SAXTON - Tussey Mountain's running tandem of senior Darrin Sipes and junior Daniel Taylor is one of the finest in the area.
"We complement each other with the way we run,'' Sipes said Friday night after he and Taylor led the Titans to a 33-14 victory over North Star in a District 5-A quarterfinal playoff game at Dick L. Hess Memorial Stadium. "Together, we get it done.''
That was the case again Friday as Sipes rushed for 127 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns, and Taylor scooted for 156 yards on 11 carries and two scores.
Both have rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, giving the Titans a vaunted 1-2 backfield punch.
"Having two backs rush over 1,000 yards has made a big difference for us,'' said Sipes, who opened the scoring with a 39-yard sprint around left end before adding a 32-yard TD run to close the third quarter and a 17-yard touchdown jaunt with 2:21 left in the game.
"It has to be tough to defend against them,'' Tussey coach Josh Smith said of Sipes and Taylor. "They're both fast runners, but they both possess different styles of running. Daniel Taylor is a little bit more shifty. Jason Sipes will just put his foot on the ground and run through you.''
Tussey Mountain's victory gives the third-seeded Titans (8-2) another home playoff game next Saturday against seventh-seeded Shade, which upended second seed Northern Bedford, 42-36 Friday.
North Star, which closed a 6-5 season, had a tough time trying to corral either Sipes or Taylor.
"They just made a couple nice runs on us and took the wind out of our sails,'' North Star coach Stacy Schmitt said.
North Star pulled to within a tie, 14-14 at halftime, when senior quarterback Joey Berkebile hit junior wideout Justin Holcomb with a 64-yard scoring pass in the opening minute of the second quarter.
Tussey took control in the second half, taking the lead for good when Taylor found himself free in the open field and sped down the left side for a 63-yard touchdown run with 6:43 left in the third quarter to put Tussey ahead to stay, 20-14.
The momentum really shifted as the third quarter closed, when Sipes busted free for his 32-yard TD run down the left side to give Tussey - benefiting from a short field and a start at the North Star 39 - a 26-14 advantage after three quarters.
"We knew we had to sustain our blocks better on offense and play a little bit better defensively in the second half,'' Smith said. "In this game, big plays ruled, and our guys did a good job blocking downfield.''
It was Taylor's downfield blocking that enabled him to score his first touchdown of the game, in the first quarter.
Sipes broke through the middle of the field but had the football jarred loose from his grasp and fumbled near the Titans' 45. Taylor, following through on a downfield block, alertly gathered the ball into his hands and raced the remaining 55 yards untouched to put Tussey ahead, 14-6 after one quarter.
"Taylor did a good job blocking downfield on that buck sweep play, and he put himself in the right spot to pick up that ball,'' Smith said. "We're the type of team that makes its own breaks.''
Smith hopes that trend will continue in the semifinals next week against an upstart Shade team.
"It's a big challenge,'' Smith said. "They have a very strong offense. We're going to have to play good defense.''
SCORE BY QUARTERS
North Star6 8 0 0 - 14
Tussey Mountain14 0 12 7 - 33
TM-Sipes 39 run (Wentz kick), 8:00.
NS-Miller 1 run (kick failed), 2:43.
TM-Taylor 55 run (Wentz kick), 1:46.
NS-Holcomb 64 pass from Berkebile (Berekbile run), 11:07.
TM-Taylor 63 run (kick failed), 6:43.
TM-Sipes 32 run (pass failed), 0:00.
TM-Sipes 17 run (Wentz kick), 2:21.
RUSHING: North Star-Miller 27-83, Maluchnik 3-2, Berkebile 6-(-1), Team 1-(-12). Tussey Mountain-Taylor 11-156, Sipes 14-127, Kline 8-26, Wentz 2-5, Barnett 5-(-8).
PASSING: North Star-Berkebile 12-22-1-198, Maluchnik 0-1-0-0. Tussey Mountain-Barnett 5-9-1-78.
RECEIVING: North Star-Holland 6-135, Straiser 2-35, Maluchnik 2-14, Knupp 1-7, Mostoller 1-7. Tussey Mountain-Brumbaugh 2-43, Kline 2-20, Sipes 1-15.
INTERCEPTIONS: North Star-Rice. Tussey Mountain-Barnett.