PALMYRA - Their hearts were heavy. But their focus was laser sharp.
The members of the Palmyra football team were bound and determined to do two things on Friday night: Properly honor a fallen former teammate and keep their district playoff hopes alive.
With thoughts of Ryan Monk weighing on their hearts and minds after the 2015 graduate died in a car crash Thursday, the Cougars did both, topping Trinty, 35-24, on a night when Monk's old No. 73 jersey was watching over the contest from the sideline.
Now 7-2 and headed for a playoff elimination regular season finale with Milton Hershey next Friday, Palmyra began their tribute to Monk by somberly walking onto the field arm-in-arm prior to kickoff, then observing a moment of silence before the National Anthem.
That was followed by the Cougars' game captains bringing Monk's old jersey onto the field with them for the coin toss, and shortly thereafter by senior running back Carl Reigle bringing the home crowd at Buck Swank Stadium to its feet on the game's first play from scrimmage with an electric 64-yard touchdown run.
Despite some anxious moments provided by a big-play Trinity offense Reigle's opening salvo gave Palmyra a lead it would not surrender and a happy moment on a night filled with mixed emotions.
"It's been an emotional day," said Palmyra coach Chris Pope. "I found out about (Monk's death) late last night and it just makes you think how lucky you are every day to wake up. You never know when something like that's going to happen. Ryan was a terrific young man, just an unbelievable kid. It's just terrible. Our thoughts are really with his mom and sister."
"I played two years with him, my freshman and sophomore years, and he's a great guy," said Reigle, who carried 16 times for 131 yards and two TDs. "He loved to come out here, and he always fought hard. So just getting that win for him was a big thing, and trying to bounce back from that disappointing loss (to East Pennsboro) last week."
Not that it was easy to get the win. Trinity (2-7) made it a game throughout, thanks to two Theo Moody touchdown runs, but Palmyra fought off each comeback bid with the help of two Peter Robertson TD passes - one to Sean Carter, one to Braden Vernet - and Reigle's exclamation point 21-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter.
Alon Rhette also scored for Palmyra, on a 5-yard TD run with 23 seconds left in the first half for a 21-12 lead at the break.
"I'm really proud of our football team," Pope said. "We have great kids, they've worked really hard and they continue to work every week. They've gotten themselves into this position where they're still playing meaningful games. It's a great feeling when you're in it the whole way. We'll see what happens next week."
"We knew we had to win," Reigle said. "Because playoffs were on the line and now every week matters for us. We just wanted to come out and make a statement. They're a tough team, they fought pretty well to the end. But we got the win, that's what matters."
Palmyra 35, Trinity 24
Trinity _ 6 _ 6 _ 0 _ 12 _ — _ 24
Palmyra _ 7 _ 14 _ 7 _ 7 _ — _ 35
P— Reigle 64 run (Weidler kick)
T - Knopp 8 pass from Scott (pass failed)
P— Carter 22 pass from Robertson (Weidler kick)
T - Moody 2 run (run failed)
P - Rhette 5 run (Weidler kick)
P — Vernet 5 pass from Robertson (Weidler kick)
T — Moody 1 run (pass failed)
P— Reigle 21 run (Weidler kick)
T — Knopp 20 pass from Kirchhoff (run failed)
_ Trinity _ Palmyra
First downs _ 18 _ 20
Rushes-yards _ 31-106 _ 40-246
Passing _ 23-36-0 _ 8-15-1
Passing yards _ 163 _ 118
Total yards _ 269 _ 364
Punts _ 2-39.5 _ 3-30.7
Fumbles-lost _ 0-0_ 1-0
Penalties-yards _ 8-90 _ 3-35
Rushing — T: Moody 16-37, Rigg 6-40, Kirchhoff 2-9, Scott 4-8, Knopp 1-13, Ruiz 2- (-1). P: Reigle 16-131, Rhette 13-65, Robertson 8-46, Cannon 3-4, Haus 1- (-3)
Passing — .T: Scott 15-22-0-106, Kirchhoff 8-14-0-57. P: Robertson 8-15-1-118
Receiving — T: Knopp 5-53, Moody 5-14, Porter 4-49, McHale 3-37, Kirchhoff 2-23, Ruiz 2-18, Rigg 2-9. P: Vernet 4-60, Carter 2-51, Reigle 1-4, Rhette 1-3.