WELLSBORO — 17 unanswered points from the North Penn-Mansfield Panther football team (1-0) led them to a come-from-behind victory over the Wellsboro Hornets (1-1) of 17-14 on Friday, Sept. 18 as they reclaimed the Morton Jones Trophy.
In the first quarter it looked like the Hornets might run away with a win over the Panthers who had extremely limited time to prepare for the start of their season, as the Wellsboro team struck twice in the first quarter to push their advantage to 14-0.
On the first drive Isaac Keane scorched the defense for a 46-yard run that put the Hornets in a good position to take the lead.
Soon after, Conner Adams pulled off a nice play for the first Wellsboro touchdown, with a deflection by the Panthers luckily landing in his hands for a 21-yard touchdown, the extra point was good and Wellsboro took an early 7-0 advantage.
A few minutes later in the first quarter, NP-Mansfield senior quarterback Colton Litzelman found himself on the wrong side of some extreme pressure, and as he released the ball was hit hard.
Wellsboro’s Will Kibler took advantage, snatching the wobbly pass and taking it the distance for a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Hornets an early cushion despite some early penalty issues.
“I mean that was the problem,” NP-Mansfield Head Coach Tom Dickinson said. “We’ve had these kids for three weeks. That’s it. No summer, no scrimmage and no game one. So you know we made mistakes that you would make in a scrimmage. But we were lucky enough to hang with it, and Bryan (Bogaczyk) had a big pick. Kevin (Alexander) hit the field goal and you know, we just got to take it, we got the win but we got a lot of work to do.”
With all of the momentum shifting in the home team’s direction, the NP-Mansfield team stepped up big on both sides of the ball for the rest of the game.
On the very next drive Litzelman found a wide-open Brandon Thompson down the seam and reeled off their biggest play of the night up to this point coming in the form of a 44-yard reception.
Moments later, senior Kohen Lehman made a spectacular play breaking several tackles and slipping through the defense on the left sideline for the Panthers first score of the night in the form of a 21-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers defense continued to tighten, and helped keep the score at 14-7 heading into the second half.
Late in the third quarter, NP-Mansfield’s Bryan Bogaczyk made the play of the game, and with four wide receivers lined up on one side of the field (reminiscent of a play run earlier in the game) Bogaczyk looked like he knew all along what was coming.
Bogaczyk jumped the snap from the cornerback position and weaved through the three blockers in front of a wide receiver screen, snatched the ball and took it in for a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown that knotted the score all in one single motion.
With the score knotted, the bruising run game of the Panthers started to pay dividends, as they kept pounding the ball down the teeth of the Wellsboro defense. The offense moved slowly and methodically down the field until they put one of the top kickers in the NTL, Kevin Alexander, in field goal position with a shot to take their first lead of the game.
Alexander knocked down the 32-yard attempt with ease and scored the last points for either team on the night.
Defensively, the Panthers played a gritty game, only allowing one offensive touchdown and rallying to the ball throughout the night.
Coleman Jelliff led the way for the Panthers, swarming the ball throughout the night and racking up 10 tackles. Rhyen Wilson and Logyn Choplosky also played extremely well, racking up seven tackles apiece.
“Kohen Lehman seemed to make a lot of plays and our secondary didn’t play too bad. We just didn’t get a lot of pass-rush. Their first score came on a broken play and the pick was also on a stupid busted play. I should have punted there. But our defense did play well, but we got to be able to end the game with the ball in our hands so we got to work on that,” Dickinson said.
Wellsboro continued to fight, but penalties would be their ultimate downfall with drive after drive stalled out from falling behind the chains.
Wellsboro had a solid drive to end the game but with Keane finding some running room with seconds left Thomspson for Mansfield stretched out and got the stop while Keane was in bounds as the final seconds ticked off the clock, giving Mansfield the win.
“I told them at halftime it’s only seven,” Dickinson said. “Just told them to hang with it and trust what we are doing and come out and take it to them… At the end Brandon Thompson just hustled down and caught him from behind and time ran out, so we were fortunate.”
Mansfield was led by strong performances from Bogaczyk and Lehman on the ground who rushed for 83 yards on 15 attempts and Lehman added 51 yards and a touchdown on the night.
The Hornets were led on offense by Keane who racked up 161 yards and a touchdown through the air and 62 yards on the ground. Darryn Callahan also added 46 hard-earned yards as the Panthers were determined to hit him early and often throughout the night. Callahan also added an impressive six catches for 72 yards as well.
The Hornets were led on defense by a stellar performance from Ryan Sweet who racked up 10 tackles and Adams and Conner Burrell both added seven tackles. Kibler was all over the football from the secondary with an interception return for a touchdown and multiple big-time pass breakups.
The Hornets were scheduled to take on the Canton Warriors, but due to a coronavirus issue within the Canton team the game has been postponed.
NP-Mansfield’s next action will be a home contest against the Troy Trojans team (1-1) on Friday, Sept. 25.
NPM; Colton Litzelman 4-70
WO; Isaac Keane 12-181 1 TD
NPM; Bryan Bogaczyk 15-83; Kogen Lehman 11-51 1 TD; Colton Litzelman 1-1
WO; Isaac Keane 20-62; Darryn Callahan 15-46
NPM; Brandon Thompson 1-44; Noah Spencer 1-14; Koleton Roupp 5-1
WO; Darryn Callahan 6-72; Conner Adams 4-52 1 TD; Zach Singer 2-37