For two quarters on Friday night, the Littlestown football team showed it could play with the big boys.
But the Thunderbolts offense stagnated in the second half against Lancaster Catholic, and the defense gave up 219 yards and four touchdown runs to quarterback Bryan Downey as the Crusaders handed the Bolts a 28-13 loss at home.
Littlestown dropped to 0-3 this season and has lost 11 of its last 14 games, making undefeated regular seasons in 2009, 2010 and 2013 seem like a distant memory.
Still, Thunderbolts head coach Mike Lippy saw positives in the loss.
"Tonight, I saw some of the old Littlestown football I'm used to seeing," Lippy said. "I don't take any moral victories in this, but I'm proud of the way the kids played.
"Tonight, our kids found out they block and run and throw, even against a great team like this."
Littlestown was in for a challenge from the very first play, when Downey hit 6-foot-4 receiver Ricky Poillon for 32 yards over the middle, and the Crusaders marched into Thunderbolt territory.
They got as far as the Bolts 25, but Littlestown stiffened and earned a stop on fourth down.
The offense took the field and snapped 12 plays, 11 of them runs, while facing third down just twice.
Andrew Matthews wiggled through a low tackle and scored from five yards out to give Littlestown a lead for the first time this season.
Downey led the Crusaders back, wrestling away from a tackle at the 16 on a 29-yard scoring run that tied the score at 7-7.
However, the Bolts fought back, scoring on an 11-play drive. Quarterback Cody Boyd, who was 4-of-4 on the drive for 41 yards, found Matthews in the flat on third-and-8, and he fought his way through traffic for a 15-yard touchdown.
The extra point was short, leaving the score 13-7.
Littlestown had another chance before halftime after recovering a Kurt Harnish fumble deep in Crusaders territory.
The Bolts lost 17 yards on a sack-holding call on first down, and barely battled back inside the 30.
Alex Potts tried a 45-yard field goal, but it came up a yard short.
"Thought it was huge that we didn't get one there before half," Lippy said.
But something changed for Lancaster Catholic at the half.
"I can't discuss what was said in there right now," Harbach said after the game. "There were some choice words in there. That's probably the best second half we played in two years."
The Crusaders got the ball after a defensive three-and-out, and Downey went to work.
He broke off a 35-yard run, then hit Harnish on a swing pass for 19 yards to the Littlestown 4.
Two plays later, he pushed the ball across on a quarterback sneak.
Domnic Corrigan booted the extra point to give the Crusaders the lead 14-13.
After two more three-and-outs, the Bolts trailed 21-13, and found themselves digging into the bag of tricks.
On back-to-back plays, Littlestown called the double pass, letting Wes Storey throw to Ben Snouffer on second down, and Potts throw to Snouffer on third.
Downey dove to break up the first one, and helped over the top on the second.
"We knew we had the sweep pass at halftime," Lippy said. "I knew he was wide open, but I don't fault (Storey). It was a huge swing play, however, and we went from getting a TD to them scoring."
Downey burst in from 45-yards out on the first play of the ending drive. He sealed the game with an interception at midfield with 2:27 to go in the fourth.
Lt — Andrew Matthews 5 run (Alex Potts kick), 4:21
LC — Bryan Downey 29 run (Domnic Corrigan kick), 11:40
Lt — Matthews 15 pass from Cody Boyd (kick failed), 6:48
LC — Downey 1 run (Corrigan kick), 8:27
LC — Downey 5 run (Corrigan kick), 5:04
LC — Downey 45 run (Corrigan kick), 0:00
LCLtFirst Downs1518Rushes-Yards38-27743-150Passing6-14-112-23-1Passing Yards93110Total Yards370260Punts2-37.03-27.0Fumbles-Lost6-11-0Penalties-Yards7-602-15
Rushing — LC, Bryan Downey 27-219, Kurt Harnish 6-36, Quincy Clark 4-15, Andrew Bertz 1-7. Lt, Wes Storey 20-112, Andrew Matthews 10-28, Dylan Sizemore 2-6, Austin Watters 3-3, Cody Boyd 7-3, Tyler Runkles 1-(-2).
Passing — LC, Downey 6-14-1-93. Lt, Boyd 12-21-1-110, Storey 0-1-0-0, Alex Potts 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — LC, Bertz 3-27, Ricky Poillon 1-32, Harnish 1-19, Thomas Jimenez 1-15. Lt, Ben Snouffer 6-54, Storey 2-15, Matthews 1-15, Runkles 1-14, Colin McNeal 1-7, Jackson Hornbrook 1-5.