DOWNINGTOWN >> When Strath Haven’s Sean Daly saw sophomore kicker Emmet Young’s 23-yard field goal attempt sail through the uprights to give the Panthers a 24-21 lead with seven seconds left, his first thought was, “There’s the 300th win for Coach Clancy.”
Five seconds later, Daly intercepted a last-ditch Shanahan pass, and the No. 11 seed Panthers knocked off the sixth-seeded Eagles in the first round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs Friday , giving Clancy his 300th career victory.
All those wins came with Clancy coaching two Delaware County schools, Strath Haven (233) and Archbishop Carroll (67).
With school supporters chanting his name after the game, Clancy issued his usual humble pose.
“This pales in comparison to what these kids did tonight,” Clancy said of No. 300. “We had a lot of younger players come through for us. John Prochniak made the interception that set up the winning field goal and Ethan Belville scored on a recovered fumble. He’s been making big plays for us all year.
“And I had no question that Emmet would make that field goal at the end of the game – he’s as clutch a guy as there is for us.”
With the victory, the Panthers (6-5) advance to the quarterfinals, where they will play at third-seeded Unionville.
The Panthers’ defense forced three Shanahan turnovers, and two of them led to Strath Haven scores, including the game-winning field goal.
Strath Haven began the game with a 13-play, 65-yard touchdown drive (all running plays) to take a 7-0 lead, Daly gong over from the 1 on a fourth-and-goal play.
The Panthers controlled the ball in the first quarter, as the Eagles (7-4) ran only four plays from scrimmage the entire first period. Shanahan rebounded, though, for a 13-play, 90-yard TD drive in the second quarter to narrow the Panthers’ lead to 7-6.
Three plays after the Eagles scored, Shanahan’s Ryan McLaughlin intercepted a Strath Haven pass, giving the hosts possession at the Panthers’ 30 yard line. The visitors’ defense stiffened, however, and Strath Haven got the ball back on downs.
With less than two minutes left in the first half, Belville recovered a Shanahan fumble at the Eagles’ 33 and ran it in for a 14-6 Panthers lead.
“I saw the ball drop, recovered it in the crowd and thought, ‘Someone’s going to hop on me,’” Belville said. “I just kept running all the way to the end zone. When I scored, it was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Midway through the third quarter, Shanahan took possession at midfield and drove 47 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown, capped by a two-yard plunge into the end zone on third-and goal by Eagles’ QB Andrew Smyth. The Shanahan signal-caller then hit senior Steve Sweeney on the right side for a two-point conversion that tied the score at 14-14 with 4:58 left in the third period.
With 5:43 left in the game, Shanahan senior Dan DiBeneditto broke free for a picturesque 50-yard touchdown, first running to the left, then breaking right into daylight. Connor Bailey’s kick made it 21-14, Eagles.
Haven then drove 76 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, helped in part by two Shanahan penalties – a pass interference call and a face mask penalty. On 3rd and 11 from the Shanahan 31, Strath Haven quarterback Jake Fisher lofted a high pass toward the end zone, where senior Thomas Foster was being double-teamed. But he leaped and caught the ball, his momentum carrying him backward into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown and a 21-21 tie with 2:02 left.
Prochniak then stopped Shanahan with an interception. The Panthers worked the ball downfield, and Young would put the game away with his kick.
“When I saw the ball go through the uprights, that’s the happiest I’ve ever been in football,” Young said. “Lining up before the kick, I prepared for it just like it was any other kick. The snap was good, the hold was great, and the line did a good job.”
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