PHILIPSBURG - The first drive of the second half is one of the most crucial in any football game.
With the score tied at 13 after the first two quarters and both teams looking for their first win of the season, the Huntingdon defense got the best of the Philipsburg-Osceola offense to earn its 650th win in program history on Friday, 34-13.
The Mounties tied the game late in the first half and appeared poised to go ahead in the early minutes of the third, but the Bearcat defense forced one of five P-O turnovers to swing the momentum in their favor.
Photo for the Mirror by Mike Czap
Huntingdon’s Devon Claar looks for running room against Philipsburg-Osceola.
P-O coughed up the ball at the Bearcat 15 and Rhett Stetchock raced 72 yards three plays later to put his team ahead for good, as it picked up the historic win in its eighth try of the season.
"I feel wonderful and I'm happy for our players," said Bearcat coach Mike Hudy of getting a win. "We've overcome a lot of adversity. We evaluated what we had been doing defensively, and we just got back to the fundamentals the last month and a half and it finally paid off.
"[The fumble recovery] changed the dynamic of the game. I just kept thinking, 'they're converting, they're converting.' Turnovers are high school ball. It's all about ball security and field position."
The Bearcats answered a 27-yard touchdown run from P-O's Erik Smith in the first quarter, which gave the Mounties their first lead of the season, but Devon Claar stepped in front of a Curtis Matsko pass attempt late in the frame to put Huntingdon ahead.
Claar raced 57 yards to paydirt and booted the first of his four extra points before Josh Foster plunged in from 2 yards out in the second to take a 13-6 lead.
P-O tied the game late in the first half on a 1-yard score from Nick Gray, and Matsko completed a pair of third-down conversions on the first series in helping the Mounties move inside the Bearcat 20 before the untimely fumble.
"That's what killed us," P-O coach Jeff Vroman said. "We drove down the field to the 15 and we fumble the ball. You can't win. We probably moved the ball better than they did, but you can't turn the ball over. That's been typical of our season. It hasn't changed and it probably isn't going to.
"After the turnover, they get a long run for a touchdown. That's just the way the momentum goes."
Stetchock's big run accounted for a bulk of his 123 yards on 13 carries, while Claar added 87 and another score to make it a two-possession game with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
Huntingdon capped the scoring midway through the final stanza, as Foster connected with Dakota Peters on a 20-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-17 play.
"We knew we matched up physically," said Hudy. "No matter what you do in football, it's all a line-of-scrimmage battle. A lot of the teams we played this year are just powerhouses. This was Huntingdon's 650th win, so we used that as motivation this week."
The teams combined for 11 fumbles in the contest. The Mounties had seven of those and lost three, while the Bearcats recovered all four of theirs.
P-O got an interception from Gray, but couldn't capitalize on it as Matsko threw his second interception of the half.
"We've created three turnovers for the year," Vroman said. "In terms of plus-and-minus, we have to be somewhere around minus-30. You can't win. You aren't going to win doing that against the teams that we play."
The Bearcats will look for win No. 2 when they host Central on Friday, while the Mounties take to the road to face unbeaten Clearfield with hopes of their first win.
Score By Quarters
Huntingdon7 6 14 7-34
Philipsburg-Osceola6 7 0 0-13
PO-Smith 27 run (kick failed), 6:59.
H-Claar 57 interception return (Claar kick), :52.3.
H-Foster 2 run (kick failed), 9:25.
PO-Gray 1 run (Boumerhi kick), :26.7.
H-Stetchock 72 run (Claar kick), 6:27.
H-Claar 4 run (Claar kick), 1:17.
H-Peters 20 pass from Foster (Claar kick), 5:41.
Rushing: Huntingdon-Stetchock 13-123, Claar 18-87, Speck 1-18, Bell 2-4, Foster 2-3, Team 2-(-21). Philipsburg-Osceola-D. Shuey 6-54, Gray 15-46, Smith 6-30, Hawkins 1-2, Matsko 11-0.
Passing: Huntingdon-Foster 2--7-0-34, Claar 0-4-1-0. Philipsburg-Osceola-Matsko 5-14-2-75.
Receiving: Huntingdon-Peters 1-20, Bell 1-14. Philipsburg-Osceola-D. Shuey 2-35, Smith 2-32, Johnson 1-8.
Interceptions: Huntingdon-Claar, Foster. Philipsburg-Osceola-Gray.
Total First Downs1411