MOUNT UNION - In most cases, a game can be decided by one or two plays. Or one team capitalizing on another's mistakes.
The Huntingdon-Mount Union rivalry is no exception.
Only in this case, it wasn't clear which team was going to make the last mistake until late in the game.
The Bearcats missed an extra point attempt with 7:51 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Trojans held on for a 21-20 victory in Friday night's opener.
As it turns out, the decision to send in second-string kicker Luke Clites - who missed the potential game-tying try wide right - didn't belong to Huntingdon coach Mike Hudy.
Instead, an official in the end zone claimed Devon Claar, the team's placekicker, was injured after his 23-yard touchdown reception from Josh Foster and sent him to the sideline.
Hudy said Claar was just on his feet bent over and did not know the official's name.
"The ref said he was injured," Hudy said. "I called timeout. [When I asked if I could put Claar back in], he said, 'Don't do it.'
"[Claar] wasn't laying on the ground or anything, but [the official] sent him off the field."
Huntingdon (0-1) was fortunate, though, to be in a position to tie the game.
The Bearcats had four turnovers, including one in the red zone with time winding down in the first half. Also, the offense lost 62 yards on three separate plays on high snaps, including one that sailed over the punter's head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
"That's what I'm most proud about this group of guys," Hudy said. "They didn't quit. They fought back and played to the last second."
Huntingdon's rebound was aided by the defense's ability to force Mount Union to make its own mistakes. Each of the Bearcats' second-half touchdowns followed Trojan turnovers.
Claar's fumble recovery in the third quarter set up a Marcus Yoder rushing score, and Claar picked off Mount Union quarterback Trevon Walker prior to his TD reception.
"That's one thing we put on the board before the game - turnovers are going to be big," Mount Union coach Corey Wertz said. "We ended up having two costly ones."
The Trojans (1-0) nearly let the game slip away on another mishap with five minutes to play.
After the Huntingdon defense forced a three-and-out, Mount Union punter Klayton Heffer mishandled a snap and was tackled at his own 14.
The Bearcats' Rhett Stetchock rushed three consecutive times for a total of nine yards, but Josh Quarry was stuffed for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-1 from the 5 to essentially seal the victory.
"Our team stepped up and kept them out of the end zone," Wertz said. "That effort basically won us the game."
"If we don't lose one of those momentum shifts, we win," Hudy said, also mentioning the second-quarter turnover in the red zone. "That's just the nature of the game."
Stetchock rushed 27 times for 139 yards, while Claar added four rushing yards to go with his 23 reception yards, fumble recovery, interception and touchdown.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntingdon0 7 7 6 - 20
Mount Union0 12 9 0 - 21
MU-Fortson 25 pass from Walker (kick failed), 11:55.
H-Kidd 8 pass from Foster (Claar kick), 8:51.
MU-Stapleton 3 run (pass failed), 3:26.
MU-Walker 2 run (Lassasetta kick), 8:10.
H-Yoder 12 run (Claar kick), 5:30.
H-Claar 23 pass from Foster (kick failed), 7:51.
RUSHING: Huntingdon-Stetchock 27-139, Yoder 7-28, Claar 1-4, Quarry 1-(-1), Foster 6-(-13), TEAM 3-(-62). Mount Union-D. Smith 14-111, D. Kylor 8-29, Walker 8-19, C. Kylor 5-10, Brown 1-6, Stapleton 4-3, Heffner 1-(-9), TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING: Huntingdon-Foster 4-13-1-64, Speck 0-0-0-0. Mount Union-Walker 7-14-1-103, D. Smith 1-1-0-23.
RECEIVING: Huntingdon-Shope 1-34, Claar 1-23, Kidd 1-8, Yoder 1-(-1). Mount Union-.Fortson 2-61, J. Smith 2-30, D. Smith 2-(-7), Brown 1-34, House 1-8.
INTERCEPTIONS: Huntingdon-Claar. Mount Union-Goodrich.