The Greatest Games I Ever Saw (Part 5 – Both Teams Score 30 Some Points)

Tagged under: News, The Greatest Games Ever Played in PA High School Football History

Phil Myers | April 28, 2023

(Note: This is a multi-part series of weekly articles that will appear every Friday through June regarding all of Pennsylvania’s greatest games I’ve seen from the 1970s through 2022.  I was just a young whipper-snapper in the 60s, joined the Marines in the 70s, and didn’t get to witness many games in the 80s.  From the 90s on, I have traversed the state looking for intriguing games and teams I have never seen before.  All of these game recaps are from my memory, my notes, and some research which included newspaper articles from the DuBois Courier-Express, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Reading Eagle, the Erie Times and the Patriot News.  Since I am a staff of one, time did not permit me to look up every player I witnessed to see where they went to college and if they played in the NFL.  So, obviously I may have missed a few and for that I apologize.  There are also some great games I saw that may have eluded my memory and notes over the years which I regret.)

Berwick 37 Manheim Central 30 – This is one of my favorite games of all-time.  On a warm December evening in 1994 before a packed Hersheypark Stadium of 16,000 plus boisterous fans one of the greatest games in PA high school history was played.  In all my years, I never saw a larger crowd at a high school football game.  It was Friday December 2nd and this Eastern PA championship heavyweight battle was between the top two teams in the state in 3A.  Manheim fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Berwick turned the opportunity into points when Ross Stoico scored his first of 2 touchdowns.  Manheim countered by driving 75 yards and putting points on the board on a Dan Kreider run.  At the end of one – Berwick 7 Manheim Central 7.

Shortly after the Bulldogs punted, Manheim’s Craig Dougherty took a handoff and raced 62 yards for the touchdown.  Dougherty put two more points on the board with a run on the 2-point try.  With 2:36 left in the half, Berwick kicked a field goal and trailed 15-10.  The Barons presented Berwick with another opportunity when they fumbled the kickoff.  Berwick took advantage again as Dave Robbins threaded a pass to Brian Remley who caught the ball between 2 defenders in the end zone and the Bulldogs led 16-15 at the 2:04 mark.  QB Matt Nagy drove the Barons 72 yards in less than 90 seconds to retake the lead on his 13-yard toss to Jason Parmer with 38 ticks left in the half.  Nagy to Parmer for two more and the Barons led at the break 23-16.

Curry and Canouse celebrate after the interception

The third period found Berwick playing better on both sides of the ball, scoring twice and not allowing Nagy and company much on offense.  At the end of three – Berwick 29 Manheim Central 23.  After an exchange of punts, Manheim started a drive at their 44 with 5:05 left.  It was the most exciting 5 minutes of football I may have ever seen!!  With 2:09 left Nagy hit Jason Hondru for the touchdown to complete the 56-yard drive.  Manheim led 30-29.  Less than a minute later Robbins to Remley resulted in a 37-yard TD.  The 2-point conversion made it Berwick 37 Manheim 30.  Starting from their 35 Manheim went all the way to Berwick’s 4, and had a first and goal with 38 seconds remaining.  But Jason Canouse stepped in front of an open receiver and intercepted Nagy’s pass to give the Bulldogs the win.  “There’s no show on TV that could have matched this one,” stated Berwick’s legendary coach, George Curry, to the local TV reporter.

The Barons outgained the Bulldogs by 100 yards.  Nagy, who threw for 259 yards in this game, eventually went on to quarterback at Delaware where he is the career leader in passing yardage and touchdown passes.  He went on to the NFL, not as a player, but as a coach.  He was head coach of the Chicago Bears for 4 years and in 2022 was Patrick Mahomes’ quarterback coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.  In 2023 he will be the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.  Kreider played for New Hampshire in college and he was the team’s MVP in 1999.  He also embarked on an NFL career playing full back for the Steelers for 8 of his 9-year NFL stint.  Hondru went to Delaware with Nagy.  Robbins was quarterback at Boston College, but was behind Matt Hasselback a couple years.  Remley played his college ball at Virginia Tech.  Berwick OL Josh George went to Delaware where he was Nagy’s and Hondru’s teammate.

DuBois 34 Brookville 33 (2 O.T.) – It was Friday the 13th of September, 1996.  Up until 1993, these two schools had not played each other for 55 years.  But the memories from this game will last a lifetime, and the legend of this game forever.  Although DuBois outgained Brookville 367 to 247, it was Brookville who should have won as we will see.  Mansell Stadium in DuBois is not haunted, but to the Brookville faithful it was, especially considering the date, Friday the 13th.

After a scoreless 1st quarter, DuBois drew first blood in the second to go up 6-0.  Brookville countered to take the lead 7-6.  Then the Beavers scored again to regain the lead 12-7 heading into the half.  The only score in the third quarter was a 45-yard pick six by Blue Raider Chad Park.  With some bantering back and forth in the final quarter, no one could do much as Brookville clung to their 14-12 advantage.  Finally, with 1:43 left Brookville’s Jason Zitzelberger barged into the end zone to give the Blue Raiders a 20-12 lead.  Zitzelberger ended the game with 126 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  If Brookville makes the point after they win.  They didn’t (wide right) and, as you know, they didn’t win either.

DuBois QB, Justin Finalle, engineered ‘the drive’ beginning at the 31.  He completed an 18-yard pass, then was sacked losing 14.  A 22-yard screen was followed by 18 and 20-yard completions to put the ball at Brookville’s 5-yard line.  An intentional incompletion to stop the clock was followed by a 5-yard penalty.  With only seconds remaining, Finalle hit speedy Mike Sedor to tie the game on a 10-yard screen.  Finalle ended up throwing for 256 yards and 3 scores.  The 2-point pass attempt fell short to end the game, but hold the phone.  A pass interference penalty was called against Brookville and DuBois tied the game at 20 on the second 2-point try to send the game into O.T.

In the first overtime, DuBois scored on a 4th down 8-yard reverse.  Brookville then tied the game at 27.  In the second overtime after Brookville scored but missed their second critical PAT, DuBois had to start at the 20 after a holding call on first down.  But on third down at the 10, Finalle hit on his second 10-yard TD toss in minutes and William Guthrie nailed the PAT to give the Beavers the unlikely 34-33 win.

Central Dauphin 35 Wilson West Lawn 33 – One of the greatest Quad A title games in the history of District 3 was played Friday November 15, 2002 in front of close to 15,000 fans jammed into Hersheypark Stadium.  Central Dauphin was the top-ranked team in Pennsylvania, Wilson was ranked fifth.  The CD Rams came out on fire and dominated throughout the first half, building a 28-14 advantage by the intermission.  Central Dauphin’s Brent Wise had rushed for a touchdown and caught a pass for another.  In fact, Central Dauphin chalked up 239 total yards to Wilson’s 90 in the first two quarters.  One of Wilson’s TDs came on fantastic 92-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jason Cape.  That touchdown kept the Bulldogs within striking distance.

Desmond Boyd of Wilson finds space between Steve Cooper #12 and Brent Wise #9 of Central Dauphin. Photo by the Reading Eagle.

Wise scored his third touchdown of the game late in the third quarter to push CD’s lead to 35-14 after the fifth PAT by Tony Bernatos.  Entering the fourth quarter, the way things were going, this physical contest was about to get out of hand.  But then something happened.  Momentum did a 180 and the game got interesting, very interesting.  One of the main reasons for the momentum swing was Wilson’s quarterback, Chad Henne.  Henne was 18 of 23 for 267 yards in the second half.  Of Wilson’s 288 second half yardage, over 200 of that came on their last three possessions.  Henne threw TD passes of 13 and 22 yards to Andy Lehatto and Cape respectively.  Suddenly, it was 35-27 Central Dauphin as one of the extra point attempts was blocked.  Late in the 4th quarter the Bulldogs got the ball back after the Rams missed a field goal.  There was 2:27 left on the clock.  Henne marched his team 80 yards, scoring with 36 seconds left on his pass to Ryan McFadden.  The 2-point try to tie the game failed leaving the score at 35-33 Central Dauphin.

The subsequent onsides kick was perfectly placed and recovered by the ‘Dogs.  A holding penalty on the first play moved the ball back to the Wilson 38, but two straight completions to Lehatto moved the ball to the CD 40.  On the second one, Lehatto couldn’t get out of bounds and the clock ran out to conclude this memorable game.  Parkland upset Central Dauphin the next week to end the Rams’ season.  Henne, of course, went to Michigan and started 4 years throwing for almost 10,000 yards and 87 TDs.  He has been in the NFL with different teams since 2008, most recently winning the Super Bowl with the Chiefs.  Lehatto was a wide receiver at Richmond.  Bernatos and Wise were 1st team all-staters with Wise going to Penn State (DB).  CD’s Ardon Bransford (WR) went to James Madison.

Jason Cape lays on ground with heart heavy after the tough loss to Central Dauphin. Photo by Reading Eagle.

Bethel Park 38 Wilson West Lawn 35 (3 O.T.) – It was a cold Saturday afternoon in State College.  The date was December 6, 2008.  Both teams were undefeated and the winner would play for the state championship.  Penalties and mistakes would be the dagger for Wilson, but they came ‘oh so close.’  If they had made only one less penalty/mistake maybe they would’ve been going to Hershey, but instead it was Bethel Park who played a cleaner game and therefore earned the right to get to Hershey.  It was also the day of the quarterback as the two QBs combined for 35 completions, 540 yards, and 8 touchdowns.

In the first after Bethel’s Erik Olson tossed his first of five touchdown passes on a drive kept alive by a roughing the passer penalty, Wilson’s signal caller, Steve Huber, answered with a 60-yard scoring pitch to tie the game at 7.  After Wilson took a 14-7 lead in the second, it took two plays for Bethel Park to tie it when Olson found Lyle Marsh down the middle of the field for an 80-yard touchdown.  Wilson turned a good kickoff return and a personal foul penalty into points thanks to the short distance they had to go.  A 21-yard pass from Huber gave the Bulldogs a 21-14 advantage going into halftime.  Just before the half, Wilson had a TD pass called back due to holding or they would’ve been up by two scores at the break.

In the third quarter, TD pass number three by Olson tied the game at 21.  It stayed that way until overtime, although both teams had excellent chances to win the thing in the last quarter.  Firstly, the Bulldogs drove deep into Black Hawk country but Huber threw an interception.  Secondly, Bethel proceeded to advance down field to the Wilson 7, but a sack and a 4th down incompletion spoiled that chance.  Thirdly, Wilson got as far as the Bethel Park 25, but a fourth down run fell inches short of a first down with less than a minute left to send the game to overtime.

Both squads scored touchdowns in the first two overtimes.  Now the game was tied 35-35 heading to the third O.T.  Wilson had the ball first and faced a fourth down at the five.  They lined up for the easy field goal, but faked it.  The pass was picked off by Matt Bliss giving Bethel Park the chance to win.  But when they faced a fourth down field goal themselves, they missed it.  But alas, a Wilson player ran into the kicker and subsequently Bethel’s Patrick Lydon booted the game-winner.  Olson threw for 285 yards and Huber 256.  John Schademan of Bethel Park caught 10 passes for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Bethel Park’s Matt Bliss (in white) with the INT on the fake field goal. Wilson West Lawn’s Zac Groff lying on the ground (in red). Photo by the Reading Eagle.

Erie Cathedral Prep 38 Bishop McDevitt 34 – How many times have you ever seen a team score 34 points in the first half and come up empty in the second?  Cathedral Prep changed a couple of things at halftime and halted the freight train of an offense that McDevitt had in the first two periods of this 3A state semi-final held at Mansell Stadium in DuBois on Friday December 11, 2015.  The Rambler offense kept themselves within striking distance and delivered the winning punches in the second half.  This game had some extremely talented players, was absurdly hard-hitting, and never wavered in intensity.

Tayvon Bowers threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter, the third coming as time ran out on a 58-yard bomb to Bryce Hall.  In fact, Bowers to Hall accounted for 9 completions, 204 yards, and two TDs in the first half.  Seventeen seconds before the bomb to Hall, Prep’s QB, Joe Mischler threw a touchdown pass of his own.  Still the Ramblers trailed the Crusaders 20-7 after one.  In the second quarter the teams traded touchdowns.  Right after Cathedral Prep cut the McDevitt lead to 27-21 with a minute left before intermission, Kobay White had an electrifying 82-yard kickoff return to send his team into the locker room with a 34-21 advantage.  That would be the last time McDevitt would score.  But they did threaten a few times.

Ta’Nauz Gregory on the move. Photo by Patriot News.

The Ramblers score 10 points in the third quarter to cut the margin to 34-31, and then Prep took the lead for good early in the fourth when Mischler connected with Tim Beveridge for a 39-yard TD.  Twice the Crusaders drove into Prep real estate in the last quarter, but were turned away at the 30 the first time and at the 15 the second time on a Terry Roberts interception in the end zone with 1:30 left.  Prep rolled up over 500 yards and McDevitt had over 400 for the night.  Bowers ended up with 351 passing yards, Mischler had 210.  Both threw for three TDs.  Ta’Nauz Gregory had 261 all-purpose yards for prep, 146 on the ground and 115 receiving.  Imhotep beat Cathedral Prep the next week in the championship.

Hall played at the University of Virginia and is currently a DB for the NY Jets.  White played WR at Boston College and transferred to Maine for his last year in 2022.  Gregory is the all-time leading receiver at Edinboro in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns.  Mischler is the QB at Duquesne University.  Roberts played CB at Iowa and transferred to Miami of Florida for 2023, his last year of eligibility.

The thought crosses my mind every time the warriors walk off the football field and I see the winning players elated and the losers dejected, that game of life can be won by everybody if we just look in the right place.  Although winning is bliss, sometimes more character can be built through losing than by winning.  Kids for the most part are resilient and life goes on.  So, win or lose, games like these are memories for sure, not only for those who played the game but also those fans and media who were in attendance.

Follow Phil Myers on Twitter @Protime_PFN

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