With Minersville and Jim Thorpe both entering Friday night's contest at 1-4, something had to give.
Fortunately, for the Olympians it was a big defensive stand in the final minute that proved to be the difference as they held on for a 28-20 Anthracite League victory.
Minersville was faced with a third down at the Jim Thorpe 33 after blocking a punt with 44 seconds remaining hoping to push in the tying touchdown. Evan Heffron, who was put into the game two plays earlier when starting quarterback Zach Dixon was injured after being sacked by Tyler Mangold, had a pass intercepted by Carl St. Hill, who returned it back to his own 34 with 11 seconds left. The Olympians ran out the clock and tucked away the win.
"Our offense played well throughout the course of the game for the most part and it was big coming back there and not putting our heads down," said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. "Our kids persevered this week. We've got to find a way to make plays when it comes down to late in the game and our defense did it while our offense was consistent."
Both teams tested each other out early and it was Thorpe who actually came up with the first touchdown of the night when Shane Edwards capped a 85-yard drive on a four-yard run with 2:42 left in the opening quarter. A missed extra point kept the score at 6-0.
Minersville came right back two plays after the ensuing kickoff as Storm Walcott broke loose for a 52-yard touchdown run and Shayne Shafer's point after gave his team a 7-6 lead.
Was Thorpe left stunned?
On their first play after the Minersville TD, Corey Cinicola went to the air and found P.J. Johnson open for a 61 yard score and he also connected with Terry Moll for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 lead with 1:31 still left in the opening stanza.
Minersville wasn't going to quit either as Walcott broke loose for a 56-yard touchdown run with 9:01 left in the second quarter. Shafer's kick tied it at 14-14 and things were just beginning to heat up.
Enter Cinicola again, who showed some speed down the left sideline for a 74-yard touchdown run and James Denny's kick gave the County-Seaters a 21-14 advantage.
The Battlin' Miners managed what would be their final score of the night on a Dixon keeper from the one with 2:40 left in the half, but the kick was wide right, keeping Thorpe in front 21-20 at the half.
The "Red Swarm" started to flex its muscles a bit in the second half as Scott Storm came up with a big sack on fourth down to stall one Minersville drive.
The final Jim Thorpe touchdown drive was perfectly executed with Cinicola at command
"Pinned back on their own two, Cinicola ran two quarterback keepers to move it out to the six. On third down, he found Moll wide open for a 60-yard completion. A run by Johnson took the ball inside the five and Cinicola eventually snuck it in from the one for the last TD with 5:18 on the clock. Denny's kick made it an eight-point spread.
"Corey had a great game for us offensively," said Rosenberger. "He played two ways tonight because we had two defensive ends out for the game. Great players make great plays. He made some great plays on offense and great plays on defense for us."