In a game that featured very little defense, Biglerville High managed to make two monumental plays defensively.
That propelled the Canners to a 41-38 victory over York Suburban in YAIAA Division III football action Friday night at Musselman Stadium in Biglerville.
Trailing 24-19 early in the third quarter, Canner defensive back Oakley Fissel made an amazing interception right along the sideline to stop the Trojans in their tracks.
Then, holding a 41-38 lead with under three minutes to play, Canner linebacker Jordan Wenk knocked down a fourth-down pass that gave the Canners the ball back with 2:25 left, and they were able to pick up a first down that allowed them to run out the clock.
The win punches the Canners' ticket to the District III Class AA tournament, their second in school history. It also gives them eight wins on the season, the first time since 1971 that they have topped seven victories.
Aside from the defensive plays mentioned above, the game resembled a game of pinball, as big offensive and special teams plays ruled the day.
The contest started poorly for the Canners as they fumbled the opening kickoff at their own 38. The visitors capitalized on immediately when Marqueese Dillon hooked up with Jamie Nixon-Alark for a 38-yard touchdown pass on their first offensive play.
Both teams scored twice in the opening quarter and York Suburban led 14-13 after one frame.
Dillon's 6-yard touchdown run early in the second
Biglerville (8-1, 7-1 YAIAA III) cut the deficit to 24-19 on Joe Hurda's 8-yard scoring run with 2:15 to go until the half.
The Canners were unsuccessful on an onside kick attempt to start the second half, and York Suburban took over at midfield. A short run and an incomplete pass brought up third-and-long for the Trojans, and that's when Fissel made his pick of Dillon.
"I had the flat on that play and I read the quarterback," Fissel said. "Once the ball hit my hands, I looked down to make sure my feet were inbounds."
It didn't take long for the Canners to take their first lead of the game as Fissel took a pitch to the right, shook off a tackle in the backfield and went 50 yards to paydirt for a 25-24 lead with 8:45 left in the third quarter.
Following a punt by Suburban, the Canners failed on downs and the Trojans took over at the Biglerville 35. Just three plays later, Dillon found Nixon-Alark for a 34-yard touchdown.
The teams exchanged touchdowns and two-point conversions in the fourth quarter with Suburban regaining the lead on Isaiah Randall's 3-yard touchdown run with 7:05 left.
"There were a lot of momentum changes, a lot of big plays from both sides and it was a very entertaining game," Trojan head coach Brian Freed said. "We played hard for four quarters, but hats off to their guys for gutting out the win.
"Coach Ramos has done a great job with this team. The running backs are all phenomenal, but the biggest improvement is the quarterback (Tanner Cool). He's impressed me every time I've seen him this year."
Biglerville then took over at its own 9-yard line and marched 91 yards on seven plays, with Fissel taking it the final 35 when he went right with a handoff, cut back to the middle and dashed to paydirt with 4:03 remaining.
That put the cap on a huge night for Fissel as he ran 16 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Wenk added 108 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and had a receiving touchdown and two-point conversion run. And Cool took care of the passing game as he was 8-for-9 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
"Oakley is a special athlete that sort of gets overlooked because of his size," Biglerville head coach Alex Ramos said. "He's a tremendous worker, he works hard on and off the field and he's a great leader."
The win gives the Canners the chance to earn a share of the YAIAA III title if they can defeat unbeaten rival Bermudian Springs on the road next Friday. However, Ramos refused to call the Eagles a rival.
"We haven't beat them many times over the years," Ramos said referring to Bermudian. "For it to be a rivalry, we have to start beating them more often than we have."
Suburban 14 10 6 8 -- 38
Biglerville 13 6 6 16 -- 41
YS -- Jamie Nixon-Alark 38 pass from Marqueese Dillon (Kyle Bulgarelli kick), 11:47.
Big -- Jordan Wenk 10 run (Josh Asper kick), 9:00.
YS -- Charlie Draughn 5 pass from Dillon (Bulgarelli kick), 4:19.
Big -- Wenk 8 run (kick failed), 2:08.
YS -- Dillon 6 run (Bulgarelli kick), 11:42.
YS -- Bulgarelli 25 FG, 6:44.
Big -- Joe Hurda 8 run (run failed), 2:15.
Big -- Oakley Fissel 50 run (run failed), 8:45.
YS -- Nixon-Alark 34 pass from Dillon (pass failed), 3:46.
Big -- Wenk 5 pass from Cool (Fissel run), 10:37.
YS -- Isaiah Randall 3 run (Nixon-Alark pass from Dillon), 7:05.
Big -- Fissel 35 run (Wenk run), 4:03.
-- YS -- Big
First downs -- 11 -- 23
Rushes-yards -- 24-69 -- 55-348
Passing -- 11-21-1 -- 8-9-0
Passing yards -- 209 -- 94
Total yards -- 278 -- 442
Punts -- 2-40.5 -- 1-37.0
Fumbles-lost -- 5-30 -- 4-30
Penalties-yards -- 5-30 -- 4-30
Rushing -- York Suburban, Randall 11-37, Nixon-Alark 4-16, Dillon 8-14, Liam McWilliams 1-2; Biglerville, Fissel 16-190, Wenk 15-108, Hurda 13-47, Asper 3-19, Cool 8-(-16).
Passing -- York Suburban, Dillon 11-21-1-209; Biglerville, Cool 8-9-0-94.
Receiving -- York Suburban, Nixon-Alark 3-76, Draughn 3-66, Chaim Smith 2-31, Viante Barnes 2-24, Steven Salcedo 1-12; Biglerville, Jacob Heiland 2-32, Wenk 2-17, Fissel 2-8, Tyler Lieberum 1-30, Hurda 1-7.