MOUNT UNION - Beleaguered by injuries and suffering a record below .500, the Mount Union Trojans could have hung their heads and given up in their last home game against non-league opponent Penns Valley on Friday.
But that wasn't the case. The Trojans lost the game 21-18, but ended the season on a note with which coach Corey Wertz could be proud.
Led by substitute quarterback Kahlil Fortson - who had taken over at the helm for the Trojans' last two games after Trevon Walker suffered an injury - Mount Union put up a fight to the very end, but ultimately succumbed to Penns Valley after the Rams scored just five seconds into the fourth quarter to take the 21-18 lead.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mount Union’s Darrian Stapleton (30) runs for a first down as teammate Phil Kyle (50) blocks Penns Valley’s Drew Krammes Friday night in Mount Union. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The drive which culminated in the Rams' winning touchdown started late in the third quarter when Penns Valley's passing game, which up to that point had been stifled by Mount Union's defense, finally started to click.
Mount Union had just scored on a Darrian Stapleton 30-yard rush to make the score 18-14 at 3:54 in the third quarter, but the Rams came charging back with an answer of their own.
After getting the ball on their own 34, the Rams put together a few short runs to advance the ball, but then the pass finally came into play. Penns Valley quarterback Cameron Tobias found Luke Weaver for a 21-yard passing play which put the ball on Mount Union's 5. From there, the Rams ran the ball inside the one before the third quarter ended.
Then, starting the fourth, Weaver finished off the play with a 1-yard run to seal it for Penns Valley.
"Mount Union came out and they gave us a really good look," Penns Valley coach Marty Tobias said. "They were ready and they really took away what we have really done well in the past. Give the credit to their defense for taking us out of our passing game."
But if Penns Valley was hitting the passes when it needed to, Mount Union was also having success in the air. Fortson threw 16 completions for 175 yards - one of these passes was a 46-yard toss to Jamal Smith for Mount Union's second touchdown.
For both the Rams and the Trojans, resilience was the word of the game. Although Penns Valley came out on top, both teams scored one of their touchdowns on a drive directly after the other team had scored. The Rams' occurred on the already mentioned final touchdown of the game. The Trojans' occurred an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Stapleton.
Wertz, whose team finished with a 2-8 record, was pleased with his team's closing game.
"I thought we played well," he said. "I really do. For the first time in weeks we came out ready to play. We played some defense, started hitting, and executed on offense. That kick return from Darrian right after they scored was big."
Tobias, whose team finished with a 5-5 record and which awaits to see if it will make it to the playoffs, was also proud of his team's regular season performance.
"We started out 0-4, and won five of our last six, so it really shows a lot for their commitment and how they were able to finish."