HARRISBURG — Chambersburg couldn’t have asked for a better start against Harrisburg on Saturday.
But the Trojans couldn’t have envisioned a nightmare like the final 10 minutes of the second quarter brought them, either.
Despite the great start, and despite holding the Cougars scoreless for three of the four quarters, Chambersburg fell just short, 27-25, in a Mid Penn Commonwealth football game at Severance Field.
“We’re close with those teams (Harrisburg, State College and Central Dauphin),” Trojan coach Mark Luther said. “We just have to believe that we’ll get the next one.”
Chambersburg (5-3, 3-2 MPC) looked sharp for the first 14 minutes.
The Trojans took the opening possession of the game 60 yards on 14 plays to score a touchdown on a 2-yard run by Keyshawn Jones. Along the way, they were 4-for-4 on third-down conversions and Brady Stumbaugh completed his first four passes, all to Tyler Luther.
After Harrisburg (5-3, 3-2 MPC) went three-and-out, Chambersburg repeated the process, going 76 yards on 13 plays, with Jones crossing the goal line from 5 yards out to make it 14-0. That drive included four more third-down conversions.
To recap, the Trojans were 8-for-8 on third downs and had gained 136 yards. To that point, they had run 21 plays to Harrisburg’s three.
The rest of the game, Chambersburg netted only 49 more yards and was 0-for-7 on third downs.
All it took was one play to change everything. On the Cougars’ first play after going down 14-0, John McNeil found Kamere Day wide open for an 80-yard touchdown. When we say wide open, we’re talking by at least 20 yards.
From that point until halftime, Harrisburg recovered a Trojan fumble on the very next play, and turned that into a 29-yard strike from McNeil to Day, who was again wide open in the end zone; forced a punt and drove for a TD on a 1-yard plunge by McNeil; forced another punt and scored a play later on a 64-yard bomb from McNeil to Donte Kent.
That added up to 27 consecutive points in a 10-minute span and 27-14 lead.
Mark Luther said, “This is tough for me, but I have to say that it was my fault for what happened in the first half. I asked the kids to do something different, and it didn’t put them in position to be successful.”
Luther said since they had an extra day of practice this week, and because the Cougars’ offense presents such a threat on deep balls, he put some new coverages into place.
“They do some things I was concerned about, so I changed some things and I thought the kids had a grasp of it. But they didn’t. So that’s on me, and that’s what I told them at halftime. We expected a deep pass and that’s what they did, but we had busted coverage.”
But, to their credit, the Trojans forced their way back into the game.
Jayden Jones intercepted a pass on Harrisburg’s first possession and Chambersburg ended up with a 37-yard field goal by Tyler Luther to make it 27-17.
Then Kevin Lee picked off an errant McNeil pass to give the Trojans the ball on the Cougars’ 40. The first play was a long pass from Stumbaugh to Tyler Luther — 39 yards to the 1 — and Stumbaugh pushed it in on the next play.
Then, on a fire-drill kind of play on the extra point, Stumbaugh, the holder, gained control of a bad snap, and had the moxie to toss it to Bryce Diller, who made a good catch for a two-point conversion. That brought his team to within 27-25 with 4:03 left in the third.
“We practice that situation, and Brady and Bryce did what they were supposed to do,” Luther said.
Chambersburg’s defense then did its job, keeping the Cougars off the board and giving the offense the ball back three more times.
Diller, who made a key tackle on a third-down play for a five-yard loss, said, “We had a game plan, then we had to change it for the second half. Our heads were down at halftime, but we picked them up and came back with a good second half.”
Unfortunately, on those three possessions, the Trojans were able to gain only eight yards net and never got past the Harrisburg 43.
Stumbaugh did not have much time to pick out a receiver thanks to a relentless pass rush. On the final series, Stumbaugh ran 14 yards on fourth-and-6, but was sacked for a 13-yard loss on the next play. Two plays later, he was picked off by Day to end the game.
Luther said, “They put a lot of pressure on Brady and made it tough to hang there in the pocket. We only needed a field goal, but we couldn’t keep the drives alive.
“I thought the kids played great today against a good team. But I feel like I let them down.”
NOTES: Harrisburg had 10 tackles for a loss … Garner Funk had two sacks for minus-20 yards against McNeil … McNeil completed 11 of 15 passes, including each of his first seven … Chambersburg plays at Central Dauphin (6-2, 5-0 MPC) — which handed State College a loss Friday — next Friday at 7.
Harrisburg 27, Chambersburg 25
Chambersburg 7 7 11 0 — 25
Harrisburg 0 27 0 0 — 27
C — Keyshawn Jones 2 run (Tyler Luther kick), 5:03
C — K.Jones 5 run (Ty.Luther kick), 9:55
H — Kamere Day 80 pass from John McNeil (McNeil kick), 9:44
H — Day 29 pass from McNeil (kick failed), 7:47
H — McNeil 1 run (run failed), 2:37
H — Donte Kent 64 pass from McNeil (Tymek Everett-Evans run), 0:43
C — Ty.Luther 37 field goal, 7:35
C — Brady Stumbaugh 1 run (Bryce Diller pass from Stumbaugh), 4:03
First downs 11 11
Rushes-yards 36-92 29-116
Passing 8-18-1 11-15-2
Passing yards 93 246
Total yards 185 362
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Punts-average 4-33.4 3-38.7
Penalties-yards 4-35 7-45
Rushing — Chbg, K.Jones 24-59, Stumbaugh 11-33, Jayden Jones 1-0. Harr, Jaylon Johnston 12-87, Everett-Evans 7-33, Jahmir Plant 5-7, McNeil 5-(-11).
Passing — Chbg, Stumbaugh 8-18-1-93. Harr, McNeil 11-15-2-246.
Receiving — Chbg, Ty.Luther 5-64, Sam Vessah 1-24, Kevin Lee 1-4, K.Jones 1-1. Harr, Day 3-119, Kent 2-94, Johnston 1-18, Kyle Williams 3-16, Plant 2-(-1).
Interceptions — Chbg. J.Jones, Lee. Harr, Day.
Sacks — Chbg, Garner Funk 2.