Late touchdown gives Freeport emotional victory over Ford City
A night of tension-filled football left the players in both host Ford City and Freeport's locker rooms emotionally exhausted.
But the Yellowjackets had just a bit more bounce in their steps.
Running back Damon Smith dove up and over the right side of his offensive line from 1 yard out with 11 seconds left to score the game-deciding touchdown for Freeport (2-0, 2-0), which won the Allegheny Conference showdown, 19-14.
“I had it in my mind that I had to get it in,” said Smith, who finished with 62 yards on 16 carries. “The tackle was down on the ground, and the linebacker came downfield, so I used my instinct.”
Instincts guided players from both sides in moments of stress.
Quarterback Brendan Lynch broke a scoreless tie midway through the third quarter with a 22-yard run on fourth-and-3. With the heart of the defense jam-packed, Lynch abandoned the play's intended plan, a run up the middle. He scrambled to his right and streaked down the sideline for the score.
“I saw the backers crashing and looked outside, saw an opening, and decided to use my speed,” said Lynch, who ran for a team-best 74 yards.
Ford City (0-2, 0-2) twice converted on fourth downs during the ensuing drive, which ended with a 11-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon Walker that tied the score, 7-7. Quarterback Dave Lattanzio connected with Justin Retzer on a slant for 19 yards to convert a fourth-and-3 scenario. Then, four plays later, running back Devan Willyard went straight ahead and moved the ball just past the chains on a fourth-and-1 — Walker scored on the next play.
In the fourth, both offenses found momentum.
Freeport's Dustin Koedel returned a kick 77 yards to Ford City's 17-yard line just before the quarter-break and scored eight plays later, pulling in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lynch.
Ford City answered right back with its own special teams surge, as Willyard took a kick return to Freeport's 12-yard line. Willyard scored six plays later on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and Tyler Blaniar's extra point put the Sabers up, 14-13.
“The game surprised me,” said Willyard, who finished with 12 rushes for 46 yards and five catches for 49 yards. “I was scared after last week (a 27-6 loss to Shady Side Academy). … But we played good. The lines really stepped up. We were just a couple feet short.”
Freeport's final drive started with less than four minutes. The Yellowjackets used 12 plays to go 69 yards.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.