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Williamsport survives with OT win over Central Mountain @GoCatsFB @Millionaire_FB

Written by: on Saturday, September 18th, 2021

 

Nasir Henningan (26) runs over Lucas Porter (19) of Central Mountain at Williamsport High School. DAVE KENNEDY/Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Field turf pellets stuck to Riley Bower’s face as sweat poured through his red jersey. The Williamsport linebacker looked like he had just survived a 15-round heavyweight fight. So did his teammates and so did Central Mountain players.

Time after time both teams took times forcing the other against the ropes and time after time the other came fighting back. In the final seconds, and against the odds, Williamsport delivered the knockout blow and won an overtime thriller. Pain never felt so good.

Frankie Morrone found tight end Sebastian Robinson for a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown pass in overtime before Roman Morrone broke up Central Mountain’s 4th-and-goal pass from the 4 as Williamsport edged the Wildcats 21-14 in front of a big crowd at Millionaire Stadium. All this after it looked like Central Mountain had gone ahead 17-14 with 25 seconds remaining on Tyler Weaver’s 29-yard field goal. That kick, however, was erased by a Williamsport dead ball offsides penalty and the ensuing snap sailed high and resulted in a 24-yard loss, forcing overtime.


Williamsport lost two of its best players to injury, made a series of mistakes and lost two turnovers. But through all the adversity, the Millionaires found something quite strong–themselves. The Millionaires pulled together, played for each other, found a way and handed determined Central Mountain its first defeat.

“No matter what happens, we’re sticking together and we pulled it out,” Bower said after making 11 tackles and adding a sack. “We were finally able to come together as a team. We’ve been all over the place but we’re getting more cohesive.”

“For them to rally together, it was really exciting,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “They stepped up and our fans stepped up and made a lot of noise.”

Williamsport (3-1) held 7-0 and 14-7 first-quarter leads but Central Mountain’s defense dominated from there and the Millionaires compounded problems by making several mistakes. Still, Williamsport never buckled even after a muffed punt gave Central Mountain the ball back with 7 minutes, 39 seconds remaining instead of it having it at the Wildcat 30. Brett Gerlach made some big throws on the ensuing drive but the defense stiffened inside the red zone and forced a field goal try after Williamsport took its last timeout.

Tyler Weaver, an excellent two-way starter who is playing hurt and can only handle kicking duties right now, split the uprights on the 29-yarder but as he went into his kicking motion, the whistles blew. Williamsport had lined up in the neutral zone. Because it was a dead ball foul, Central Mountain could not decline the penalty and the ball was moved up five yards, setting up a 24-yard attempt.

It may go down as the best penalty in Williamsport history.

The next snap soared high into the night sky and kept bouncing until Williamsport defenders gobbled up the ball at the 30-yard line. It felt like the Millionaires had literally been brought back to life. The Millionaire crowd roared, players jumped for joy and Williamsport became convinced that there was no way it was losing.

“We were just excited to be able to go down the field and have another chance,” Bower said. “We messed up so many times and we got lucky and got to go back out there.”

“We made it through,” Crews said. “A mental mistake led to us winning the game.”

Williamsport wasted little time capitalizing on its good fortune. After Williamsport won the coin toss and accepted the ball, Morrone faked a handoff, rolled right on 2nd-and-goal and found Robinson cutting across the field. Robinson, who made several second-half tackles, bowled over a defender at the goal line and Williamsport led 21-14.

The defense kept Williamsport in the game over the final three quarters. Now it won it.

The Millionaires forced two incompletions before Micah Walizer was stopped for six yards on third down. On 4th-and-goal, Gerlach rolled left and bought some time, but Williamsport kept contain and he was forced to throw into coverage in the back of the end zone. Roman Morrone jumped and knocked the ball out of the end zone as Williamsport celebrated its improbable and exhilarating win.

 

A lot went wrong Friday night and dynamic starters Jamaire Harden and Dade Splain were lost to injury early. Crews would have preferred a smoother road, but watching his team unite while enduring all the bumps along the way had him feeling pretty great.

“It was guys stepping up and playing for each other and not being selfish,” Crews said. “It was perfect.”

Central Mountain almost remained perfect. The Wildcats also have been hit hard by injuries and were without standout two-way lineman Anton Stratts. But this is a resurgent program and a tenacious team and it went the distance against a team that had blown it out every time they played from 2015-19. Brett Gerlach produced 241 yards of offense, tying the game with a 33-yard first-quarter touchdown run before finding Ryan Pentz for a game-tying 45-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

The defense blanked Williamsport for the final three quarters and held it to a season-low 193 yards. And maybe the most encouraging aspect of the performance was how Central Mountain reacted. This is not a team hoping to win, but expecting to do so and that says a lot about both its present and future.

“It was a great football game. It was two good football programs who agreed to show up and put it in a phone booth and see who can come out on top,” first-year Central Mountain coach Shanon Manning said. “I’m proud of the kids effort. I don’t think these kids are into moral victories. I think they’re truly trying to seal the deal and we were so close.”

Central Mountain’s defensive line set the tone, Walizer gobbled up ball-carriers and the Wildcats allowed just 69 yards over the final three quarters. Gerlach hit Tanner Williamson for 35 yards on Central Mountain’s second play before scoring on his 33-yard run and Central Mountain pulled off a double reverse, flea flicker to tie it again in the third quarter with Gerlach finding Pentz wide open down the right sideline.

Like Williamsport, Central Mountain’s next man kept stepping up. Ronnie Ergott, Jayden Dunlap and Ben Garlick helped stuff the run, Pentz broke up two passes and Connor Foltz made a ridiculously good catch off a deflection for a 30-yard gain on 3rd-and-long. Central Mountain kept showing how it started 3-0 and why it looks like a serious district title contender.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives. That’s a talented football team, well-coached, that has lots of athletes but the kids in blue and white are willing to play hard,” Manning said. “We have a couple kids out who are absolute game changers. I’m impressed that they picked up that slack. We had opportunities. We just couldn’t make that many mistakes. They’re too good, they’re too talented to make that many mistakes.”

George Whaley was starting in place of Morrone and shined early, leading consecutive touchdown drives. He read the defense well on his 7-yard touchdown before showing off his arm strength on a 55-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Yazhir Slaughter. Whaley eluded pressure on 3rd-and-13, spotted Slaughter running free down the right sideline and hit him in stride, throwing the ball 50 yards in the air.

 

Slaughter was one of several young players who delivered strong performances. Austin Best played well along the defensive line, sophomore Nariq Burks collected two sacks and fellow sophomore Alonzo Rice made one of the game’s biggest plays when he dropped Gerlach for a two-yard loss on a 4th-and-goal from the 1 play in the second quarter.

The veterans made quite an impact as well. Bower and Robinson were all over the field and Lajear Whaley moved from linebacker to the line and collected a big fourth-quarter sack. Elijah Frierson broke up three passes and defensive end Charles Crews was a force throughout the second half, snuffing out one threat with consecutive tackles for losses.

While Gerlach (10 of 17, 174 yards) continued his super senior year, Williamsport contained him running-wise following his first-quarter touchdown. It took a team performance to get past Central Mountain and that is what Williamsport delivered.

And winning the way Williamsport did could be just what this team needs moving forward.

“Everyone was coming together,” Bower said. “Since the Altoona loss we have been having to build ourselves back. This was a great step on that building process.”

Williamsport 21, Central Mountain 14, OT

C. Mountain 7 0 7 0 0–14

Williamsport 14 0 0 0 7–21

First Quarter

W–George Whaley 7 run (Connor Poole kick), 5:53

C–Brett Gerlach 33 run (Tyler Weaver kick), 4:11

W–Yazier Slaughter 55 pass from Whaley (Poole kick), 2:40

Third Quarter

C–Ryan Pentz 45 pass from Gerlach (Weaver kick), 5:57

Overtime

W–Sebastian Robinson 8 pass from Frankie Morrone (Poole kick)

TEAM STATISTICS C W

First Downs 12 10

Rushes-yards 34-66 23-81

Passing yards 174 112

Total yards 240 193

Comp-Att-Int 10-17-0 8-16-0

Fumbles-lost 1-0 6-2

Penalties-yards 1-5 3-25

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Central Mountain, Brett Gerlach 22-67; Micah Walizer 4-15; Ryan Pentz 6-14; Tanner Williamson 1-(-4); Team 1-(-24). Williamsport, Nasir Hennigan 14-59; Frankie Morrone 2-11; Santino White 1-8; George Whaley 1-7, TD; Team 1-(-2); Keith Freeman 4-(-2).

PASSING: Central Mountain, Gerlach 10-17-0, TD, 174 yards. Williamsport, Whaley 6-7-0, TD, 91 yards; Morrone 2-9-0, TD, 21 yards.

RECEIVING: Central Mountain Pentz 4-69, TD; Connor Foltz 3-48; Williamson 2-48; Walizer 1-9. Williamsport, Yazhir Slaughter 2-62, TD; Freeman 2-4; Jamaire Haden 1-20; Dj Greene 1-13; Sebastian Robinson 1-8, TD; Alonzo Rice 1-5.

SACKS: Williamsport, Nariq Burks 2; Riley Bower.

RECORDS: Williamsport 3-1. Central Mountain 3-1.

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