ESPN Classic called. The Malvern game last week was good, but the Strasburg game this week was better and not just because Newcomerstown won, although you would have a tough time convincing Trojan fans of that.
For the second straight week, Newcomerstown looked down and out after the first half of play on Friday. For the second straight week, however, the Orange and Black pulled themselves up by their Trojan boot straps in the second half to play some heads-up, exciting football.
In thrilling double-overtime fashion, Newcomerstown pulled out a 21-14 victory, rallying from a 14-0 fourth quarter deficit to earn its first Inter-Valley Conference win of the season.
Things didn't look good at the 1:41 mark of the third quarter for the Trojans. That was the time on the clock when Strasburg tailback Dan Snyder crossed the goal line on a 23-yard scamper to put his team up, 14-0.
Up until that point, the Trojans were playing a TIVO repeat of the Malvern game with four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception) and 75 yards of penalties that helped keep the team out of the scoring box.
The proverbial Trojan horse awoke, however, as the players again showed a knack for keeping their cool, or maybe its better to say for developing some fire (take your pick), when their backs are against the wall.
Starting on the NHS 22 after the ensuing kickoff, senior QB Caleb Rankin ran and passed his way down the field with runs of 13, five, five and six yards along with two passes to Chandler Shryock that netted another 17 to the Tigers' 36. Rankin then took the snap and weaved his way into the end zone for six. T.J. Wright's PAT made it 14-7 with 9:59 to go in the game.
After a three-and-out for Strasburg, the Trojans took over on their 45. A Josh Miller 15-yard run and 29-yard Rankin pass to Shryock had Newcomerstown at the Tigers' 17. After a screen pass to Serafin Sanchez got nine more yards, Rankin scrambled the last eight for another TD. Wright's crucial extra-point tied the game with 5:05 on the clock.
The Trojans' defense forced a punt on the next series, but a costly roughing-the-kicker penalty gave the ball back to the Tigers at the NHS 35. After advancing the ball to the 18, sophomore kicker Dan Kohr, who had nailed two extra-points earlier, came up to the plate with 6.7 seconds left for a 35-yard game winning attempt. Plenty of leg, but not-so-much on the aim, sent the game into overtime.
The Tigers went first in OT, starting on the 20-yard line. After stalling at the 13, out trotted Kohr for another field goal attempt. Soon after, he trotted off with the same result, a wide-left miss.
Newcomerstown had better success and pushed the ball to the five-yard line. On third down, Coach Eric Brock elected to kick the field goal from what amounted to an extra-point distance, not wanting to take the chance on another fumble, but Wright's kick was low and the teams headed to a second OT.
This time, the Trojans were up to bat first. Miller was the workhorse as he ran a screen for nine yards and on fourth-and-one, rambled six more for a first down. From there, Miller went the final five yards untouched for a 20-14 Trojan lead. Wright's PAT was perfect and the Trojans had to hold just one more time for the win.
Newcomerstown linebacker Clint Foraker ended the anticipation quickly as the senior made his second interception of the night by picking off Hostetler's pass on the first play. You know the rest - crowd erupts, band plays, players sing, coaches praise - it was good to be a Trojan at that moment.
"I'm just really proud of these kids again," said Coach Brock. "I wish we wouldn't get in the hole like that, but a win is a win. I'm still impressed with how they hung in there and came back even though we were down late in the game. We wore them (the Tigers) out at the end and just played power football to muscle our way to the win. I give Strasburg credit. They are a young team and came to play tonight. We have to control turnovers but I'm encouraged we didn't turn it over late in the game."
Strasburg scored its first TD in the second quarter on a 64-yard drive that culminated with a Brad Hostetler to Mitch Wilkinson two-yard scoring pass. The Tigers led 7-0 at the half.
For the game, the Trojans (3-3, 1-2 IVC) outgained the Tigers (1-5, 0-3 IVC) by a 348-173 margin, with the defense forcing Strasburg to punt six times.
Rankin had a stellar night as he ran for 160 yards on 17 carries for a whopping 9.4 average, scoring twice. He was 10-for-22 for 121 yards through the air with one interception. Miller finished with 65 yards on 19 carries while Shryock led all receivers with four receptions for 68 stripes.
Strasburg's Hostetler was 7-of-12 for 60 yards, throwing for one TD and running for another. Snyder had 89 ground yards on 24 attempts. Ryan Froman caught five passes for 60 markers.
NEXT-- Newcomerstown hosts Garaway in another IVC tilt on Friday at 7 p.m.