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Written by: Billy Splain on Sunday, October 24th, 2021
There was something in the air Saturday afternoon (besides the annoying drizzle) at Severance Field in Harrisburg. You could feel it. A struggling State College team came to town licking their wounds, having uncharacteristically lost three of their last four games. The Cougars, however, have been playing at a level that quite frankly is a surprise to many. Two cats, in the rain, looking to sharpen their claws as the playoffs approach. At the same time as their counterparts in State College, the Nittany Lions, entered what would turn out to be a record 9 overtime periods, the Little Lions were scratching to send their game into overtime. With just 6 seconds left on the clock, Jack Morris punched the ball in from the 1 foot mark to bring the Lions within 2 points, but much like the Nittany Lions who lost in OT, this wasn’t to be the day for the Little Lions either. During the 2 point play to tie the game at 15, Morris rolled right and fired the ball to TJ Yoder but the Cougar coverage was there, and Harrisburg escaped with the 2 point win on their brand new scoreboard.
“It’s a great game, I don’t expect anything less when State College comes to play. I don’t know about anyone else, but State College always comes ready to play” said Cougars head coach Cal Everett after the hard fought victory. Coming in as the underdogs, it was State High who took control to begin the game. The Lions took the opening kick and drove to the 41 but were forced to punt the ball away. Pinned at their own 8, Harrisburg managed to get some breathing room but during a swing pass the receiver fumbled the ball away and State took over at the Burg 31. It took just one play, a pass to a wide open Jashaun Green, and Lintal’s Lions took a 7-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first period.
Harrisburg returned the favor by picking off a State High pass deep in Little Lion territory. A few plays later Kyle WIlliams hauled in a pass from freshman Shawn Lee and carried the ball in from 7 yards out to tie the score. It remained tied for the next 22 minutes of the game as both teams battled both defensively and offensively. Harrisburg’s defensive line bent, but didn’t break as Brady Bender shoved the ball forward behind an inspired line, and the Little Lions struggled to slow down the Harrisburg speed. Harrisburg had their chances. “We hurt ourselves a lot today. Off the top of my head we came up empty in the red zone four or five times” said Everett of his teams offensive struggle to score. “We need to get better there”.
The Cougars finally found the endzone again with 11 minutes left in the game. After the Harrisburg defense blocked a quick punt attempt by State, an inspired Cougar offense drove 67 yards to take the lead. The drive was jump started by a nice 25 yard run by Lee and it was Mahkai Hopkins that finished the deal from the four. A key moment happened during the PAT attempt as State jumped offsides and the Cougars then went for two and converted.
“It comes down to one play, one thing that can change the game. They get the score and we jump offsides, they get the two and put the pressure on” said Matt Lintal.
Harrisburg can clinch the Mid Penn Commonwealth with a win at Chambersburg next week. State will look to rebound against the team that eliminated them last season, Altoona.
Gallery Mark Helbley
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