HUNTINGDON - In Friday night's matchup between Huntingdon and Penns Valley, offense was the name of the game.
The teams combined for nearly 700 yards and 72 points. Bearcats running back Devon Claar notched four touchdowns - three rushing and one receiving - and led Huntingdon to 283 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Rams had a 100-yard rusher (Taylor Collison), a 100-yard receiver (Luke Weaver), and quarterback Cameron Tobias went 19-for-27 for 238 yards.
But, maybe inevitably, it was a defensive effort that decided the game.
On Huntingdon's second play of the fourth quarter, sophomore running back Jon Wagner was stripped of the ball, and Penns Valley recovered on the Bearcats' 36-yard line, trailing by six.
Behind a handful of big third-down conversions and a gift of 25 yards from Huntingdon penalties, the Rams made their way all the way down to the 2-yard line, with just under six minutes remaining.
Four times, Penns Valley butted heads with the Bearcats at the goal line. Four times, it was turned away.
With hard-nosed, sure-handed running by their trio of running backs - Claar, Rhett Stetchock and Mitchell Lauer - Huntingdon took the ball back and ran out the clock, preserving a 34-28 Mountain League victory.
"[The stand] was just desire. A gut check is what it was," Bearcats coach Mike Hudy said. "I don't know what else to say. ... We learned to fight and play 48 minutes."
"Defense can win games and lose games," Claar said. "Right there, it won the game."
The win was particularly important to Huntingdon (2-3, 2-2 Mountain League) because it came on the heels of a devastating overtime loss last week to rival Mount Union.
"It's a big win. We needed it bad," Claar said. "It was a hard loss last week. [Last week] we had a couple of players out. They came back and stepped it up, and we pulled it out."
Claar, a senior captain, opened the scoring with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Bearcats quarterback Hudson Speck just two minutes into the game.
He had scoring runs of 8 and 65 yards in the first half, then reached the end zone again with a 17-yard scamper in the third quarter. He finished with 151 yards on just 10 carries.
"It's good for morale," Hudy said. "He's a senior, and he's a leader. He's one of the leaders on the team, and he brings everyone up."
As uplifting as the fourth-quarter goal-line stand was for Huntingdon, it was equally as heartbreaking for Penns Valley.
The Rams had managed to hold the Bearcat offense largely in check in the second half and pulled to within a touchdown after trailing 28-14 at the half.
Following the game, the Penns Valley team walked immediately off of the field and into the locker room. Visibily dejected, Rams coach Martin Tobias pointed to the fourth quarter stand and an earlier miss from first-and-goal as the keys.
"We had two opportunities to get it into the end zone, on two separate drives - the first drive of the game, we came away with nothing, and at the end there, we came away with nothing," he said.
Penns Valley fell to 1-4 with the loss, 0-4 in the Mountain League. Asked what he would tell his team after the tough loss, Tobias struggled for words.
"I'm not sure. I'm going to have to try and figure that out ... that's a tough one," he said.
The Rams host Philipsburg-Osceola next week, while Huntingdon will travel to Central Mountain.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penns Valley0 14 14 0 - 28
Huntingdon14 14 6 0 - 34
H-Claar 47 pass from Speck (Green kick), 10:07.
H-Claar 8 run (Green kick), 2:17.
PV-T. Collison 5 run (kick failed), 11:02.
H-Stetchock 10 pass from Speck (Green kick), 10:41.
PV-T. Collison 7 run (T. Collison run), 6:50.
H-Claar 65 run (Green kick), 6:34.
PV-Weaver 13 pass from Tobias (Deardorff kick), 7:36.
H-Claar 17 run (kick blocked), 5:23.
PV-T. Collison 5 run (Deardorff kick), 1:19
RUSHING: Penns Valley-T. Collison 15-108, Tobias 3-(-11), Hazel 2-0, Sharp 10-76, Bitsko 1-0, Benfer 2-7. Huntingdon-Speck 2-9, Lauer 9-45, Claar 10-151, Kidd 1-1, Stetchock 9-52, Wagner 2-29, TEAM 2-(-4).
PASSING: Penns Valley-Tobias 19-27-0-238. Huntingdon-Speck 2-4-0-57.
RECEIVING: Penns Valley-Beamesderfer 4-18, Weaver 8-100, T. Collison 4-48, Bitsko 1-11, McElwee 1-39, Sharp 1-12. Huntingdon-Claar 1-47, Stetchock 1-10.