HARRISBURG >> Holding his thumb and index finger maybe a half-inch apart – several times – Scott Mitchell's post-game response concisely summed up how close his Chambersburg Trojans came to recording a quality victory.
So close, that a play here or there just might have altered the result.
Up by double digits well into the third quarter, Chambersburg watched Yahmir Wilkerson toss a pair of second-half touchdown passes, timely scores that rallied Harrisburg to a 38-34 victory over Mitchell's Trojans in an entertaining Mid Penn Commonwealth Division football game Saturday at Severance Field.
"I was proud of them for (continuing to) keep fighting," said Mitchell, whose Trojans also sported an 11-point lead with 3:48 to go in the first half. "There were times when we were down and we could have packed it in and said, 'Ah, that's it', but we kept fighting, got the lead back and were up by 10 points and just didn't finish.
"We just needed a play or two here, a pick in the end zone or not fumbling the ball one time or throwing a pick, and who knows what happens?"
Wilkerson finished with some big numbers, completing 15 of 21 passes for 310 yards and five touchdowns, including what turned out to be the game-winning toss to Shaquon Anderson-Butts midway through the final quarter, a quick hitch to the left boundary that Anderson-Butts turned into a 41-yard score.
While Chambersburg was able to build a 21-10 advantage on Brandon Miller's 3-yard blast late in the first half – Miller rushed for 105 yards on 28 carries – the host Cougars (5-4, 4-4 MPC) wheeled into the halftime break with a 24-21 lead after Wilkerson tossed 28-yard TD passes to Jahnoni Hickerson and Joel Davis.
The Trojans (1-8, 1-5 MPC) could have come out of the locker room with heads bowed, but they did not and were soon rewarded when Darius Johnson bounced 58 yards on the third play from scrimmage to pop the visitors back in front.
And when Johnson hauled Kaden Hoover's screen pass 44 yards for another score with 4:05 left in the third, Chambersburg was sporting a 34-24 lead.
"They're a pretty good football team," Harrisburg coach Calvin Everett said. "They have absolutely no quit in them. They came out and gave us everything."
Able to control the ball behind Miller's powerful blasts between the tackles and quick throws by Hoover, the Trojans were able to keep Harrisburg's D moving in reverse as long as they picked up decent yardage on early downs.
Even after Jeray Anderson caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with seconds left in the third quarter, Mitchell's bunch was still holding a 34-31 lead.
Once Johnson coughed up the football at the Harrisburg 42 and Dupri Andrews fell on it – Chambersburg committed four turnovers – the Cougars didn't need much time to gather themselves and reclaim the lead.
Just three plays, actually.
And when Wilkerson found Anderson-Butts near the left sideline, the Harrisburg sophomore spun away from the defense and bounced down the sideline to give the Cougars a 38-34 lead. Still, this thing wasn't over.
Unable to move the ball on their next possession, the Trojans were forced to punt. And when Chambersburg held Harrisburg, a running into the punter penalty gave the Cougars a second attempt that probably gained 20 yards in field position.
The Trojans gained five yards on three plays, but a last-gasp pass from Hoover to Sam Blevins was high and right next to the sideline. Even the tip drill didn't work.
"That would have been a great play had he made it on the fourth down," Mitchell said. "He almost brought it in. He had the foot in, but he couldn't quite control the ball. That would have been a great catch if he had made it.
"Just a play away several times," continued Mitchell, whose club lost Carter Edmondson and Daymeon Roberts to leg injuries at various points in the game. "I'm proud of the kids. They never quit."
H — Shaquon Anderson-Butts 57 pass from Yahmir Wilkerson (Joel Davis kick), 11:48
C — Josh Honorat 17 fumble return (Nazeer Taylor kick), 8:03
C — Carter Edmondson 1 run (Taylor kick), 6:12
H — FG Davis 27, 10:38
C — Brandon Miller 3 run (Taylor kick), 3:48
H — Jahnoni Hickerson 28 pass from Wilkerson (Davis kick), 3:14
H — Davis 28 pass from Wilkerson (Davis kick), 0:48
C — Darius Johnson 58 run (kick failed), 10:34
C — Johnson 44 pass from Kaden Hoover (Taylor kick), 4:05
H — Jeray Anderson 18 pass from Wilkerson (Davis kick), 0:29
H — Anderson-Butts 41 pass from Wilkerson (Davis kick), 6:24
ChbgHarrFirst downs1815Rushes-yards51-22921-66Passing10-16-215-21-0Passing yards118310Total yards347376Punts2-41.03-37.0Fumbles-lost3-24-3Penalties-yards3-156-40
Rushing — Chbg, Brandon Miller 28-105, Darius Johnson 10-80, Carter Edmondson 10-46, Cody Kunkleman 1-1, Kaden Hoover 2-(-3). Harr, Yahmir Wilkerson 10-49, Joel Davis 10-18, Team 1-(-1).
Passing — Chbg, Hoover 10-16-2-118. Harr, Wilkerson 15-21-0-310.
Receiving — Chbg, Johnson 2-35, Griffin Leedy 2-18, Edmondson 2-17, Clay Myers 1-17, Spencer Seaman 1-13, Miller 1-13, Quintan Barbour 1-5. Harr, Anderson-Butts 5-172, Davis 3-49, Jahnoni Hickerson 3-48, Austin Mitchell 2-21, Anderson 2-20.