MILLERSVILLE -- Dallastown trailed by 10 points at halftime, but the deficit felt much greater to coach Kevin Myers and his Wildcats.
That made their 13-10 loss Friday night at Penn Manor just a little more tough to swallow.
Myers' postgame speech at Millersville University's Chryst Field was brief but to the point. He told a few of his players he did not want to see any tears. The coach told them he was mad, not because of their mistakes that led to the early deficit, but because how close they came to erasing them.
"It was the first adversity we faced all year," Myers said of the 13-3 deficit. "I'm proud of the kids. We've had teams in the past that would have been a blowout because we were so dejected."
What transpired in the first 24 minutes proved to be the difference after a grinding second half in which the Wildcats (2-1) came within one last drive of rallying past Penn Manor (3-0).
Dallastown struck first late in the first half but had to settle for a field goal on a short drive spurred by Max Naill's interception. The junior outside linebacker gave his offense its third possession at the Penn Manor 24. Dallastown drove as close as the 2-yard line but was denied a touchdown.
"That made us, I guess, angry," Comets junior lineman Noah Braun said. "We wanted to get it back and get the win at that point."
Dallastown had just two more possessions for the rest of the first half. Both were three-and-outs. Penn Manor scored twice. Both came on long possessions that took a combined 27 plays.
Braun celebrated the play to start the sequence -- stuffing Robert Catchings on third-and-goal for a 2-yard loss -- and again on Dallastown's last offensive play. Braun pulled down Dallastown quarterback Andrew Henry in front of the Wildcats sideline on a fourth-and-13 with 37 seconds to go, sealing the Lancaster-Lebanon team's third straight victory.
Before that play, Dallastown had shaken the vibes that reminded Myers of 2012. His defense consistently held the Comets offense on third downs in the second half, when it needed only a yard or two for another first down. Drew Romesberg, who ran in Henry's only touchdown pass in the third quarter, was typically in front of that defense. He had eight tackles, including three for losses, while missing fellow linebacker Jonah Mays for most of the night.
Mays watched from the sideline on crutches with his right ankle bandaged after suffering a first-half injury. He was a crucial missing piece on a night Myers could have used them all.
Myers and Penn Manor coach Todd Mealy talked before the game, expecting their playmakers to cancel each other out. They did that in the second half, as Penn Manor running back Charlie Bell was held to 79 yards on 21 carries. He had 58 of those yards in the first half, and much of it came during Penn Manor's two touchdown drives.
"What changed the game was we hit and tackled in the second half," Myers said. "No more ankle tackling. It was almost reminiscent of last year where we'd hit and they'd break a tackle for 4 or 5 yards."
Week 3 ended in a close decision after two resounding wins to start Dallastown's season. This test was its stiffest, considering Penn Manor's experience from a team that made last year's District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinals.
"Maybe," Myers said, "we'll get a chance down the road to play them again."
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Dallastown 3 0 7 0 -- 10
Penn Manor 0 13 0 0 -- 13
Dt -- McKinley Curran 21 FG, 1:19.
PM -- Charlie Bell 5 run (Erik Hill kick), 7:06.
PM -- Logan Kinser 4 run (kick failed), 0:48.
Dt -- Drew Romesberg 17 pass from Andrew Henry (Curran kick), 2:39.
-- Dt -- PM
First downs -- 9 -- 15
Rushes-yards -- 25-20 -- 50-163
Passing -- 12-18-0 -- 8-13-1
Passing yards -- 106 -- 78
Total yards -- 126 -- 241
Punts -- 7-43 -- 6-42.3
Fumbles-lost -- 1-1 -- 1-0
Penalties-yards -- 4-25 -- 6-40
Rushing -- Dt, Andrew Henry 13-(-4), Robert Catchings 9-9, Dezmond Jones 2-14, Addison Quinones 1-1; PM, Bell 21-79, Levonta Jones 15-59, Kinser 6-20, Tanner Erisman 5-1, Ashton Leschke 3-4.
Passing -- Dt, Henry 12-18-1-106; PM, Erisman 6-11-1-56, Bell 2-2-0-22.
Receiving -- Dt, Malik Lewis 7-66, Drew Romesberg 3-28, Brady Altland 1-10, Catchings 1-2; PM, Jones 2-22, Kinser 2-16, Gerrin McKinnie 2-11, Bell 1-17, Leschke 1-12.