the Mounties a 20-0 halftime lead it wouldn’t surrender.
Despite a couple West Branch touchdowns in the second half, P-O didn’t lose its composure. Mann said last season, panic would’ve set in, but not this go-around.
With another win in their pocket, the Mounties are overflowing with confidence.
“Last year, we got that taste, and now we just want more and more,” Slogosky said. “Winning’s addictive. I think it’s going to roll into Bald Eagle, then Bellefonte and keep going and going.”
Added Mann: “It’s huge to start off on a positive note. We put 32 points up. I don’t think we’ve put 32 points up in the last seven years. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling.”