Rallying from a 20-0 first period deficit, the Jim Thorpe Olympians scored 10 unanswered points in an eight minute span in the second half on Friday night at the Men of Marian Stadium stunning the host Marian Colts, 37-34, on a 26-yard field goal by junior James Denny.
The boot came with 3:51 left in the game, followed by a defensive stand by the visitors that preserved the win for Coach Mark Rosenberger's squad.
"I'm very proud of these kids...we believe in them and they believe in our coaching staff...it just goes to show you good things will happen when you play hard and don't give up."
In a matchup that had plenty of momentum swings, it was the Olympians that had just enough muster to cling onto the victory, thanks, in part, to a 65-yard TD drive that ate up six minutes of the clock, followed by a fumble recovery by Scott Storm that enabled them to push the pigskin close enough from where Denny split the uprights.
"To lose like this is tough," said Marian mentor Stan Dakosty. "This team has come a long way, but we made enough mistakes tonight to fill a season and they (Jim Thorpe) took advantage of them. The credit goes to Jim Thorpe. They played four quarters; they played opportunistic."
Tailback Shane Edwards came up big for the Olympians, scoring three TDs and rushing 27 times for 114 yards, including key runs in a 16-play drive that ended when QB Corey Cinicola hit paydirt from one yard out with 8:54 left to play. When Denny booted the placement, the game was tied at 34.
Storm's recovery followed, giving the Olympians the pigskin at the Marian 39. Nine plays later, including a key 11-yard run by Edwards for a first down on third-and-five from the Marian 20, the visitors had the ball at the Marian nine. Although the Colt defense held, Denny booted the ball through the posts for the victory.
"I couldn't have asked for a better effort," Rosenberger said.
Actually, that's what Dakosty was thinking in the first stanza, when the Colts dominated play while also capitalizing on two JT miscues. After a Jake Lyons pickoff of a Cinicola pass Marian went 35 yards on four plays, the TD coming when QB Corey Quick found Joe Kloap open in the end zone for a five-yard tally. Then when Scott Nietz recovered a fumble on the Olympians' next possession, Colt tailback Paul Martin, who rushed for 157 yards in the first half, tore through the Olympian defense for a 34-yard TD run that made it 13-0. On the Colts' next possession, they went 75 yards on seven plays for a third score, it coming when Quick hit Kloap for a 41-yarder. With 2:34 on the board, the Colts were in front 20-0.
But things changed in the second period, when Edwards scored his three six-pointers. His 14-yard run with 7:35 on the board made it 20-7, but Marian responded with a TD of its own. Set up by a 61-yard run by Martin, Marian made it 26-7 when Nietz scored on a four-yarder.
The Olympians stormed right back by scoring two straight times. Initially, Edwards scored his second TD, a three-yard run with 3:30 left before intermission, making it 26-13. And when Tyler Mangold recovered a fumble at the JT 37, it took seven plays for the visitors to make it a one-TD game. Edwards' 40-yarder with :32 left before the break sliced the Marian lead to 26-20.
The Red, White and Blue then took the lead by going 84 yards with the opening possession of the second half. On third-and one, Edwards got the call, and he raced for what would have been a first down before coughing up the pigskin. Teammate P.J. Johnson scooped it up and went 70 yards for the touchdown. When Denny's PAT was successful, Jim Thorpe grabbed the lead for the first time, 27-26, with 10:30 on the board.
Later in the stanza, the Colts regained the advantage, going 58 yards for the score. Martin's three-yard run came with 2:54 on the board, and when Leitzel passed to Kloap for the two-point conversion, Marian led 34-27.
"We told the kids at half that we had to play physical football, and had to stop giving up big plays," Rosenberger stated. "It's a shame to see one team lose a game like this, but our line responded. We couldn't have asked for a better effort."