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Hempfield rallies to top Norwin

| Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008

Hempfield and Norwin were on a two-game losing streaks and looking for their first section victories coming into Friday night's Quad A Foothills Conference game.

Hempfield broke that losing skid with a 16-14 win.

"This was a win that we definitely needed," Hempfield coach Greg Meisner said.

R.J. Thomas rushed for 101 yards for Hempfield. But a pair of key plays he made on defense might have been his most important contribution.

"(Thomas) always runs the ball well. He got his head down and he ran well, and we got a chance to bring him off the outside edge," Meisner said.

While Hempfield controlled the ball much of the game, the contest wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.

"We just didn't finish when we had the opportunities," Norwin coach Dan Conwell said. "And I have to give Hempfield credit. They did finish when they got the chance."

The Spartans took a 13-7 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. After two incomplete passes, Norwin caught a break when Hempfield was called for pass inference, giving the Knights a new set of downs on their 45 yard line.

Norwin quarterback Alex Dennison called his own number on five consecutive downs, totaling 30 yards, to get the Knights deep into Spartans territory.

On a crucial 4th-and-7, Dennison kept the ball again, picking up 8 yards.

Dennison scored four plays later on a 1-yard run, giving Noriwn the lead, 14-13, with a little more than 4 minutes left in the game.

Dennison finished the game with 75 yards rushing.

Hempfield battled back on its next possession, as Pat Parisi picked up a total of 60 yards on consecutive downs to get the Spartans into field-goal range.

"Parisi came back out to football this year. He's a junior, and I'll tell you what, he's been an absolute gift to us this year," Meisner said. "He's a hard-nosed kid; he's a joy to coach."

After picking up crucial yardage via a couple of carries by Thomas, Hempfield took the lead for good on a 35-yard field goal by Josh Cavalier.

Norwin got the ball back with under 2 minutes remaining.

The Knights reached the 50 yard line. But on second down, Thomas stripped Dennison of the ball and recovered the fumble. Hempfield ran out the remaining time.

Now, Hempfield looks to benefit from the momentum of its first section victory.

"We got (section opponents) Erie McDowell, and then we have Connellsville here at home in two weeks," Meisner said. "This is something for our team to build on."

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