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ANNVILLE>> It was the only football game in town on Thursday night.

But even if it hadn't been, Elco-Annville-Cleona was plenty good enough to stand out in a crowd and stand on its own considerable merits.

And then some.

In a rare Thursday night encounter moved up a night by impending Noah's Ark-like rain in the forecast, county and L-L Section Three rivals Elco and A-C produced a battle for the ages — and one that won't soon be forgotten by either side — in front of a damp, chilly but thoroughly entertained Homecoming crowd at Annville-Cleona High School.

In the end, all that stood between the two was Jeff Martin's do-or-die 14-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Olson on fourth down and Dane Miller's ensuing game-winning extra point that gave the Raiders a thrill-soaked 40-39 overtime victory.

Now winners of two straight after a disheartening, turmoil-filled 0-3 start, Elco (2-3, 2-0 Section Three) appeared headed back to the loss column after A-C (3-2, 0-2 Section Three) rallied from a 19-7 halftime deficit and moved to the brink of victory on Cameron Hoch's four-yard TD scamper on the first possession of the extra period.

But Matt Light's extra point try was off the mark, giving Elco renewed hope that it finally capitalized on when Martin rolled to his right and found Olson on a comeback route to tie it and set the stage for Miller's decisive point after that brought the epic encounter to a heart-stopping end.

Beat that, Friday night games.

"That was a hard-fought battle," said a grinning Elco coach Bob Miller, understating it by a mile and yet right on the money. "What a battle, it was just back and forth. It was awesome.

"That 0-3 start was a lack of character and commitment to being a man off the field and a football player on it. There's no reason you can't be a good guy and a good football player and now we're starting to get that."

The Raiders certainly couldn't have pulled off the win without ample amounts of character and commitment, after seeing the Little Dutchmen roll up 296 yards on the ground and essentially control the game from the second to the fourth quarter behind 191 combined rushing yards from running back Will Langan and quarterback Adam Fox.

There was also the matter of A-C's tide-turning trick play late in the third, a 69-yard TD pass from Hoch to Alec Barr that gave the home team its first lead at 20-19.

"It was awesome, an awesome experience," said senior quarteback Martin, who hit on 11 of 23 passes for 204 yards, nine of which went to main man Olson for 150 yards, and is fast approaching 6,000 career passing yards. "They're a good team, but we put 100 percent out tonight and everybody came together. We got the character going now, we're starting to trust each other and it showed."

Elco actually looked poised to run away with a comfortable win after a bruising ground attack led by Tyler Horst (26 carries, 146 yards) staked the visitors to the aforementioned 19-7 halftime lead.

But from there, A-C showed some character of its own, taking back the line of scrimmage and outscoring Elco 26-7 from the start of the second half until Olson took a screen pass 58 yards to paydirt with 3:08 left in regulation to knot the score at 33.

It was too little too late for head coach Matt Gingrich's liking, though.

"We lost the game in the first half," said Gingrich. "Instead of being a 7-7 game, we let that become a 19-7 game, and the reason that became a 19-7 game was because our kids were so focused on a non-call or a hold or this or that instead of playing the next play. We are not good enough to have mistakes, and dwelling on the past gets you nowhere."

Elco can certainly attest to that. Floundering just a few short weeks ago, the Raiders now find themselves in the hunt for a section title at the season's midpoint and struggling to remember their woes in the recent past.

"I'm really proud of them now," Miller said. "We're starting to come together."

"I think we're coming around a lot more than we were the first three weeks," Martin said, in agreement with his head coach. "The off-field issues are done and everyone's getting healthy. It's a lot better now."

Full-game video: Elco 40, Annville-Cleona 39 (OT)

Elco 40, Annville-Cleona 39 (OT)

Elco7120147—40 Annville-Cleona7013136—

First Quarter

E — Horst 1 run (Hackman kick)

AC — Fox 2 run (Light kick

Second Quarter

E — Beamer 10 pass from Horst (kick failed)

E — Zimmerman 79 punt return (2-pt conversion failed)

Third Quarter

AC — Barr 17 run (kick failed)

AC — Barr 69 pass from Hoch (Light kick)

Fourth Quarter

AC — Fox 1 run (2-point conversion failed)

E — Horst 4 run (Miller kick)

AC — Langan 5 run (Light kick)

E — Olson 58 pass from Martin (Miller kick)

Overtime

AC — Hoch 4 run (kick failed)

E — Olson 14 pass from Martin (Miller kick)

EACFirst downs1917Rushes-yards37-19152-296Passing12-24-01-4-0Passing yards21469Total yards405365Punts2-31.54-37.3Fumbles-lost0-01-0Penalties-yards7-624-10
Individual statistics

Rushing — E: Horst 26-146, R. Rolon 3-22, Olson 2-16, Zimmerman 2-12, Martin 4-(-5). AC: Langan 25-112, Fox 15-79, Hoch 5-59, Barr 4-40, Wagner 3-6.

Passing — E: Martin 11-23-0-204, Horst 1-1-0-10, AC: Hoch 1-1-0-69, Fox 0-3-0-0

Receiving — E: Olson 9-150, L. Rolon 1-49, Beamer 1-10, Zimmerman 1-5, AC: Barr 1-69

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