Football

The Greatest Games I Ever Saw (Part 6 – Both Teams Score Two Touchdowns)

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

Phil Myers | May 5, 2023

 

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(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 Bradford Era, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Lock Haven Express, the Erie Times and the Patriot News.  I am also grateful to Rich Rhoades for his tweet of the controversial negated Brookville touchdown against Forest Hills in the 1994 AA playoffs.  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.)

Bradford 16 DuBois 14 – It was estimated that over 4,500 fans turned out for this game, held at Mansell Stadium in DuBois on a fairly warm Friday night on the 1st of October, 1971.  The Bradford Owls were 3-0, while the Beavers were 1-2, but both losses came on the account of forfeits due to a teachers’ strike.  Bradford’s halfback, Tom Mealy, gained 177 yards that night on 38 carries.  DuBois ran a total of 14 plays for the entire first half, yet they only trailed 8-0 on a second quarter touchdown by Bradford and the 2-point conversion.  The Beavers had stopped Bradford on the opening drive of the game inside the ten.

The first series of the second half by DuBois resulted in Larry Swider dropping a touchdown pass from QB Pat Shilala on 4th down.  The next DuBois series saw Shilala throwing to Swider again.  This time it resulted in a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game at 8 after the 2-point try was successful.  Bradford caught a break in the 4th quarter when they recovered a DuBois fumble at the Beaver 27.  But DuBois stopped them cold.  Later the Owls forced DuBois to punt with 4 minutes left and Bradford scored 2 minutes later.  The touchdown was set up by a nifty 34-yard run by Mealy.  DuBois quickly got into scoring position when Shilala hit Swider again for a 37-yard completion.  The Beaver TD came when Shilala scurried into the end zone from 3 yards out with only 14 seconds left.  The Owls’ defense then stuffed the 2-point run attempt to win and go to 4-0 on the year.

Bradford went undefeated in 1971 (10-0) and Mealy gained over 1,500 yards for the year.  Swider averaged 49 yards punting that night.  The reason I say that is because he was the Pitt Panther punter in college, then in the NFL for a few years with 3 different teams.

Erie Strong Vincent 14 Lock Haven 12 – On a cool, damp Saturday afternoon before a nice-sized crowd at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Erie, these two very good AAA teams duked it out in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.  November 30, 1991 was the exact date that Strong Vincent’s head coach, Joe Bufalino, matched wits with Mike Packer, Lock Haven’s head coach.  What a game it was too!  The field was wet and soggy.  The winds gusted up to 30 MPH as they often do in Erie.  But the spirits of the players and fans ignored those conditions and concentrated on the game at hand.

Strong Vincent’s Tim Romanowski #24 with ball. Lock Haven’s Josh Dullen #86 and Dan Johnson #85 help make the tackle. Photo by The Lock Haven Express.

The Colonels of Strong Vincent came out in command and roared to a 14-0 lead after one.  Tim Romanski found his way into the end zone on a nice 72-yard run to open the scoring, then Quentin Orlando doubled his team’s lead on a 2-yard run.  The Bobcats of Lock Haven eventually began to control the Colonel’s strong running game and found some traction themselves finally tallying with 5:55 left in the half.  Hayes Galitski ran 20 yards for the touchdown for Lock Haven to cut the Bobcat deficit to 14-6.   As the teams tried to gain an upper hand, no one could punch in another score until late in the game.

The Cats caught a break with 2:46 to play when Brian Shilling partially blocked a Strong Vincent punt.  A screen pass on a 4th and three gained 37 yards, setting up the 9-yard touchdown pass, Brian Kramer to Joe Caruso, with 1:33 remaining.  On the 2-point try to tie the game, Lock Haven had a receiver open but just before the QB could release the ball he was sacked by Tony Robie.  The subsequent onsides kick was recovered by Strong Vincent and they came away with the 14-12 win in a doozy of a game.  The Colonels went on to become state champs that year by beating Conestoga Valley in the finals.

Romanski played football at Slippery Rock and Robie went to Edinboro where he wrestled becoming a two-time All-American and making the NCAA finals in 1997.  Jamaal Crawford (OL), Malik Martin (OL), and Romanski made one of the three all-state teams 1991.  Caruso went to Alabama to play baseball and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals where he played professional baseball for several seasons.

Forest Hills 14 Brookville 13 – For me, this was one of the most exhilarating games I’d ever seen.  For Brookville, it had to be frustrating and heart-wrenching.  For Forest Hills, it gave them confidence that they were one of the best AA teams in Pennsylvania.  It all happened one Saturday afternoon in Punxsutawney, home of the groundhog.  The date was November 26, 1994.

Brookville was able to move the ball as evidenced by gaining 343 total yards.  The Blue Raiders made it to the red zone four times during the game, but only came away with points once.  Brookville’s star half back, Doug Miller, ran for 225 yards on 25 carries including a brilliant 85-yard weaving run in the first quarter.  Forest Hills countered and led after one 8-7.  That 2-point conversion would prove to be the deciding factor.  The score remained 8-7 until the 7:52 mark of the fourth quarter when Brookville took the lead 13-8, missing the all-important PAT.  The Rangers then went on a 65-yard march in 11 plays and scored with 4:03 left.  The key play on the drive was the conversion of a 4th and three.

What happened next will bitterly live in Brookville forever, leaving the players and coaches and fans with the feeling of what if…?  With about three minutes to go, Brookville faced a third down at the Forest Hills’ 45-yard line.  The quarterback dropped back to pass and was swarmed by the Ranger rushers.  Out of the scrum of players from both teams emerged half back Brad Heeter as quick-thinking QB Jed Fiscus had handed him the ball.  And Heeter raced 45 yards for the score to put Brookville on top 19-14.  But hold the phone!  The referee called the play back saying the quarterback was down by contact.  I had never seen game film that would determine if the QB really was on the ground or if he was in the grasp so to speak or if the referee just lost sight of the ball until recently.  (See the clip below and make up your own mind.)  But the touchdown was negated.  Be that as it may, Brookville failed to get a first down on the next play and Forest Hills took over.  Brookville had one more chance with 20 seconds left, but the quarterback got sacked.

nov 26 1994: 25 yrs ago today, brookville raiders denied a 45 yd TD on an immaculate reception type play vs forest hills in PIAA class 2A quarters. play ruled dead but whether there was a whistle remains mystery … pic.twitter.com/phYY79Os4F

— Rich Rhoades (@TheSkinny1969) November 27, 2019

Ranger quarterback, Justin Myers, accounted for 188 of Forest Hills’ 280 yards.  He went on to play at Geneva College where he led them to 3 conference championships and the NAIA playoffs.  He still is the career leader in passing yards and passing TDs at Geneva.  He currently is the Forest Hills head coach.  The legendary Don Bailey was the coach of Forest Hills in 1994.  He coached for 45 years and retired in 2018 with a 375-120-8 record!  The win by Forest Hills propelled them into a matchup with undefeated New Brighton, the WPIAL champ.  The Rangers would win that game in dramatic fashion also, but fall to Mt. Carmel in double overtime in the AA state title game.

McKeesport 14 Bishop McDevitt 13 – A nice sized crowd was on hand to witness this 4A semi-final battle held in Altoona at Mansion Park on Saturday afternoon December the 3rd, 2005.  McDevitt was the #1 team in the state and the #6 team in the country according to USA Today.  McKeesport’s run first offense controlled the clock for much of the game racking up almost 34 minutes of possession time to McDevitt’s 14 minutes.  The Tigers naturally outgained the Crusaders 364 yards to 205, with most of that coming via the ground game.  Bishop McDevitt was missing one key ingredient for this game, future NFL star LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy suffered a compound fracture of his right ankle in a game earlier in the season.

Tiger quarterback, Dan Kopolovich had the first score of the game when he took off on a 75-yard run on an option in the opening quarter of play.  McDevitt’s Aaron Berry tied the game at 7 when he caught a 71-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Ricker.  The Crusaders went on top in the second quarter when Ricker connected with Berry again, this time for a 31-yard TD.  However, Bishop McDevitt missed the crucial extra point.  The score stayed 13-7 until early in the fourth quarter.

With the ball at McDevitt’s 23, on a 4th down and three, Kopolovich threw a perfect pass to Travis McBride in the end zone to tie the game.  The made PAT put the Tigers in front for keeps.  Bishop McDevitt got the ball back twice, punting the first time.  The second time they had the ball near midfield facing a 4th down and Ricker under pressure over threw an open receiver which resulted in a McKeesport interception.  The Tigers drove deep into Crusader territory to run out the clock.  McKeesport defeated Bethlehem Liberty the following week to win the 4A championship.

McKeesport’s Anthony Leonard #7 sacks Bishop McDevitt’s quarterback, Jeremy Ricker #5. Photo by Post-Gazette.

Kopolovich played defensive back at Princeton.  Berry played cornerback at Pitt and for the New York Jets briefly.  McKeesport’s Anthony Leonard and Travis McBride made the all-state team along with Kopolovich.  McCoy, Berry, Ricker, Jason Kates (OL), Leon Black (LB), and Jeremiha Hunter (LB) made all-state for the Crusaders.

Wyomissing 17 Aliquippa 14 – This instant classic had to be one of the bigger upsets in the PIAA finals of any class.  In fifteen games, Aliquippa averaged 50 points a game and only allowed an average of 6.  They never trailed in the second half of any game in 2012.  Until the semi-final game with Richland no one had come within 27 points of the Quips.  But on this day, Saturday December 15, 2012 at Hersheypark Stadium that all changed.

Dravon Henry gave the Quips the early 8-0 lead in the first.  Then in the final minute of the opening stanza, Wyomissing’s defense stopped Aliquippa with a goal line stand at the one.  The first of four red zone stops in the game by the Spartan defense.  That sparked the Spartans and they drove 99 yards in just 9 plays to draw within one at 8-7 when Mason Smith scored the first of his two TDs on a 13-yard sweep.  Henry scored again to increase the Quip lead to 14-7 at the half.  After a Spartan fumble, Aliquippa threatened right before intermission getting to the Wyomissing 13, but time ran out.

Jonah Bowman boots his 52-yard field goal which turned out to be the winning points. Scott Kuczala was the holder. The Quips’ Dravon Henry comes within a foot of blocking it (far right). Photo by The Reading Eagle.

An Aliquippa turnover led to a record 52-yard field goal by Wyomissing’s Jonah Bowman.  That 52-yarder is still a record for all classes.  The Quips drove to the Spartan 20 but came up empty again.  The ensuing Wyomissing possession ended up with Smith scoring on a 36-yard run just seconds into the 4th quarter to give Wyomissing its first lead of the game at 17-14.  Aliquippa threatened twice getting to the opponent 13 once and the other time the QB overthrew a wide-open receiver.  Wyomissing intercepted a pass with seconds left to secure the victory.

Alex Anzalone of Wyomissing was drafted by New Orleans in the third round of the NFL draft.  He is currently the starting MLB for Detroit.  He played linebacker at Florida in college.  He was part of the reason Aliquippa’s offense had trouble moving the ball and scoring points in this game.  Bowman went on to kick at Colgate where he booted 31 field goals out of 41 tries in his career.  Henry of Aliquippa played safety at West Virginia and currently plays for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL.  Aliquippa’s Donovan Cobb played linebacker at Juniata College.  Malik Shegog of the Quips played CB at Duquesne University.

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

Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews

 



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