LOYSBURG - The Northern Bedford Black Panthers faced the task of taking on a big-school opponent for its senior night matchup.
It took a senior-led rally to grab a victory on the final night of the regular season.
Caleb Ebersole managed to score two touchdowns and grabbed the game-deciding interception as Northern Bedford (9-1) stormed back to defeat Punxsutawney (5-5), 27-21, Friday night at a windy Panther Community Stadium.
"The offensive line came to play," Ebersole said of his success on offense. "I couldn't have asked for better [efforts]."
Northern Bedford coach Jeff Batzel was also impressed with how his offensive line handled the Chucks' defense
"Give credit to our linemen," he said. "They got after a much bigger Punxsutawney line and made things happen."
The Panthers took the ball first, and Conner Kagarise rushed for 52 of his game-high 93 rushing yards. The drive stalled as Jonas Bequeath missed on a 23-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless.
Northern Bedford did draw first blood on the next defensive drive as Jourdan Miller blocked a Christian Falgut punt, which resulted in a 30-yard return by Conner Kagarise, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
The Chucks didn't waste any time responding.
Falgout took the ensuing kickoff 31 yards to the Panther 46-yard line. That set up a 9-yard pass from Garrett Zimmerman to Jamie Bush to even the score.
Midway through the second quarter after a timeout, the Panthers executed a fake punt on fourth-and-goal as holder Kyler Diehl found Drew Gartland near the back of the end zone to give the home team a 14-7 halftime lead.
Punxsutawney didn't go away quietly in the third quarter.
After a Falgout return to the Northern Bedford 41, Jamie Bush scored on a 15-yard scamper to tie the game at 14 apiece. Later, Alex Bevak grabbed the go-ahead score from Zimmerman to give the Chucks their lone lead of the game.
"The wind was pretty severe and we elected to get the wind in the fourth quarter, and I think it paid dividends," Batzel said of the eventual fourth-quarter rally.
His strategy paid off.
Diehl intercepted a Zimmerman pass on the left side and returned it for 5 yards. Three plays later, Ebersole scored to make the score 21-21 with a little less than 9:30 to play.
"Northern Bedford is a good team, and you have to take your hats off to them," Punxsutawney coach Alan Nichol said. "They agreed to play a bigger school. They took advantage of the fact that we are inexperienced."
Ebersole struck again to give the Panthers the game's final score on a 17-yard carry and put the icing on the cake with the final interception.
"He threw it, and it just died. I was just right there for it," Ebersole said.
"We dug down deep," Batzel said of his team's rally. "Our seniors have won more games as a senior class than any group in the three years they have played varsity football.
"They've been just phenomenal, and it was another team effort tonight."
Now Batzel's Panthers await who they will play in the postseason, and was thrilled to defeat the caliber opponent Punxsutawney is.
"They're a quality opponent," he said, "It's a big confidence boost for us going into the playoffs."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Punxsutawney7 0 14 0 - 21
Northern Bedford7 7 0 13 27
NB-Kagarise 30 blocked punt return (Bequeath kick), 4:30
P-Bush 9 pass from Zimmerman (Peace kick), 1:09
NB-Gartland 9 pass from Diehl (Bequeath kick), 5:02
P-Bush 15 run (Peace kick), 7:46
P-A. Bevak 24 pass from Zimmerman (Peace kick), :20
NB-Ebersole 5 run (Bequeath kick), 9:23
NB-Ebersole 18 run (kick failed), 4:07
RUSHING: Punxsutawney-Falguot 10-11, Bush 29-146, Zimmerman 2-5, Maruca 2-(-2). Northern Bedford-Kagarise 16-93, Ebersole 13-73, Over 3-1, Diehl 3-13, T. Pressel 2-19, TEAM 5-(-7).
PASSING: Punxsutawney Zimmerman 8-14-2-76. Northern Bedford Over 4-12-0-41, Diehl 1-1-0-9.
RECEIVING: Punxsutawney-Bush 2-11, A. Bevak 4-54, Dale 2-11. Northern Bedford-T. Pressel 2-21, Z. Pressel 2-20, Gartland 1-9, Diehl 1-0.
INTERCEPTIONS: Punxsutawney-None. Northern Bedford-Diehl, Ebersole.
TEAM STATISTICSP NB