BROOKVILLE — Trailing by 21 points in the early moments of the fourth quarter, another slow start out of the gate cost the Brookville Raiders dearly.
It almost didn’t, but two plays after Jack Krug’s apparent 49-yard touchdown run was called back because of a holding penalty, the Wolves’ Zuke Smith intercepted Krug near midfield with 59 seconds left and the season ended right there for the Raiders.
The sixth-seeded Wolves (6-4) skipped out of town last Friday night with a 28-22 win, earning a semifinal matchup with No. 2 Clarion at DuBois’ E.J. Mansell Stadium this Saturday at 6 p.m.
Brookville’s season ended at 8-3, failing to end a playoff losing streak dating back to 2010 and a 20-year stretch since the last time the Raiders won a home postseason game.
Kane also turned around a 33-14 loss on the same field back on Oct. 11, ending a four-game losing streak with its third playoff win over the Raiders since 2012.
This time around, the Wolves used a new quarterback, put one of their top running backs on the line and got healthier over the past three weeks.
““That was our motto for two weeks. ‘Why not us?’” Wolves head coach Jim Hillman said. “We’ve been so close. We started out 5-0 playing great football and little things happen and we had to regroup. The whole time we were in that (losing) streak, the kids were like ‘Coach, we got this.’ And that’s the difference between last year and this year. The kids have been phenomenal.”
The Wolves outgained the Raiders, 392-339, but the Raiders had just 163 yards and eight first downs until their furious comeback in the fourth quarter.
Wolves sophomore Harley Morris, who had thrown just 15 passes with one touchdown along with 72 yards rushing with no touchdowns going into the game, started at quarterback and had a huge game, accounting for all of the Wolves’ TDs. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 163 yards and three TDs while running for 84 yards on 15 carries with a 1-yard TD.
Jake Alcorn rushed for 84 yards on 13 carries and caught four passes for 94 yards, one of those going 70 yards for a TD from Morris. Alcorn also returned a punt 60 yards to the Raiders’ 2 that set up Kane’s second TD late in the second quarter.
The Raiders weren’t in sync much at all for most of the game offensively, putting pressure on their defense to make stops. Krug completed 22 of 47 passes for 252 yards with three TDs and two interceptions while the Raiders were limited to 87 yards on the ground on 22 attempts.
Krug started the game 3-for-12 with 22 yards and an interception, the Raiders gave up a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive on Kane’s first possession and the Alcorn punt return gave the Wolves an easy second TD.
“It was all aspects of the game in the first half, the breakdown on special teams and not getting stops on defense, not throwing or catching the ball very well. It hurts us and put us in a hole that was too much,” Park said. “For whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m still kind of at a loss for words for just the way we played in the first half. I don’t understand that and can’t put a finger on it.”
But there the Raiders were with the ball at their own 39 after forcing the Wolves on a three-and-out possession with 3:03 left and trailing 28-22.
Krug hit Kyle MacBeth with a 6-yard pass, then nearly was intercepted by the Wolves on second down. A couple of short gainers got the Raiders a first down at the Kane 49 and after an incomplete pass, Krug dropped back on second down looking to throw.
Instead of throwing deep, Krug kept the ball and dashed around the left side of the line and down the Kane sideline for an apparent touchdown. However, a holding penalty called on the Raiders brought the play back.
After a 6-yard pass to Ian Thrush, Krug’s next pass was intercepted by the 6-foot-5 Zuke Smith, ironically the displaced Wolves quarterback who threw four interceptions in the first meeting. This time, he caught a TD pass from Morris and secured the game-clinching turnover with 59 seconds left.
Two kneeldowns later, the Wolves were winners. The flagged Krug TD run had Park shaking his head in frustration afterward.
“We came into tonight with some things we saw on film and we brought it to (the officials crew) attention before the game. We didn’t get any of that called,” Park said. “Their guards were moving early when they were pulling and we mentioned that. We were told they weren’t. I just thought we were being called for things they weren’t getting called for and I think that last one was a ticky-tack call for the situation.”
But another slow start, Park acknowledged, cost his team in the end. The Raiders trailed 13-0 before rallying to beat DuBois in their final regular-season game and fell behind 28-0 to Ridgway before blanking them 14-0 in the second half in the week prior to that.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t put my finger on it when we were talking at halftime,” Park said of the slow start offensively. “It was one of those things. We weren’t running routes or getting out of press coverage either. We told them all week they weren’t the same team. They had a couple guys back and we didn’t think it’d be a walk in the park. But for whatever reason tonight, we came out flat and this is what happens. You put yourself in a hole and it caught up with us. We were kind of lucky all year.”
This time around, it was a 21-0 hole late in the first half before the Raiders scored.
After the Wolves scored to make it 21-0, Raiders quickly responded for their first points before halftime, Krug leading a 73-yard drive that took seven plays with him hitting MacBeth on a 6-yard pass with five seconds on the clock.
The Raiders managed just one first down in the third quarter while Kane missed on points when kicker Aaron Hottel slipped on a 32-yard field goal attempt that fell way short.
The Wolves held the Raiders on a three-and-out after that and went 67 yards on seven plays, scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 28-7 lead after Morris’ 13-yard TD pass to former starting quarterback, the 6-foot-5 Smith on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone.
But the Raiders mounted two straight scoring drives on Krug’s 5-yard TD pass to Ian Thrush and then a 12-yard TD pass to MacBeth to cap an 80-yard drive after MacBeth’s eighth interception of the season on a Morris pass into the end zone.
Early in the scoring drive that finished with MacBeth’s TD that made it 28-15, Zampogna appeared to intercept Krug in the middle of the field inside the Raiders’ 30. After he caught the ball, Zampogna slipped and went to the ground as the ball came loose. The pass was ruled incomplete after a Krug 17-yard pass to Thrush on the next play, the Kane sideline was given a warning.
Down 28-22 with 4:12 left, the Raiders pooched a bloop kickoff over the Kane front lines, setting up a dash for the rolling ball inside the Wolves’ 30. Zampogna managed to outwrestle the Raiders special teamers for the loose ball at the 26. But three plays later, the Wolves were punting again, setting up the final Raiders possession.
Early on, the Raiders opened the game and stalled on downs at the Kane 31. The Wolves scored from there on a 13-play drive with Morris scoring on his 1-yard TD.
Alcorn’s punt return led to Kane’s one-play drive on Morris’ 2-yard pass to Zampogna to make it 14-0 with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
Bobby Rumcick’s interception of Krug came two plays after the Raiders’ Elliot Park deflected a punt that went just one yard and stopped at the Kane 37. That led to the Wolves’ 80-yard scoring drive capped by Morris’ 70-yard TD pass to Alcorn on second-and-25 with 2:53 left in the half.
The Raiders outscored the Wolves from there, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the slow start.
NOTES: The Raiders’ last playoff win came in the 2010 semifinals in a 14-7 win over Moniteau at Clarion University. Their last home playoff win was against Brockway in the Class 2A semifinals as well, 21-10 back in 1999. ... MacBeth caught eight passes for 97 yards while Robert Keth had four receptions for 85 yards and Thrush six catches for 50 yards. ... MacBeth’s interception gave him eight for the season and he’s now at 11 for his career, ranking tied for third with Topper Moir and Brock Beitz and behind Brad Geer (16) and Tyler Ross (14). ... Thrush finished with 77 catches for 981 yards and 11 TDs. On the team’s all-time receiving lists, he wound up second in catches (115) and yards (1,791), and tied with former teammate Cabe Park in TDs with 23. ... Krug upped his school-record passing yardage total to 5,993 yards going into his senior year. ... The Raiders finished their third straight winning season. The last time (over .500) that happened was four straight seasons from 1994-97.