Tide’s big plays beat Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe’s CJ Selby (with ball) is surrounded by bodies as he runs the ball up the middle. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Three fumbles lost and 106 yards of penalties is not a recipe for winning football games. But a quick-score, explosive offense can sometimes erase miscues no matter their severity.
On Friday, in a Schuylkill League Division 1 battle between one-loss teams in Jim Thorpe, Pottsville proved just that.
The Tide’s vaunted passing offense came through time-after-time against the Olympians to make up for some of their costly mistakes.
The result was a 32-26 Crimson Tide road victory that allowed them to stay tied with North Schuylkill atop the Division 1 standings.
“We knew there was going to be some adversity in this game at some point. It’s a tough place to play,” said Pottsville head coach Tom McGeoy. “We knew there might be a turnover, a call, something that we were going to have to battle back from,
“Holding them to a field goal after we fumbled a kick off in the first quarter and then scoring right before the half was big for us, I felt good after that, and that was the momentum shift we needed.”
The momentum certainly did shift in Pottsville’s favor at the end of the first half, but early on it was all Olympians.
A CJ Selby 52-yard run up the middle with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter gave Thorpe a 7-0 advantage and then a fumble on the ensuing kick off by the Tide gave the Olympians the ball at Pottsville’s 30-yard line. After driving it down to the eight, a negative run combined with a five-yard false start penalty pushed Thorpe back to the 15, and a sack two plays later forced a 36-yard field goal attempt by Chris Condly that he converted to make it a 10-0.
The two teams played to a stalemate for a majority of the second quarter with penalties and another lost fumble plaguing the Pottsville offense. But late in the quarter the Olympians would make perhaps their most costly mistake of the game. After forcing a Tide punt, Thorpe (6-2, 1-2 Schuylkill League D1), had the momentum and the ball with less than a minute remaining in the half, but a miscue in the passing game resulted in a Mason Barnes interception that gave Pottsville (7-1, 3-0 Schuylkill League D1) the ball back with just under 50 seconds at their own 25-yard line.
Two plays later Tide quarterback Damon Yost made Thorpe pay, tossing a pass to a streaking Barnes down the right sideline for a 73-yard score.
“We made some mistakes tonight, we didn’t tackle well. We have to be a better tackling football team,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. “We were in the game, we had chances to win the game, we just made a few too many mistakes,
“But I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from our guys. They fought hard the whole night and battled and tested one of the best teams in 4A.”
Pottsville used the big pass play at the end of the half to jump start its offense, scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 19-10 lead. A 29-yard touchdown run from Kevin DiCello that originally looked like it was going to be a loss of yardage and a 43-yard hook-up between Yost and tight end Daulton Mates fully swung the momentum in the Tide’s favor.
But yet another Pottsville turnover gave Thorpe life after a high snap that flew over Yost’s head at the JT 41-yard line was returned by Thorpe to the 15, setting up a three-play drive that ended in a Selby two-yard plunge, which got the Olympians within two.
Pottsville yet again looked to put Thorpe away in the fourth quarter, getting a Kevin Schenk 17-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone at the 8:05 mark and a 13-yard Bobby Walchak scoring run with 2:30 remaining to make it 32-17.
But once again, the Olympians didn’t go away, getting right back in the ball game. After starting at their own 48, The Olympians went 52 yards in 1:15, scoring on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Davier Calcano to Selby to make it a one-score game with 1:15 left.
After fielding the onside kick, Pottsville would then go backwards, with penalties and negative running plays taking it back to its own 28-yard line. With no Jim Thorpe timeouts remaining, and 12 seconds on the clock, the Tide from punt formation took a deliberate safety trying to run the clock out, but couldn’t as Thorpe made a tackle in the end zone before the clock expired.
After falling on the football immediately on the Pottsville squib kick, Thorpe has just under three seconds to work with, but a Hail Mary attempt from their own 41-yard line would result in an interception and the Tide escaped with the win.
BIG NIGHT… Yost had a big night through the air for Pottsville, throwing for 301 yards and three scores. He now has 23 touchdowns and just three interceptions on the season.
NEAR THE RECORD… Thorpe running back CJ Selby is just 21 yards shy of tying the Jim Thorpe all-time rushing record of 3,403 yards held by Jason Figura (2001-04).