LOWER GWYNEDD >> The momentum was fully against Plymouth Whitemarsh late in the fourth quarter of its District 1-5A quarterfinal game against Upper Dublin.
The Colonials offense totaled -17 yards and lost a fumble on its previous two possessions while their defense allowed touchdown drives of 62, 56 and 24 yards, plus a lead-changing two-point conversion, its last three trips on the field. A 14-point lead with less than 10 minutes left turned into an eight-point deficit with less than two minutes left.
PW’s offense responded with a seven-play, 1:46 touchdown drive and two-point conversion to tie the game with 13 seconds left in regulation. After the defense made a fourth down stop on the first possession of overtime, Tommy Hannon scored his third touchdown of the game on 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard line to give Plymouth Whitemarsh a 42-36 win at Wissahickon High School.
“This has got to be the top of the list,” PW coach Dan Chang said of where this game ranks during his coaching career. “There were some exciting games, a couple of overtime games that we’ve had, but this one was just incredible. The last two minutes, like I was telling my team here, the span of emotions there. The pure fight in those guys to come back with two minutes left down eight. Drive the field, score, all that stuff coming together, get the two-point conversion to send it to OT. Stop them on D then punch it in. It’s like a fairy tale ending to that game.”
“Our guys were down but we kept fighting,” PW junior quarterback Aiden O’Brien said. “We didn’t give up. It’s the best feeling of my life.”
The fifth-seeded Colonials, a triple-option offense, only threw the ball two times over the first 46:01 of the game. When they got the ball back trailing by eight with 1:59 remaining, O’Brien went 3-for-3 for 54 yards on the game-tying drive.
“We knew we had to throw the ball,” O’Brien said. “We knew we had to get down the field quick. We practice all those plays. We’re ready to run them.”
“Aiden’s a gamer,” Chang said. “He works his butt off. He’s super smart, super coachable. When the game is on the line, there’s not many other guys in the league I would want to put the ball in their hands.”
O’Brien made one of the biggest plays with his legs. On 4th-and-7 from the Upper Dublin 14, he evaded a sack at the top of his dropback. He rolled right and got away from a defender near the sideline before turning up field. He took off and collided with another defender short of the sticks, but fell forward to set up 1st-and-goal at the six.
“I don’t even know,” he said. “I was just running for my life, running for the season. Nothing else mattered except getting that first down. I knew I had to do it.”
Hannon ran for a six-yard touchdown on the next play and O’Brien kept the ball on an option to score the two-point conversion to tie the game, 36-36.
No. 4 Upper Dublin got the ball first in overtime and faced 3rd-and-goal from the three. A fumbled exchange set up 4th-and-goal from the four and Colin O’Sullivan’s pass was incomplete.
“High school football is momentum,” Upper Dublin coach Bret Stover said. “You felt it all come on our side. Then as they were going down it went all back to their side. That’s high school football. We just needed to make one more play and we just didn’t do it. It’s nobody’s fault. We were one play short of getting out of here feeling like PW is right now.”
O’Brien ran for seven yards on PW’s first play and Hannon went for two on 2nd-and-goal from the three. On third down, Hannon powered it up the middle to send PW to the semifinals and a matchup with No. 1 West Chester Rustin next Friday night.
“Coach called my number and I was super determined to get in there,” Hannon said. “When I crossed the line – one of the happiest moments in my high school career. First overtime game, it was surreal. I’m at a loss for words.”
Cardinals keep fighting
Upper Dublin faced a 28-14 deficit with 9:47 left in the game when PW’s Luke Winterbottom scored a 44-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals offense responded with a three straight touchdown drives while the defense forced a three-and-out and a turnover to take a 36-28 lead with 1:59 to go.
“I’m proud of my kids we didn’t quit down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter,” Stover said. “We rallied back. We went for two, it was great, in hindsight we scored too quick, but you don’t want to not get in there and then they go down the field and score and you don’t even get to overtime.”
O’Sullivan went 8-for-13 for 109 yards and a touchdown through the air in the fourth quarter and added a three-yard touchdown on the ground.
On the first scoring drive, O’Sullivan found Griffin Pensabene for first downs on a pair of 3rd-and-10s. The two connected two more times on the drive, the second being an 11-yard touchdown with 6:37 left in the game to get within 28-21.
Brett Callahan was O’Sullivan’s go-to receiver on the next possession. Callahan caught three passes for 49 yards on the drive and, after O’Sullivan ran for a three-yard touchdown, the two connected on the two-point conversion to give Upper Dublin a 29-28 lead with 2:46 left in the game.
“That’s when (O’Sullivan) is most comfortable out there,” Stover said of the fourth quarter. “He rises to that kind of moment. Honestly, we go through the whole season and we don’t really do a whole lot of that because we don’t want to show it, but we work on it all year, all in practice. It comes out and the receivers, it’s like we were running that every day. If you came to watch us Week 1 you didn’t see any of it, Week 7 didn’t see any of it. Then all of the sudden the last two weeks we just unveil it, which is the same thing we’ve done with all our teams. We have several different plays. We are truly multiple and it’s a credit to our kids to be able to handle it, especially Colin to be able to run it.”
After Plymouth Whitemarsh lost a fumble on its own 24-yard line on the first play of the next drive, Upper Dublin leaned on running back Nyfise McIntyre. The junior ran for 19 yards to set up 1st-and-goal before scoring from five yards away to put the Cardinals ahead, 35-28, with 1:59 to go. The extra point made it an eight-point game, 36-28.
“(Going for two) crossed my mind,” Stover said, “because you could end the game right there. Our defense had been playing really good at that point. I thought for sure we could keep them out, then we didn’t. It is what it is.”
Next man up
With running back Nate Kern battling injuries, Hannon stepped into a bigger role on offense. He delivered with 99 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-tying score and the game-winner, on 11 carries.
Hannon added two receptions – both on the game-winning drive – for 46 yards.
“We have a motto, ‘Next man step up, next man be ready,’” Hannon, who had no catches all year, said, “so I was ready to go in.
“My mindset is no one guy is taking me down. It’s two or more guys.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh 42, Upper Dublin 36 (OT)
Plymouth Whitemarsh 14 0 7 15 6 – 42
Upper Dublin 0 7 7 22 0 – 36
PW – Aiden O’Brien 65-yard interception return (Seve Spruill kick) 2:46
PW – Luke Winterbottom 53-yard reception from Aiden O’Brien (Seve Spruill kick) 0:27
UD – Chris Kohlbrenner 25-yard reception from Colin O’Sullivan (Owen Carl) 10:20
PW – Tommy Hannon 32-yard run (Seve Spruill kick) 9:57
UD – Noah Lee 17-yard reception from Colin O’Sullivan (Owen Carl kick) 6:26
PW – Luke Winterbottom 44-yard run (Seve Spruill kick) 9:47
UD – Griffin Pensabene 11-yard reception from Colin O’Sullivan (Owen Carl kick) 6:37
UD – Colin O’Sullivan 3-yard run (Brett Callahan reception from O’Sullivan for 2) 2:46
UD – Nyfise McIntyre 5-yard run (Owen Carl kick) 1:59
PW – Tommy Hannon 6-yard run (Aiden O’Brien run for 2) 0:13
PW – Tommy Hannon 1-yard run
First downs 19 22
Rushes-Yards 51-250 32-176
Passing yards 107 224
Total yards 357 400
Passing 4-5-1 22-40-1
Punts 3 4
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-30 2-20
PW: Aiden O’Brien 10-(-1); Gregory Feinberg 9-36; Chris McLaughlin 8-45; Zion East 4-32; Luke Winterbottom 8-55, TD; Tommy Hannon 11-99, 3 TD.
UD: Nyfise McIntyre 12-81, TD; Colin O’Sullivan 8-40, TD; Tawfiq Bartlett 11-49; Chris Kohlbrenner 1-6.
PW: Aiden O’Brien 4-5-107-1-1.
UD: Colin O’Sullivan 22-40-224-3-1.
PW: Luke Winterbottom 1-53, TD; Tommy Hannon 2-46; Gregory Feinberg 1-8.
UD: Noah Lee 5-38, TD; Nyfise McIntyre 3-14; Brett Callahan 5-63; Chris Kohlbrenner 4-47, TD; Griffin Pensabene 5-62, TD.
PW: Aiden O’Brien.
UD: Chris Kohlbrenner.
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