WEST NORRITON >> Norristown has been in games at halftime all season. Through the first eight weeks, each time they’ve come out on the losing end at the final whistle.
This time was different.
The Eagles came out of the locker room with enthusiasm and swagger after intermission Friday night against Boyertown and it showed in the ensuing 24 minutes of play. Norristown overcame an eight-point halftime deficit and picked up its first win of the season, 32-27, over its Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division rival at Norristown Area High School.
“Other games might have been two scores or they might have had a big play at the end of the half,” Norristown coach Joe Milligan said. “Now we’re starting to realize we’re there and fight through it. Every team other than Methacton has been in the playoffs that we played. It’s a testament to them that they finally came out and played four quarters of football.”
“The energy was different (tonight),” receiver Isiah Tucker said. “We felt like we had them in the first half. We just had to come out in the second half and play hard. That’s what we did and came out with the win.”
The Eagles (1-8, 1-4 PAC Liberty) opening drive of the third quarter lasted 11 plays before turning the ball over on fourth down deep in Boyertown’s territory. On the first play of the ensuing Bears possession, Norristown forced a fumble, recovered at the two-yard line and Zion Malone scored two plays later, cutting the Eagles deficit to two, 21-19.
Norristown’s defense, which allowed 219 yards in the first half, forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. The offense responded with another 11 play drive — this one capped off by a go-ahead one-yard touchdown plunge from Elijah Thyman. After a failed two-point attempt the Eagles led by four, 25-21.
The Bears (2-7, 1-4 PAC Liberty) couldn’t pick up a first down on a fake punt on the ensuing possession, but forced a missed field goal when Norristown got the ball back. A penalty on Boyertown’s next drive turned a 4th-and-1 conversion into a 4th-and-13, which they punted away.
“They just came out and beat us in the second half,” Boyertown coach TJ Miller said. “They were more aggressive than us in the second half. We haven’t done well in the second half most of this year. We’ve been more of a first-half team and that’s pretty much it. We didn’t finish it.”
Norristown took advantage. Quarterback Nick Dinolfi hit receiver Travis Cummings for a 36-yard gain to the one-yard line. Two played later Thyman was in the end zone again, making it 32-21 Norristown with 2:31 to go.
It wasn’t going to be easy for the Eagles to get their first win. A 60-yard completion from Mason Marinello to Jamie Moccia set up a Jonathan Myers touchdown for the Bears with 1:13 left, cutting their deficit to five, 32-27.
Norristown recovered the onsides kick and punted away after three kneel downs. Boyertown’s final drive started and ended with a holding penalty on the only play.
“It feels good,” Malone said of the first win. “Especially on homecoming. It’s special.”
The Eagles defense held Boyertown to 52 total yards of offense after halftime.
“We had to make adjustments,” Malone said. “We figured out what they were doing and made adjustments.”
Norristown’s new weapon
Friday night was Thyman’s first game with Norristown since transferring from North Penn.
He rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts.
“It gives us a 1-2 punch,” Milligan said. “He reminds us of your traditional Norristown running back who can make cuts and go through hard. He’s a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger than Malone and Tucker, so he’ll give you more of a pounding. Those two guys are more scat, this guy can run hard on the inside.”
“I’m back now,” Thyman said. “Back with the family. The duo is back.”
The other half of the duo — Malone — added 104 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
The addition also allows the Eagles to move Isiah Tucker from running back to more of a pass-catching role.
“It allows us to throw (Tucker) the ball and get it out versus having to put him back there and try to hand it off,” Milligan said. “Just get him in space. He’s one of those guys that once you get him in space it’s tough to grab him.”
Tucker caught seven passes for 148 yards. He scored two first-half touchdowns — from 78 and 52 yards out.
“Everything,” Tucker credited for his big day. “Communication — I told (quarterback Nick Dinolfi) where I was going to be, who was guarding me and it just worked.”
Moccia’s big day
Moccia accounted for 202 of the Bears 271 yards. He rushed for 142 yards on 18 attempts and caught one pass for 60 yards.
He got his big night started on the first play from scrimmage. He took the handoff right up the gut for a 49-yard touchdown run. He added two more touchdowns in the first half — runs of 73 and 13 yards.
“Massive,” Miller said of Moccia’s importance. “If anybody follows us you know that Jamie has done a great job over the last couple years for us. He’s really helped us grow to where we’re at.”
His 60-yard catch kept the game alive for Boyertown. He out-muscled a pair of Norristown defenders on a deep jumpball and carried some tacklers to set up Myers’ 14-yard score.
For the second time this year, Norristown had to deal with a delay due to the stadium lights going out.
The first time was at Upper Dublin early in the season.
This time, it came at one of the game’s biggest moments.
After Myers’ touchdown to get the Bears within five with 1:13 left, Boyertown lined up for an onsides kick and had to back up five yards after a penalty. Before the second attempt, the stadium went dark.
After a delay, the high-stakes moment resumed and the Eagles were able to recover the kick.