BIRDSBORO >> On a night when two tenacious teams definitely gave something extra, extra-point kicks and two-point conversions were big issues for both.
It ended up costing Fleetwood the most. The Tigers’ Mike Wilkinson’s 69-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 37.1 seconds left might have been the classic, SportsCenter-worthy, game-tying or game-winning play, but the Tigers’ futility on two-pointers contributed to them trailing by nine before Wilkinson’s wonder run. Alas, his electrifying TD and a successful two-point conversion still left Fleetwood a point short, but Daniel Boone earned every bit of its eventual 33-32 homecoming victory in a Berks battle royale Friday night.
“Fleetwood played really tough. They’re a big, physical team and one of the top offenses in our league, and I’m really proud of how the kids persevered and played all the way down to the end,” said Blazers coach Bill Parks.
A depth-depleted Daniel Boone’s defense stopped the first four Fleetwood two-point tries. The Blazers missed a point-after kick and then a two-point try, but would nose ahead for good at 19-18 in the third quarter on Dylan Walker’s extra point. Both teams ran the ball well but Daniel Boone had the key difference-makers in running back Spencer McIntosh (20 carries, 125 yards) and quarterback Josh Ehst (12-for-18, 194 yards, two TDs).
“Conditioning really helped us tonight,” said McIntosh, who also contributed on defense. “And coach always talks about overcoming adversity and not letting anything get us down. We stuck with it and came out on top.”
With the game knotted at 12 at halftime, Fleetwood made a statement coming out of the locker room. The Tigers went on a 67-yard drive, consuming nearly half of the third quarter and scoring on Wilkinson’s 3-yard run.
The Blazers responded immediately. They went 73 yards in 6 minutes to take the lead. A pass interference on Fleetwood helped keep the drive alive, putting the Blazers in Tiger territory. McIntosh’s TD and Walker’s kick made it 19-18 with 26 seconds left in the third.
Right after that, the Blazers succeeded with onside kick, McIntosh recovering. Esch found Ryan Okuniewski for 42 yards to the Tiger 10 on the last play of the third quarter. He hit Anthony Zabala for a 13-yard TD pass, Dylan connected on another point-after kick, and it was 26-18.
Fleetwood roared back down the field twice, fumbling deep in the red zone, then scoring the second trip on Brendan Jocsak’s 5-yard run. Again the Tigers came up short going for two.
McIntosh provided the clincher on a 7-yard slice into the end zone with 49.4 seconds left in the fourth.
The Blazers got on the board first with an effective run-pass mix drive. Ehst made a nice play, rolling left and fitting a pass into a tight coverage window to Walker for 13 yards on third-and-seven. McIntosh then broke loose for runs of 20 and 17, and from the 23 Ehst made a slick ball fake and kept for the TD.
With 9:04 left in the second quarter the Tigers decided to go for it on fourth-and-two from their own 33. Jocsak got it with second effort. He then gained 10 on second-and-13 and Wilkinson made 10 on third-and-3 to the Blazer 46. Two plays later, Wilkinson cut straight up the middle and ran past everybody for a 44-yard score. An unsuccessful two-point run by Wilkinson kept it tied at 6 with 6 minutes left before halftime.
Much would happen in those six minutes. Ehst found Ian Rathgeb in the end zone for a leaping 37-yard TD reception with 4:25 left in the half. Zabala’s big block of a pass rusher closing in on Ehst allowed the play to happen. The two-point pass play failed.
Fleetwood marched 52 yards to the end zone just before the half expired. Trevor Koenig hit Izaiah David for a 21-yard gain and Jordan Wilmer ran for 16. After a good defensive pursuit play, with McIntosh making the tackle on Jordan Wilmer for a 3-yard loss back to the Daniel Boone 15, a pass interference flag on the Blazers put the Tigers back in business. With 43 seconds to go before halftime, Jocsak slammed in from the 7 to knot the score at 12; the two-pointer was failed.
Fleetwood rushed for 160 the first half, led by Wilkinson’s 62 and Jocsak’s 60. McIntosh had 72 yards (on eight attempts) of the Blazers’ 121 first-half ground yards.