CLYMER - On the first play of the District 6 Class A quarterfinal game, Penns Manor quarterback Lucas Kowalski drifted back to pass and threw a floater over his receiver's head.
Covering on the play, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic's Sam McCloskey was in the right spot at the right time as he intercepted the pass at the PM 32 and took into the end zone. Only 15 seconds into the game, the Marauders had a lead.
"It was awesome," McCloskey said. "It got the momentum going for us big time. It just kind of came to me. I've been having trouble getting interceptions, so I'm glad to get one and bring it to the house."
McCloskey's pickoff set the tone for the game. The Comets were able to move the ball in the first half, but the BG defense came up big when it had to, including the pick and freshman Evan Chadbourn's touchdown-saving tackle of Louie Tate at the Guilfoyle 1-yard line, to lead the fifth-seeded Marauders to a 25-0 win over the fourth-seeded Coments on Saturday night at Pat Corrigan Field.
"This is a heck of a team we played tonight in Penns Manor," BG coach Justin Wheeler said. "For us to come in and play as well as we did...We had some mistakes and penalties, and still to fight through that and get the shutout, feels great for both the defense and the offense. It feels pretty good.
"[The McCloskey interception] was huge. Sam McCloskey has started about 30 [career] games as a junior, and every week, he gets the task to lock down the opposing best player. He's just an amazing corner. He made a great read, made a great play and just got us the momentum."
The win moved the 9-2 Marauders into the district semifinals, where they'll play at top-seeded Portage next Friday. The Comets finished with a 9-2 record.
There wasn't much offense in the game - Penns Manor outgained BG, 199-192 - but the offensive star was Brandon Chadbourn, who ran for 82 yards on 15 carries and threw touchdown passes to Matt Gormley and McCloskey.
"He is an absolutely incredible athlete," Wheeler said. "He's the leader of the team. He's back. He's healthy. He just gives us a complete other dimension that teams have to defend."
"We were concerned about him going into this game," PM coach Bill Packer said. "We knew he can run the ball, and he throws the ball well. He stood in there, took some hits and made some nice passes."
The second big BG defensive play was more of a PM mistake as Bailey Mumau mishandled the pitch from Kowalski on fourth-and-1 at the BG 27, and the Comets lost 14 yards.
The Marauders then went on an 11-play drive that took from their 41 to the 6 and eventually, because of penalties, back to the 14. It ended with kicker Jared Verba booting a 30-yard field goal with 2:05 left in the first half.
Kowalski, who ran for 86 yards on 22 carries, completed three passes on the ensuing series that took PM from the PM 22 to the BG 11.
"They were really tough," McCloskey said. "Their line was huge, and they were running the ball 8 yards a carry coming in. I have to give them a lot of credit."
The third completion, to Tate, nearly sent the Comets into the locker room with momentum, but the stop by the younger Chadbourn kept the score intact.
"We felt pretty good," Packer said. "We felt we still had a shot of coming back and winning this game. In the second half, the momentum changed. We made too many mistakes, and you've got to give Bishop Guilfoyle a lot of credit. They adjusted and stopped us a few more times."
Kowalski recovered his own fumble on the first play of PM's first series of the second half, but when Ethan Marshall fumbled on the next play, BG linebacker Nick Little recovered at the PM 11.
On third down from the 15, Brandon Chadbourn connected with Gormley for a touchdown pass. Verba was roughed on the ensuing PAT, moving the ball to the 1, so Wheeler went for it, and McCloskey ran it in for two points and an 18-0 lead.
"We rolled out and ran a throwback," Chadbourn said, "and I just threw it up, and he made a great catch. He's been one of my main receivers for awhile, and I really trust him to catch the ball when I throw it to him."
Kowalski picked off Chadbourn later, and the Comets drove to the BG 21, but Kowalski was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-3 two plays into the fourth quarter.
Chadbourn ripped off a 30-yard run on the first play of the next series, and he converted a third down with an 11-yard run in which he carried tacklers to the PM 37. Later, on fourth down, he connected with a McCloskey for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 4:17 left in the game.
"Sam McCloskey came over to the sidelines and he said he wanted the ball," Wheeler said. "Brandon and Sammy are great friends, and they spend a lot of time in the offense throwing to each other. I said 'OK, you guys got it.' He made a great move on the safety, and Brandon threw a strike."
BG will now get ready for the top-seeded Mustangs.
"Portage is a tough team," McCloskey said. "They've got some quick backs, a good quarterback, and we'll have to prepare pretty well all week."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle7 3 8 7 -25
Penns Manor0 0 0 0 -0
BG-McCloskey 32 int, return (Verba kick), 11:45
BG-Verba 30 FG, 2:05
BG-Gormley 15 pass from B. Chadbourn (McCloskey run), 6:32
BG-McCloskey 24 pass from B. Chadbourn (Verba kick), 4:17
RUSHING: Bishop Guilfoyle-B. Chadbourn 15-82, McCloskey 8-26, Kitt 7-15, Yasulitis 1-1. Penns Manor-Kowalski 22-86, Marshall 6-27, Tate 7-25, S. Dumm 3-15, N. Dumm 2-6, Alter 1-5, Mumau 3-(-4).
PASSING: Bishop Guilfoyle-B. Chadbourn 6-12-1-68. Penns Manor-Kowalski 4-9-1-39.
RECEIVING: Bishop Guilfoyle-Gormley 3-30, McCloskey 2-28, Kitt 1-10. Penns Manor-N. Dumm 3-29, Tate 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bishop Guilfoyle-McCloskey. Penns Manor-Kowalski.
Passing (comp.-att.-int)6-12-1 4-9-1