Rising Up: Stingers Win Ground Game, 29-20 Over Comets
Written by: Luke Rainey on Saturday, October 13th, 2018
In the opening weeks of the season, the Marion Center Stingers showed enough potential to win games, but could almost never finish with a victory. However, since beating the undefeated Northern Cambria Colts in Week 5, the Stingers’ true colors have been on display. Following the win, Marion Center delivered a shutout against the Blairsville Bobcats, and then lost to the impenetrable Ligonier Valley Rams by a score of 49-27, the closest any team has been against the most dominant team in the conference.
Meanwhile, the major storyline for the Penns Manor Comets was coach Bill Packer’s decision to start Tommy Hamilton, normally a running back, as quarterback over Jimmy Lightner. Despite this, the Comets began to alternate between Lightner and Hamilton late in the 2nd quarter, while moving Hamilton to his normal position as a running back when Lightner was quarterback. The experiment would not fool Marion Center though, as they managed to defeat the Comets in a contested battle up to the later stages of the 4th quarter, 29-20, to reach a 4-4 record.
Marion Center received the kickoff, and their opening drive would be very telling of their offensive strategy. For the first 13 plays, the Stingers ran the ball, led by running backs Zach Hicks, Austin Rinehart, and Garet Wells. After driving to Penns Manor’s 25-yard line, the momentum fizzled when their fast pass attempt of the night fell incomplete on 4th & 17, allowing the Comets to gain possession in the middle of the opening quarter. The Comets immediately took advantage of the turnover on downs when Matt Somogyi ran for a 62-yard touchdown on their 2nd play. The 2 point attempt was successful, allowing Penns Manor to take an early 8-0 lead.
Rather than using a slow and steady pace on their chance to respond, the Stingers quickly reached the Red Zone after a 47-yard reception by Vinnie Fry. Faced with a 4th down at the goal line, Marion Center chose to hand the ball to Rinehart, who scored the touchdown, and Gaven Palko followed with a quarterback keep on the 2-point attempt to tie the game at 8-8. The Comets were held to a three-and-out on their next drive, and when they reached the end of the 1st quarter, Hamilton still had yet to throw a single pass.
In nearly identical fashion compared to their previous possession, Aaron Brewer’s 28-yard completion allowed the Stingers to get into scoring position once again. 2 plays later, Rinehart ran for his 2nd touchdown of the half, and the extra point gave Marion Center a 15-8 lead early in the 2nd quarter. The Comets, now trailing, stuck with Somogyi and Lieb, with Hamilton throwing on only 3 plays. Later in the drive, Lightner took over the quarterback position, but on 2nd down at Marion Center’s 9-yard line, an attempt to run a trick play went southward when the ball fell loose, and the Stingers were lucky enough to regain possession and have an opportunity to take a 2-score lead with 2 minutes to go before halftime. However, Marion Center did not move down the field quick enough, which kept the score 15-8 at the end of the half.
To begin the 2nd half, the Comets stole a page out of Marion Center’s playbook, rushing on all 13 plays of the drive. After 5 minutes of getting short, productive runs, Somogyi scored a touchdown from only a few inches outside the end zone on 3rd & Goal. However, the 2-point attempt failed, enabling the Stingers to keep the lead at a score of 15-14. To make matters worse for the Comets, on Marion Center’s opening play of their next possession, Rinehart ran for a 73-yard touchdown without any challenge from Penns Manor’s defense to cushion their lead, but the extra point attempt went left of the upright.
The strategy for Penns Manor stayed the same, as they rushed on the first 8 plays of the drive. Once they encountered a 3rd & 11, the Comets attempted to catch the Stingers off guard with a pass. Instead, Lightner was immediately under heavy fire from the defensive line, and his attempts to run away from the pressure prompted a 15-yard sack and the end of their drive. Marion Center continued their approach to run the ball entering the 4th quarter, and it almost paid off exponentially when Zach Hicks broke free for a 42-yard touchdown, but an illegal block in the back erased the play that would have given the Stingers complete control over Penns Manor.
The loss of yardage led to a punt, and on the return, Tommy Hamilton dodged the near tackles to score a touchdown, only for a flag to be thrown for a crackback block against the Comets. Adding insult to injury, Penns Manor was held to a three-and-out, giving Marion Center the ball with about 6 minutes in the game. Only 3 plays into the drive, Palco kept the ball and ran from the Comets’ 38-yard line to score a crucial touchdown, and the 2-point attempt was successful with a run by Rinehart, making the score 29-14 with under 4 minutes remaining.
Needing a quick touchdown, the Comets retested the quarterback position with Tommy Hamilton in command. For most of the drive, Hamilton scrambled and threw to get inside Marion Center’s territory, and eventually connected with Zack O’Neal for a 14-yard touchdown. In order for Penns Manor to remain in contention for the win, their 2-point attempt needed to be successful. On the play, Marion Center sent a burst of pressure towards Hamilton, and on a throw to the end zone, the Stingers intercepted the pass to preserve a 2 possession lead. The onside kick also played in the hands of Marion Center, and a few brief kneel downs ended the game, with the Stingers winning 29-20 over the Comets.
After the game, head coach Adam Rising commented on leading the Stingers to their first 4-win season in 7 years; “It’s been our motto all week: Number 4. We’ve been week by week all year, and finishing out the season strong is very important for our program, for our kids. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, and it always is with backyard rivals. Number 4 means a lot to the kids. It was all them.” On the other sideline, Coach Packer explained his thought process on moving Hamilton to the quarterback position for parts of the game, stating, “We just thought we would try and go in the empty set a little bit, but I don’t think they’ve seen it that much. We know that their defense is a tough defense. They bring guys from all over, so we just thought we could spread them out and get them outside.”
1st Quarter (4:45) PM – Matt Somogyi 62-yard Rushing TD (Successful run): 8-0
1st Quarter (1:49) MC – Austin Rinehart 1-yard Rushing TD (Palko keep): 8-0
2nd Quarter (9:03) PM – Austin Rinehart 14-yard Rushing TD (Successful kick): 15-8
3rd Quarter (6:50) PM – Matt Somogyi 1-yard Rushing TD (Unsuccessful run): 15-14
3rd Quarter (6:37) MC – Austin Rinehart 73-yard Rushing TD (Unsuccessful kick): 21-14
4th Quarter (3:51) MC – Gaven Palko 38-yard Rushing TD (Rinehart run): 29-14
4th Quarter (1:07) PM – Zack O’Neal 14-yard Receiving TD (Intercepted pass): 29-20
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