ROARING SPRING - Lucas Blattenberger's rugged, 12-yard first-quarter touchdown run was emblematic of Central's overall effort in its 14-7 win over Tyrone on Friday night.
Blattenberger, the Scarlet Dragons' junior fullback, appeared to be stopped around the 10, before somehow emerging from the pile and bursting into the end zone.
"I just kept trying and trying,'' Blattenberger said.
The Dragons, like Blattenberger, would not be denied. They found a way.
"We just played,'' Blattenberger said, "with so much heart.''
Down for so many years, the Scarlet Dragons, with the win, captured the Mountain Conference Nittany Division title and the second seed in the upcoming District 6 Class AA playoffs.
But this win meant more than that. It was an affirmation for the Dragons.
"Even with us winning the district championship last year, we still talked about that we didn't beat Tyrone. I think the district championship goes through Tyrone,'' Central coach A.J. Hoenstine, whose team lost to the Eagles the last two regular seasons and hadn't beaten Tyrone since 1993, said. "I think this is important for Martinsburg, Roaring Spring and East Freedom. The kids knew that.''
That was evidenced by the mob of student fans - some braving the frigid temperatures without shirts - that swarmed the Dragons in the moments after the final seconds ran off the Roaring Spring Athletic Field clock.
The win dripped with emotion. Junior linebacker Ben Leberfinger got a hug from his coach and a kiss from the Scarlet Dragon mascot - actually his girlfriend, Breanna Decriscio.
"It's just amazing to finally bring back a MAC conference championship and beating Tyrone for the first time since '93,'' Leberfinger said. "We just made big plays whenever it came down to the wire.''
A lot of those big plays came from unexpected sources, with players other than Dragon superstars Lucas Runk, Shane Cafferty, Jordon Saylor and Trent Forshey made crucial contributions. In fact, Tyrone held Runk to 1 yard rushing and Cafferty and Saylor to one reception apiece.
Leberfinger made a big first-half sack with Tyrone at midfield after Derek Oldham flushed Eagle quarterback Steve Franco from the pocket. Oldham made one of the plays of the game, knocking the ball from an option-running Franco into the arms of fellow Dragon lineman Billy Myers with 2:22 left to snuff Tyrone's last change.
Oldham was also in the middle of things on Central's late-fourth-quarter goal-line stand.
"I told them, 'Right here's the game guys. If we hold them, we've got it,'' Oldham said.
There was Jarron Knisely fighting his way for a first down three plays later the cinched it after Tyrone burned the last of its time outs. Josten Hardy turned an out pattern into a 39-yard gainer to set up Blattenberger's touchdown.
The Central secondary probably faced as big a challenge as any area of the Dragons. However, it held Tyrone to 88 yards passing, and, perhaps more importantly, held the Golden Eagles' dangerous receiving duo of Eric Desch and Nick Patton to four catches for 55 yards; Patton was averaging better than 40 yards per reception heading in.
Runk and junior Adam Kreider had interceptions.
"This is really big. People are going to see this from all over, and they're going to know Central is here for business,'' Kreider said.
Blattenberger only had around 200 yards rushing in his first nine games but rumbled for a game-high 61 against the Eagles. Fittingly, the unsung hero took his opportunity for glory and afixed it on more unsung Dragons.
"I've got to give credit to my line,'' Blattenberger said. "We've got so many good players.''
There was jubilation in and around the Central locker room after the win, but there were also players like Oldham and Blattenberger who remained remarkably grounded. Blattenberger didn't have intentions to celebrate the win or his personal performance. He was looking ahead.
"We've got business to take care of next week,'' Blattenberger said. "We want to defend our District 6 crown.''
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.