The difference in victory and defeat in any football game eventually comes down to which team makes the plays. Unfortunately for the Marian Colts on Saturday night at the Men of Marian Stadium, they didn't make 'em, and the Battlin Miners did.
The Colts were staked to a 14-0 lead against the visiting forces of Pat Mason, who entered the Anthracite League matchup with a 5-1 mark and its only blemish being to undefeated North Schuylkill. Despite the underdog role, Coach Stan Dakosty's contingent, now 3-4, held that advantage through the game's first three periods, before Miner QB Cole Weachock and Co. rallied for the 21-17 comeback win.
The Miners went 65 yards on 14 plays to get within three, 17-14, and then in the game's final four minutes, paraded 60 yards for the game-winner, a two-yard bolt into the endzone by Weachock, the senior signal caller who had rushed 24 time for 116 yards in the outing.
For Marian, it was a bitter setback, especially after taking the two-TD lead early. The Colts also squandered two scoring opportunities in their upset bid.
"We were in a position to win, but we left too many points on the field," said Dakosty. "Give Minersville credit, they made the plays when they had to, and we didn't."
Colt Paul Martin's two scores, one on a two-yard burst at the end of a 78-yard drive and the other on a 60-14-0 advantage just five minutes into the game. That advantage was cut to 14-6 later in the period when Billy Powanda (15-126) broke loose for a 65-yard score at 2:24 of the period.
Still, the Colts maintained momentum, with Martin rushing 16 times for 141 of his 166 yards in the first half.
But, wasted opportunities via turnovers enabled Minersville to stay in the game. The Colts cougher up the pigskin twice in the second period, one at the Miner 28 on a fumble and the other when Chris Murphy picked off Corey Quick in the endzone with just :25 left in the half after the Colts pushed to the visitors' six yardline while maintaining the eight-point lead.
Martin's 25-yard field goal with 5:08 left in the third period increased the Colt lead to 17-6 before the solid Miner finish.
"We controlled them tempo and had a two-score lead entering the fourth quarter," Dakosty pointed out. "When you're up like that, you have to protect the lead. We didn't finish," he added.
The Miner rally started with 1:39 left in the third stanza. It continued through a 14-play, 65-yard drive that included three third down conversions and one fourth-and-one situation. Weachock's 13-yard strike to Ryan King in the front corner of the endzone got the visitors to within three, 17-14, with 7:18 on the board.
It didn't help matters that Martin sat on the Colt sideline nursing an ankle injury that left him out of the game since the 3:29 point of the third quarter, but Marian also miscued twice on its next possession. Nursing the clock, the Colts moved to a third-and seven set from their own 46 with 4:18 left. A procedure call made it third-and-12 from the 41, forcing a passing situation. Here, the Miners came up big, sacking Quick for a 16-yard loss and moving the ball to the Marian 25.
Mason's team took possession at their own 40. Twice on fourth downs, the Miners converted, one on a 27-yard run by Weachock and the other on a 16-yard slant pass completion to Jake Kopinetz on fourth-and-eight with :45 left to play. Three plays pater, Weachock's TD run with :25.4 left to play assured the comeback win.
"It was 11 guys going both ways, giving a great effort for a team for four quarters of football," said Mason. "It was gut check time for our kids. I am just really proud to be these guys' football coach."