WHITEMARSH >> On a night when offense was scarce, it made sense that the difference in the final score in the Norristown-Plymouth Whitemarsh matchup was a defensive touchdown.
Norristown’s Tyler Tate recovered a fumble in the end zone following a sack for the game’s lone touchdown as visiting Norristown stunned Plymouth Whitemarsh, 10-9, in a non-league matchup at Colonial Field.
The Colonials thought they were in line for a miracle finish when Mike Iannarellii hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Larry McLaughlin with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But the extra-point attempt was botched, sending PW to the crushing loss.
The win was the first of the season for the Eagles (1-2) while the Colonials remained winless.
The first quarter was a study in frustration for both sides, as both the Colonials (0-3) and Eagles went nowhere, although PW did reach the Norristown 19 before fumbling the ball away.
The Colonials finally broke through when Steven Longo capped a short drive with a 35-yard field goal with 1:53 left in the first half.
The points were a welcome sight for the Colonials, who came into the game not having scored a touchdown in their first two starts.
“We were poor offensively tonight,” said Colonials head coach Dan Chang. “Our defense played great, but we have to be better offensively.”
The Eagles were equally inept offensively, but went ahead for good when McLaughin was sacked in the end zone and Tate recovered with 9:53 left in the fourth.
Justin Nagle’s 30-yard field goal almost seven minutes later bumped the Norristown lead to 10-3 with 3:02 to play, setting the stage for the game’s final near-heroics by the PW offense.
The Colonlals got off to a great start, taking the opening kickoff and driving as far as the Eagles 19 before the aforementioned fumble.
Norristown, keyed by a 43-yard run by Kirk Wilson on its first play from scrimmage, got as far as the Colonials 36 before quarterback Izaiah Webb was intercepted by Colonials defensive back Josh Lynch.
At that point the game slowed down to a crawl as both sides appeared determined to move the ball on the ground _ with little success.
The Colonials only gained 78 yards the remainder of the half, while the Eagles racked up only 43 stripes.
“We had to stay composed and do the things we could do,” said Eagles head coach Jason Powel. “Things went our way tonight.”
The second half wasn’t much more productive for either side, although the Eagles had much the better of the play, gaining 12 net yards on their first drive, which was hindered by penalty, and 19 net yards on their second drive, which was hindered by a penalty and a pair of sacks by Colonials linebacker Kirk Bell.
The game changed for good early in the fourth quarter when a punt by the Eagles pinned the Colonials back inside their own 10.
Two plays later, McLaughlin was sacked, and the ball sprung free, into the waiting arms of Tate, and the game was changed for good.
“We just have to take better care of the ball,” Chang said. “We can’t fumble there.”
But the die was cast.
After stopping the Colonials on the next series, the Eagles got the ball at their own 35 and moved the ball to the PW 13, where Nagle cashed in a 30-yard field goal to push the visitors’ advantage to a touchdown with 3:02 left.
It appeared that lead would hold up, but after an exchange of possession gave PW the ball at its own 44, McLaughlin found Iannarelli down the right sideline, and with 31 seconds left, the game seemed certain to be headed to overtime.
But a bad snap caused a bad placement, and Longo yanked his PAT attempt wide left, sending the Eagles sideline into delirium.
“We talk a lot about the chaos on the field and the chaos in our lives,” Powel said. “Like in life, this one wasn’t pretty, but we’re not going to give it back.”