York, PA - The hopes of the York Catholic football team -- held together by the twin bands of medical tape that wrapped the index and middle fingers of quarterback James Dougherty's throwing hand -- rose once again into one, final rally.
Just as they had a week before against Northeastern, the Fighting Irish found themselves in need of a last-gasp touchdown Friday night -- this time against defending YAIAA Division III champion Bermudian Springs.
Just as they had a week before, York Catholic crept into scoring range, powered by Dougherty's spring-loaded left arm.
And just as they had a week before, the Irish saw their hopes come crashing back down.
Instead it was Bermudian Springs which left the Irish's home field with a pivotal victory, a defense-fueled, 14-7 triumph in both teams' division opener.
As they had done several times throughout the evening, the Eagles' defense came up with a key stop -- swarming over York Catholic (0-2, 0-1 in Div. III) receiver Qua'Shawn Grooms after he had lost his footing at the Eagles' 10-yard line. The Irish scrambled to get another play off, but time ran out.
"When the clock hit zero, we were all just jumping around and going crazy," Bermudian Springs sophomore Ryan Markle said.
That sequence finished off a second take-notice performance in as many weeks by the Eagles defense, which held New Oxford to minus-10 total yards in a shutout win last week. Bermudian (2-0, 1-0) heaped pressure on Dougherty, who re-aggravated a hand injury in the fourth quarter he had sustained a week prior.
Dougherty finished 16-of-38 for 197 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
"A kid a like that is going to complete some passes," Bermudian Springs coach Jon Defoe said. "We didn't give up any deep balls over the top. ... We harassed him enough and got some hits on him.
"For two weeks, to give up seven points, one of those games against York Catholic? I'm pretty excited about where we're going defensively."
The Irish, meanwhile, were left to ponder another narrow defeat. York Catholic appeared in control for much of the first two quarters. It took the lead midway through the second on Aaron O'Brien's acrobatic, 14-yard touchdown grab.
But the game turned -- fittingly, perhaps -- on a play by Bermudian's defense. With 5:24 left in the half, Markle made a diving interception from his safety position at York Catholic's 44. That eventually set up a game-tying, one-yard touchdown plunge by fullback Tristan Sponseller on fourth down.
Prior to that interception, Bermudian had yet to register a first down.
Bermudian dominated possession for the remainder of the night behind its powerful, Wing-T attack. Sponseller, who had been questionable for the game due to an Achilles injury, churned out 106 rushing yards on 20 carries. Markle notched 104 yards, including a go-ahead, four-yard scoring run on the opening possession of the second half.
The Eagles appeared to have put the game away in the fourth quarter, but a 17-yard touchdown pass was negated by a holding call.
That left the door cracked for York Catholic, which took over at its own 15-yard line with 1:21 remaining. The Irish zipped down to Bermudian's 10, aided by a spectacular O'Brien catch and a pass interference call.
Then, with 13 seconds left, Dougherty tossed that ill-fated swing pass to Grooms. As time ran out, the Eagles' sideline spilled onto the field.
And the Irish were left with the same, snakebitten feeling.
"We put ourselves in nail-biters like that," Depew said, "we got to learn to win them."
Bermudian 0 7 7 0 -- 14
York Catholic 0 7 0 0 -- 7
YC -- Aaron O'Brien 14 pass from James Dougherty (Doughery kick), 7:35
BeS -- Tristan Sponseller 1 run (Aaron Rebert kick), 2:50
BeS -- Ryan Markle 4 run (Rebert kick), 6:25
-- BeS -- YC
First downs -- 15 -- 13
Rushes-yards -- 49-295 -- 21-68
Passing -- 2-7-0 -- 16-38-2
Passing yards -- 32 -- 197
Total yards -- 327 -- 261
Punts -- 4-41 -- 5-37
Fumbles-lost -- 1-1 -- 2-0
Penalties-yards -- 5-55 -- 4-30
Rushing -- Bermudian Springs, Tristan Sponseller 20-106, Ryan Markle 11-104, Zach Stroup 11-65, Michael Moore 3-14, Landon Mohney 4-6; York Catholic, Matt Lehr 13-50, James Dougherty 6-6, Joshua Elsen 1-11, Qua'Shawn Grooms 1-1.
Passing -- Bermudian Springs, Michael Moore 2-7-0-32; York Catholic, James Dougherty 16-38-2-197.
Receiving -- Bermudian Springs, Ryan Markle 2-32; York Catholic, Aaron O'Brien 5-87, Joseph Rost 4-39, Scott Bartkowiak 3-32, Qua'Shawn Grooms 2-15, Matt Lehr 1-13, Joshua Elsen 1-11.