BLOSSBURG After scoring a touchdown on its opening possession of overtime to take the lead, North Penn came up with a critical stop on 4th-and-5 to hand Tamaqua a 34-28 defeat in the DIvision II Eastern Conference Finals Friday night.
With the score knotted at 28-28, North Penn's senior quarterback Jason Dehaven found Sam Bohnert who leaped over a Tamaqua defender to make the catch in the left corner of the end zone to give the Panthers a 34-28 lead that would prove to be the difference.
"They are a good football team," said North Penn head coach Tom Dickinson in reference to the Blue Raiders. "They had us on the ropes and we were fortunate enough to get the tie and score in overtime. It was a great effort."
The North Penn touchdown in overtime forced Tamaqua to answer back with a touchdown of its own. The Raiders couldn't convert, however, as on fourth down Tamaqua quarterback Brett Kosciolek was swarmed in the backfield and his desperation pass bounced off a receiver's hands and into the arms of an ineligible lineman, ending the game.
The overtime period came after Tamaqua put together a furious comeback in the second half, scoring 28 points to take the lead before an eventual tying touchdown by North Penn.
"We started off sluggish," Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner said. "The kids did a great job in the second half. We made a couple mistakes in the end that cost us. Our kids played a heck of a game."
Running back Jarred Muffley, who rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries, fueled the second half surge by the Blue Raiders.
"He has been our workhorse all year," Bonner said. "He continues to run tough. A lot of us fighting back and taking the lead is because of him."
Even though Muffley put up huge numbers for Tamaqua, it was North Penn's combination of Skye Stiner and Marquis Delgado that won the game in the end for the Panthers.
Stiner and Delgado combined for 150 yards on the ground 38 carries, while Delgado also caught five passes for 31 yards and the game-typing two points conversion to send the game into overtime.
And while Delgado made large contributions in the win, it was Stiner who set the single-season and career rushing records at North Penn in his final game.
"Skye broke the single-season record and the all-time rushing record for us tonight," Dickinson said. "The kid is special. He is our all-time leading rusher, that's enough to say."
Despite the production on the ground from Stiner and Delgado and a solid showing from Dehaven through the air, North Penn seemingly did all they could to let Tamaqua back in the game, as they committed eight penalties, including four personal fouls and a critical pass interference foul in the end zone.
"It was a physical football game and we lost our cool a little bit," Dickinson said.
"They made a little run at us and our kids lost their composure. They got over it and they focused and made the plays at the end when they needed to."
Tamaqua didn't make things easy on themselves, either.
The Blue Raiders fumbled the ball four times and lost three of them the most important of which gave North Penn the ball with time left to score the game-tying touchdown.
"Obviously in the championship game you can't do that," Bonner said.
"There were moments where we could have put it away but that's just part of the game."