Truman notched a heartstopping 27-26 win over Neshaminy in SOL football action Saturday. Photos provided by Darryl Rule of J&D Photography. Check back for a gallery of photos. CLICK HERE for to link to the SOS galleries.
SOL National Conference
HARRY S TRUMAN 27, NESHAMINY 26
This was a game for the ages, and it took a missed extra point in the final dizzying minute to preserve a one-point lead and give the Tigers a win they’ll be talking about for a long, long time.
One final first down run by TJ Rogers after the Tigers recovered the Redskins’ on-sides kick attempt sealed the win, and the celebration could begin at last for a Truman squad that had not forgotten last year’s 56-7 loss at the hands of the Redskins. Truman entered that game against Neshaminy with a perfect 4-0 record and a whole lot of hype after outscoring its opponents 166-12 in those games.
"I've been in the district for 28 years, and they were always hoping they could make a push to challenge some of the bigger schools instead of just accepting that we were playing Neshaminy and we were going to get beat by them," coach Mike LaPalombara said. "That was always the feeling in the school.
"Even though they blew us out last year, we just fell apart, but we still went up there with the mindset of winning. We really thought we were going to win that game, but we didn't even come close.
"We brought that mindset into this game, and having that mindset for every game - I think that's big for the program. Not going against Neshaminy and thinking they're going to crush us. To think we can play with these guys if we stay together. Is that always going to be true? I don't know - it depends on the talent level you have on the team. Trying to create a mindset like that - this is a step in that direction."
This year, there was minimal fanfare heading into Saturday night’s game after the short-handed Tigers fell to Council Rock South 20-6 a week earlier, but there was plenty afterwards as the Tigers delighted the Homecoming Crowd with a gutsy refuse-to-lose effort that resulted in a win that is one of the program’s biggest.
"Just watching the whole thing unfold, I knew it was going to be a good fight because I knew we had a really good team," LaPalombara said. "In essence, for two weeks, we actually played without four of our better players and a couple of our best players.
"That caused us to shuffle our defense around and everything. We tried to plow through it and make it work. We talked about how good a team we think we can be. I think the kids really wanted to go out there and prove to themselves that they have the ability to do something even more special than last year.
"I was so happy to see our kids so elated and the community out there. I told the kids after the game - this is a win for Bristol Township. It really was."
The two teams went into halftime deadlocked 7-7. Javeer Peterson accounted for the Tigers’ lone score with a six-yard TD run, and for the Redskins, Oleh Manzyk caught a five-yard Brody McAndrew pass.
A 45-yard kickoff return by Deondre Winton to the Redskins’ 31-yard line to open the second half set the tone for an electrifying two quarters of action. A pass interference call against the Redskins set up a 13-yard Dylan Snelling to Gabe Gipli touchdown pass on third-and-long, putting the Tigers on top 13-7.
After coming up with a defensive stop on a Neshaminy fourth-and-seven, the Tigers were back in business, but Cory Joyce intercepted a pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards for a touchdown and a 14-13 Neshaminy lead.
Not to be outdone, Truman’s James Koliyah came up with a pick 6 of his own, returning an interception 15 yards for a touchdown and a 19-14 Truman lead after three quarters.
"James Koliyah played out of his mind," LaPalombara said. "He played fantastic.
"That interception - he jumped up, tapped it, caught it and ran it in."
Neshaminy answered with a touchdown drive that included a whole lot of Oleh Manzyk and was capped with a 10-yard TD run by the senior standout. The Tigers blocked the extra point, but the Redskins led by one, 20-19.
The Redskins recovered a Truman fumble, but the Tigers’ defense held, and behind some inspired runs by Winton, the Tigers marched down the field. Appropriately, it was Winton taking it in from four yards out, and in a clutch play that was all but lost in the shuffle of the wild finish, quarterback Dylan Snelling found Kahshun Holding for the successful two-point conversion that put the Tigers on top 27-20.
The Redskins weren’t finished yet, and McAndrew capped a 60-yard scoring drive when he punched it in from a yard out. All that stood between the Redskins and overtime was an extra point, an extra point that never happened, and the Tigers were celebrating the sweetest of all homecoming wins.
"The way we get after it and the number of blocks we've gotten over the years - they were aware (a block) could happen," LaPalombara said of the final extra point. "To concentrate on kicking the ball when you have 11 guys running at you, that's a very difficult job particularly at that part of the game. It's no different missing a kick than throwing a bad pass."
Winton led a balanced Tiger attack with 82 rushing yards on five carries, a good number of those yards coming with several Redskins in tow. He also had an interception in the end zone on the Redskins' opening drive after the 'Skins drove to the Tigers' six-yard line.
"All of 5-6 or 5-7 - he's a very dynamic player. That's why when people asked at the beginning of the year who that unexpected player would be, I mentioned Deondre Winton," LaPalombara said. "He hasn't played football in two years, and I saw the talent level in him from when he played as a little kid.
"We expected some pretty good things from him, and last night he had an opportunity to really put on a display out there, and he really, really did. It was incredible what he did. One of our coaches said - that boy wants to win the way he played."
Rogers finished with 81 yards on 16 carries. Snelling, who did not play in the loss against Rock South, threw for 87 yards and a TD.
"We got our quarterback back, and that was pretty impactful to what we did in the game," LaPalombara said.
Peterson was a force on both sides of the ball.
"Javeer had a very big game," LaPalombara said. "He had that big (43-yard) reception and an interception."
McAndrew led the Redskins with 157 yards in the air and a TD. Joyce hauled in seven passes for 91 yards. Manzyk (68 yards) and Chris James (67 yards) led the ground game.
After the emotion-packed game, the sportsmanship displayed by the Redskins, according to LaPalombara, added to a magical night for the Tigers.
"Neshaminy was fabulous with the whole thing," the Tigers' coach said. "The way they were and the way they went about their business after the game - they were very gracious. It was really nice to see.
"For obvious reasons, we're jumping around and the fans - it's been over 20 years since we beat Neshaminy. I looked across the field - Neshaminy is a giant. I looked at their coaches and thought - these guys are really classy the way they handled it. Their kids were shaking our kids hands, specifically walking up to players. I know they weren't happy losing, but I think they saw on our sideline what it meant to us - I don't want to put words in their mouth, but they also should be very proud of themselves. They kept coming, and we knew they would."
With Saturday's win, the Tigers are 4-1 (1-1 SOL) in year two under LaPalombara after a 7-4 season last year that included a trip to the District One 6A Tournament.
"I remember when we came in last year - I said that I looked at this as a two-year thing, and this victory was two years in the making," the Tigers' coach said. "What we talked about last year was trying to be a team that fights each down and each play, that doesn't point fingers, that doesn't collapse within itself, and when it gets really difficult at times that they're not (pointing) at one another and saying, 'What's going on here? We can't keep this thing together.'
"That was one one of the things we worked on, and we created a mindset as a team - football can sometimes be a game that goes back and forth, and we have to stay together and fight regardless of the situation, and they went out there with that mentality. They just didn't want to let this game escape and get away from them to the point where they couldn't win."
Harry S Truman will host Council Rock North on Friday, and Neshaminy (2-3, 1-1) will host Abington on Friday.
Neshaminy 0-7-7-12 26
Harry S Truman 0-7-12-8 27
SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP 33, DOVER 6
Max Perry continued his assault of opposing defenses, completing 17-of-18 pass and throwing for four touchdowns in a stellar outing for the visiting Spartans.
Springfield Township (3-1) will be on the road at Bristol on Friday.