DANVILLE — If Henry Hynoski goes on to coach high school football for 20 or 30 years, and wins league, district and even state championships, it’s doubtful the former New York Giants Super Bowl winner will ever win a game more memorable than his debut as head coach at Shamokin Area.
The Indians, trailing Milton by two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter, scored three touchdowns in that final quarter, overcame a go-ahead touchdown by the Black Panthers with less than four minutes remaining, then sealed the win with an interception with 2:02 for a heart-pounding 34-33 win Friday at Danville High School.
“I have a headache,” an exuberant Hynoski told an assistant coach as the clock wound down and quarterback Collin Bowers, one of many Purple and White heroes, took a knee in the victory formation.
It’s no wonder. The game was a relentless tug of war between two programs trying to scratch their way back to respectability, and both teams played like it.
“That was football,” Hynoski said. “Toughness, resilience, never giving up. The kids bought into it at halftime. This is amazing, unreal.”
The Indians overcame a lot of adversity, including 14 penalties for 93 yards, including several delay-of-game calls, and two turnovers. But Bowers, Brycen James, and a solid offensive line were just some of the players who came through when it counted.
Milton head coach Phil Davis was naturally a little more downbeat, but nonetheless pleased with his team.
“They played hard and fought to the end,” Davis said. “We just didn’t quite finish, and they (Shamokin) did.
Shamokin looked like gangbusters at the start. After losing the ball on a fumble on its first series, the Indians drove 64 yards on nine plays, with Brycen James, who scored on a 27-yard touchdown run and Jameson Kramer kicked an extra point for a 7-0 lead. James carried the ball 22 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns, caught two passes for 42 yards and had 118 yards on four kick returns.
Shamokin looked like it might take a two-touchdown lead, taking the ball over on Milton’s 43 on the next series, but shot itself in the foot with illegal procedure and a delay penalties, then gave Milton the ball on downs. After a punt and touchback, the Black Panthers unleashed their dangerous passing game, with quarterback Phil Davis connecting with wide receiver Quaylin Rice on an 80-yard touchdown pass, the first of four for the duo. Rice caught six passes for 165 yards, including four for 156 in the first half.
Milton adjusted to Shamokin’s running game and took advantage of a short punt and 10-yard return to start a series at the Indian 29, and Davis and Rice got together for a 15-yard touchdown pass after Shamokin jumped offsides on a fourth-and-four.
Davis intercepted a pass and then threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Rice to put Milton ahead 21-7 with 3:22 left in the half. Shamokin drove deep late but a sack of Bowers ended that threat.
A fumble recovery by Mark Wetzel set up what may have been the game’s biggest play, a 31-yard touchdown pass from Bowers to Matt Schiccatano with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
“That was really big,” Bowers said. “All the momentum went on our side after that.”
Even so, Milton answered it. Davis hit Qamar Bradley on a 64-yard pass and run and sophomore running back Jason Valladares, who came on strong in the second half, ran 19 yards for a touchdown. But Milton missed the extra point, leaving what would be the eventual opening for Shamokin.
An apparent 76-yard touchdown pass from Bowers to Wetzel was called back all the way to Shamokin’s 37 on a block in the back, with an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Hynoski for complaining loudly tacked on to it.
But Shamokin got a break of its own on a Milton unsportsmanlike call, setting up a 6-yard touchdown run by James.
Shamokin forced a punt. On a third-and-9, Bowers scrambled out of trouble for a 35-yard run to Milton’s 17, James ran 16 yards to the one and Bowers hopped over the line of scrimmage to tie the game. This time, a bad snap on the extra point prevented Shamokin from taking the lead.
Valdeserres carried the ball six times for 54 yards on Milton’s ensuing possession to set up a four-yard touchdown pass on a fade from Davis to Rice with 3:49 remaining. But a Shamokin player blocked the extra point.
James returned the kickoff 41 yards to the Milton 44, ran for a first down, then took a pass from Bowers for a 30-yard touchdown with 2:23 remaining, and Kramer’s extra point gave Shamokin the lead.
Milton tried to get the ball to Rice on the next series but Dennis Cole went high in the air with the Milton player and took possession of the ball for a game-saving interception with 2:02 left, and Milton ran out of timeouts.
Shamokin 34, Milton 33
SHAM MILT First Downs 17 11 Rushes-yds. 45-206 27-137 Passing yds. 182 242 Total yds 388 379 Passing (C-A-I) 11-16-1 8-22-1 Penalties 14-93 11-108 Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-1 Punts 4-31.3 7-23.0 Shamokin (1-0) 7 0 7 20 — 34 Milton (0-1) 7 14 6 6 — 33 S – Brycen James, 27 run (Jameson Kramer kick) M – Quaylin Rice, 80 pass from Phil Davis (Zach Burkhart kick) M — Rice, 15 pass from Davis (Burkhart kick) M — Rice, 59 pass from Davis (Burkhart kick) S — Matt Schiccatano, 31 pass from Collin Bowers (Kramer kick) M — Jason Valladares, 19 run (kick blocked) S — James, 6 run (Kramer kick) S — Bowers, 1 run (pass failed) M — Rice, 4 pass from Davis (kick blocked) S – James, 30 pass from Bowers (Kramer kick)