POTTSTOWN >> Gary Rhodenbaugh will undoubtedly remember his first win as head coach of the Pottstown program for the rest of his life.
Not just because of the distinction, or the fact it was the Trojans’ first victory of the season, but more for how it was achieved.
Saturday’s game with Methacton packed more drama into the final 75 seconds than was found in the preceding 30:45. In the end, Pottstown held on for a 20-14 victory at Grigg Memorial Field that left its first-year head coach thankful for another circumstance.
“I’m glad I took my blood pressure medicine,” Rhodenbaugh said with a laugh after the nerve-inducing Pioneer Athletic Conference pairing. It saw both teams score twice in the game’s final nine minutes, that after Pottstown (1-3) scored less than four minutes in while holding Methacton (0-4) at bay through the first three quarters.
“We had to win it for him (Rhodenbaugh) and for the town,” Ernest McCalvin, a stalwart on the defensive side, said. “It was a real back-and-forth game.”
“We worked too hard to lose,” Isaiah Mayes, the game’s leading rusher with 150 yards, added.
The stretch run saw Methacton get on the board with 9:23 left, Ryan O’Toole (16 carries, 67 yards) bursting nine yards up the middle to pull even with Pottstown at 6-6. Like the Trojans earlier, the Warriors’ conversion kick was blocked, denying them the chance to go ahead of their hosts.
Off the ensuing kickoff, Mayes went on a 76-yard jaunt after breaking through the left-tackle slot. After just another 21 seconds, the Trojans were back in front 14-6 after quarterback Owen Morton hooked up with McCalvin on a conversion pass.
Aaron Diamond gave Pottstown more reason to hope for a break into the win column when he intercepted Methacton QB Jason Eckman with little more than seven minutes to go. The Trojans then ran off 12 plays — good for 58 yards to the Warrior 16 — and close to five minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs.
The visitors then fumbled the ball away six plays into their next possession, with McCalvin recovering at the Pottstown 15. But a fumble on the subsequent play was recovered by Methacton, which hit paydirt with Eckman (11-for-29, 151 yards) hitting John Keenan (eight catches, 130 yards) on a 20-yard pass play along the Trojan sideline.
The duo hooked up on the tying conversion pass. And with 1:15 left, the Warriors were very much in position to win.
“We battled,” Methacton head coach Paul Lepre said. “I know, how many times can you say that? But we’ve been 1-14 over that number of games, and our kids have battled to the end.”
Pottstown regained the momentum with the ball on the ensuing kickoff. Larry Wingo (17 carries, 106 yards) carried three times for 40 yards to the Warrior 38, and Morton hit Diamond (four catches, 57 yards) on a pass play that put the home team up 20-14 with 30 seconds left.
Getting to its 46 on the kickoff, Methacton launched four passes that ultimately went incomplete. But a pass-interference call against Pottstown on a halfback toss by O’Toole gave the Warriors one last shot though time had run out.
“We were telling them (Pottstown players) to keep their heads up, to keep pushing,” McCalvin said.
The advice was validated when Eckman’s final throw was unable to find a target. Four games into his second head-coaching tenure — he was at Spring-Ford from 2003 to 2009 — Rhodenbaugh got his first victory at Pottstown.
“A win is a win,” the program’s previous offensive coordinator said. “It was an exciting finish. The emotional swing at the end was tough.”
The circumstance of both teams seeking their first wins was one Lepre addressed with his players in advance of the game.
“We made them aware of that during the week, that somebody was going home with their first win,” he said. “That was part of their motivation.”
The Warriors had two deep forays into Pottstown territory prior to their first TD, only to see the drives stalled on downs and a fumble.
“When we scored in the fourth, we were making plays,” Lepre noted. “The others got away from us.”
Pottstown’s early score was Wingo (17 carries, 106 yards) going 14 yards around his left end less than four minutes into the game. The possession was set up by Ryan Dinkelocker recovering a fumble at the Methacton 17.
“Our offensive coordinator (Jeff Delaney) wants to be aggressive,” Rhodenbaugh noted. “We’ve had some success with the run, and we wanted to take a shot at it.”
Pottstown was successful in that regard, gaining 204 of its 277 yards total offense on the ground.
NOTES >> Pottstown’s defense intercepted Eckman twice, Diamond and Jamal Adams with the picks. The Trojans also forced Methacton into three fumbles, two of which it recovered. … On the Warriors’ defensive side, Keenan intercepted Morton early in the second quarter. … McCalvin batted down one of Eckman’s passes the second play into Methacton’s last-gasp possession of the game.
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