Penns Manor wins at buzzer
All Penns Manor coach Bill Packer could say was “wow.”
That describes what his team did in the final 35 seconds of Friday's District 6 Heritage Conference first-place battle at Weller Field in Ligonier.
Nathan Dumm hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game from junior varsity quarterback Clayton Stupic to give Penns Manor (7-0, 6-0) a stunning 31-29 victory against Ligonier Valley (6-1, 5-1).
The Rams, who trailed early because of mistakes, rallied behind the passing of quarterback Scott Fennell and tight end Alec Bloom, a Connecticut commit, to grab a 29-25 lead with 35 seconds left.
Ligonier Valley scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, and Bloom and Fennell connected on nine passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, both scores coming in the final quarter.
Bloom, who had a 40-yard touchdown catch, caught a 9-yard scoring strike from Fennell for the Rams' only lead.
But Penns Manor, with starting quarterback Lucas Kowalski sidelined with an injury, put the ball in Stupic's hands, and he drove the team 91 yards for the winning score.
After throwing an incompletion on his first attempt, he connected on his next four, including the winner to Dumm.
Penns Manor, which was out of timeouts, had a first down at the 37-yard line with the clock ticking. The team quickly lined up and got the play off with one second remaining.
“I didn't know if we got the play off in time, but when I turned around I saw the ball coming my way,” Dumm said.
Packer credited center Josh Stupic for getting the snap off when he heard the official blow his whistle to start the clock.
“It's unbelievable,” Packer said. “I didn't know if we had time to get it off. It's something we haven't practiced. Clayton is our junior varsity quarterback. He might have been in a couple varsity games at the end.”
Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said early mistakes cost his team.
“This was a great high school game and Penns Manor had great clock management,” Beitel said. “The credit goes to them for having their players set and ready for that final play.
“They made the play at the end, and we didn't. We felt real good after scoring and when they were backed up. We have to regroup and get ready for Homer-Center.”
Before getting injured midway through the fourth quarter, Kowalski helped Penns Manor grab the early lead.
Louie Tate scored on an 18-yard run, and Kowalski hit Dumm for 34 yards to build a 12-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Ligonier Valley turned the ball over three times in the first half, twice in scoring position.
Freshman Collin Smith raced 30 yards to get Ligonier Valley on the scoreboard in the third quarter, but Kowalski scored the first of his two TDs on a 6-yard run before the quarter ended.
Ligonier Valley's Dereck Croyle and Kowalski traded scores in the final quarter, setting up the fantastic finish.