EVERETT - Senior speedster Darrin Sipes will be counted on to make his share of big plays for the Tussey Mountain High School football team this fall.
He came up with the biggest play of the game in Friday night's season-opener on archrival Everett's home field, and it lifted the Titans to an exhilarating 24-21 victory.
Sipes pulled in a pass from junior Quinn Barnett between two Everett defenders and turned it into a 51-yard touchdown play with just 1:55 remaining in the game, giving Tussey a winning turnaround after Everett had mounted an 88-yard, 16-play scoring drive earlier in the fourth period to take a 17-14 lead.
Barnett eluded Everett's pass rush and unleashed a throw downfield that Sipes leaped for and grabbed near the Warriors' 30. After pulling in the reception, the fleet halfback outraced the coverage to the end zone for the decisive touchdown.
"I couldn't believe it,'' Sipes said in the aftermath. "At first, I thought my quarterback was going to go down. I knew I had to go up and get it. I went up and got it, and just took off.''
Tussey coach Josh Smith was elated that both Barnett and Sipes made the biggest play of the game at an opportune time.
"Quinn had to step back and throw under pressure, and Darrin is a great, athletic player,'' Smith said. "It was an amazing play by both our quarterback and Darrin. We have a good quarterback, and we have guys who can catch the ball.''
The game went back and forth, with Tussey building a 17-8 lead early in the third quarter on sophomore back Curtis Wentz's 18-yard touchdown run up the middle following Daniel Taylor's 60-yard return of the second-half kickoff.
Everett responded with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by senior quarterback Trevor Bulger, with the second happening with just 2:14 left in the game to end the 88-yard drive and give Everett a temporary 17-14 lead.
Then came Sipes' heroics.
"Sipes made a great play there,'' Everett coach Mark Kirk said. "But I thought our kids showed some resilience with that long touchdown drive. That was wild.''
Tussey opened the scoring on senior fullback Kyle Kline's 3-yard touchdown burst early in the second quarter, but Everett took an 8-7 lead when junior halfback Jacob Jay - who rushed for 108 yards on 27 carries - knifed 10 yards through the middle for a touchdown, and senior quarterback Trevon Ward added a 2-point conversion run.
Ward started the game at quarterback for Everett, but missed large portions of the second half with leg cramps on a warm night.
Tussey regained the lead, 10-8 at intermission, when Wentz booted a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
"I thought that field goal at the end of the first half was a key, and so was the kickoff return and touchdown that we scored to start the second half,'' Smith said. "This was a great test for our team, and we showed physical and mental toughness tonight after we got behind to come back and win.''
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain0 10 7 7 - 24
Everett0 8 6 7 - 21
TM-Kline 3 run (Wentz kick), 10:36.
E-Jay 10 run (Ward run), 1:24.
TM-Wentz 18 run (Wentz kick), 11:19.
E-Bulger 1 run (pass failed), 1:47.
E-Bulger 1 run (Steed kick), 2:14.
TM-Sipes 51 pass from Barnett (Wentz kick), 1:55.
RUSHING: Tussey Mountain-Sipes 12-57, Taylor 6-43, Kline 9-39, Taylor-Chadwick 3-25, Wentz 3-19. Everett-Jay 27-108, Sheaffer 7-59, Ward 5-15, Bulger 3-2, Cogan 1(-9), Woy 1-(-4), Team 1-(-14).
PASSING: Tussey Mountain-Barnett 4-9-0-92. Everett-Ward 5-8-1-47, Bulger 6-7-0-46.
RECEIVING: Tussey Mountain-Taylor 2-33, Sipes 1-51, Kline 1-8. Everett-Jay 3-52, Sheaffer 3-18, Donelson 3-(-1), Cogan 2-24.