DILLSBURG >> For nearly all of Friday night’s Mid Penn Colonial Division football game, Northern York running back Kyle Swartz had his way with the Shippensburg defense.
But the Greyhound defense made the plays when the game mattered most.
Shippensburg held Swartz to a combined negative four yards on three consecutive carries inside the 10-yard line to force a turnover on downs, then got an interception to seal a 27-21 win over Northern.
“I don’t think we really did anything different,” said Ship linebacker Colton Musser of the defense’s late stand. “We just knew we had to go out there, work hard and execute.”
After Shippensburg took a 27-21 lead on a Delonte Wilson run with 5:38 left in the game, the Polar Bears (5-3, 3-1 MPC) went right to work. Quarterback Jordan Heisey hit Tyler Yohn for 23 yards and Aidan Wenger for 16 on back-to-back plays to put Northern at the 25. After a first down run by Heisey, Swartz ran for five yards to put the ball at the seven. Ship then proceeded to hold Swartz to a loss of one on second down and a loss of 2 on third down, but a personal foul after the play gave the Polar Bears a fourth and 3 at the five-yard line. But once again, Ship got quick penetration and stopped Swartz behind the line for a turnover on downs.
With the Hounds (8-0, 5-0 MPC) needing one first down to run out the clock, Jacob Loy ran for a combined nine yards on the first two plays to set up a third and short, but Northern held him up on third down and stripped the ball away to get one final chance. But on the second play of the drive from the 31, Isaiah Houser jumped off his man on a deep pass to the slot and intercepted the ball to seal the game.
Said Houser, “They came out in deuces, and my goal was to just not let anything get behind me. I was watching the quarterback and saw him throw it deep, and I just went up and got it at the high point.
“We fight through adversity. That’s what this defense does. It’s all heart.”
Swartz finished with a solid night, amounting 182 yards on 33 carries, but it was the first time all season that he was held to under 200 yards.
Said Polar Bear coach Bill Miller, “Give credit to their defense. They rose to the occasion. All we can ask for is an opportunity to win at the end.
“I think if I had a chance to do it again, I would have called (the red zone series) a little differently. I second-guessed myself on that, and I told the boys after the game that I blew it.”
The first three quarters went mainly as expected with one team making big plays and the other coming back with counter punches.
After three and outs by each team to start the game, Alex Sharrow got things started with a 60-yard touchdown run to put Shippensburg up 7-0.
Said Sharrow, “Our line was the key tonight. That touchdown was wide open. Max (Kalb) handed it off great, and nobody touched me. The line opened up a huge whole.”
After the defense forced another Polar Bear punt, the Hounds took possession on its own 14-yard line, but a fumble on the first play of the series gave Northern the ball at the Ship 15, and Heisey scored three plays later to tie the game.
But Shippensburg responded quickly. After a solid kick return gave them the ball near midfield, the Greyhounds needed just five plays to take back the lead, capped off by a 40-yard pass from Zack Manning to Isaiah Houser.
The Polar Bears came back with a counter punch of their own and marched down the field in seven plays to tie the game at 14 on a Kyle Swartz 11-yard run.
The pace of the game slowed down after that, with both teams trading long drives. After a nine-play drive to start the second half ended in a punt for Northern, Shippensburg used 13 plays and nearly seven minutes to go ahead 21-14 on a five-yard run by Loy.
But Northern answered with a 10-play drive of its own that was capped off by a two-yard run by Swartz.
“I think we were able to wear them down in the second half,” Ship coach Eric Foust. “They have a roster of 38 and we have maybe 50. And our 50 ended up beating their 38. They have a young team and some good pieces over there.”
For the Hounds, Sharrow finished with 111 yards on 11 carries, and Loy had 73 yards on 21 rushes. Wilson added 33 yards on 4 carries filling in for injured Kalb, and he also had a big kick return that set up Ship’s game-winning drive. Houser finished with five catches for 74 yards, and Manning finished 6 of 12 for 83 yards.
SHIPPENSBURG 27, NORTHERN YORK 21
Shippensburg 14 0 7 6 – 27
Northern York 7 7 0 7 – 21
S — Alex Sharrow 60 run (Blake Orndorff kick), 6:32
NY — Jordan Heisey 9 run (Mason Yohn kick), 3:46
S — Isaiah Houser 40 pass from Zack Manning (Orndorff kick), 2:13
NY — Kyle Swartz 11 run (Yohn kick), 11:54
S — Jacob Loy 5 rush (Orndorff kick) 0:10
NY — Swartz 2 run (Yohn kick), 8:02
S — Delonte Wilson 10 run (kick failed), 5:38
First Downs: S 15; NY 16. Rushes-yards: S 40-226; NY 42-222. Passing: S 6-12-0; NY 3-6-1. Passing Yards: S 83; NY 46. Penalties-yards: S 5-48; NY 7-60. Punts-yards: S 1-30; NY 4-27. Fumbles-lost: S 2-2; NY 1-0.
Rushing: Shippensburg, Sharrow 11-111, Loy 21-73, Wilson 4-33, Max Kalb 2-6, Christian Melendez 2-3; Northern York, Swartz 33-182, Heisey 8-28, Zack Beam 1-12.
Passing: Shippensburg, Manning 6-12-0, 83 yards; Northern York, Heisey 3-6-0, 46 yards.
Receiving: Shippensburg, Houser 5-74, Nick Gustafson 1-9; Northern York, Aidan Wenger 2-28, Tyler Yohn 1-23.