PURCHASE LINE — The Purchase Line Red Dragons pulled off an unusual feat Friday night. One might even say it was timeless, even unbelievable.
Purchase Line running back Josh Syster scored on pass plays as time ran out in each half, and the Red Dragons defeated Blairsville, 22-20, at
Thomas J. Madill Athletic Field.
“We have only three seniors, so it feels real good,” said Purchase line coach Matt Falisec about the win. “These kids needed to experience a win.”
“It feels amazing,” Syster said.
Syster, a sophomore, made the most of the experience. He took a 31-yard reception to the end zone to tie the score at 6-6 at the end of the first half and caught a 6-yard pass to tie it again at 20-20 at the end of the game. The scoreboard clock displayed :00 both times.
After the last touchdown, Syster added a two-point run over the right side of the line to give the Red Dragons their first win of the season and end a seven-game regular-season losing streak.
“It’s just hard to believe we could give up two scores at end of each half with no time left on the clock,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “That was the difference in the game.”
Syster also scored early in the fourth quarter and led the Red Dragons with 203 yards of total offense, 119 rushing and 84 receiving.
Blairsville fell to 1-4 despite a stellar game for quarterback Devin Burkhart. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns to go with one rushing touchdown.
Momentum turned in Purchase Line’s favor late in the third quarter, and Mother Nature and electricity — or lack of it — might have played a role.
Blairsville stopped Purchase Line on downs late in the third quarter, but it was deep inside Bobcats territory. The Bobcats took over on their own 12 just as a light rain began to fall. Blairsville gained just 1 yard on three plays, including two incomplete passes. One of those passes sailed a little long for fullback Garrett Henigin.
“Garrett was wide open right down the middle of the field (and) we just shot it over his head,” Artley said. “Now that might have been the rain coming at that point, I don’t know, but they weren’t covering him. … He was open on first down.”
Henigin punted as the rain came down harder and the short kick went out of bounds at the 40 on the Blairsville sideline. But just as the 27-yard punt finished bouncing on the track that goes around the football field, the lights went out.
A 16-minute delay ensued, and when the lighting was restored, Purchase Line ran straight at the Bobcats on eight straight plays.
“The delay seemed to spark us a little bit,” Falisec said. “I don’t understand why, but we’re a young team. It got them excited. After the lights came back on, we came right back into an I-formation and went right at them.”
Syster capped the drive with a 2-yard dive, then scored on a two-point run and Purchase Line led, 14-12, with 8:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After a Blairsville punt, Purchase Line fullback Cullen Goncher fumbled at the Red Dragons 45 for the team’s third turnover.
Cornerback Cameron Yoder sacked Burkhart to put the Bobcats in a tough fourth-and-13 position at the Purchase Line 48 with about 3:00 remaining in the game. But Burkhart and receiver Adam Ratkus connected on a 23-yard pass along the Blairsville sideline for a first down.
A pair of passes for 13 yards to Henigin set up a 1-yard scoring run by Burkhart. Zak Artley fired a two-point pass to Hengin, and the Bobcats were back in the lead, 20-14.
With 1:04 remaining and starting from its own 33, Purchase Line was forced to go to the pass. Syster and quarterback Jacob Barnett teamed up for receptions of 11 and 20 yards. From the Blairsville 29, Barnett completed a 23-yard pass to Yoder, and Purchase Line sat on the Blairsville 6.
Purchase Line took two shots at the end zone, then found success on the third try. With just 11 seconds left, Barnett completed a pass to Syster near the left hash mark inside the 5. He cut back to the right and beat a Blairsville defender to the corner for the tying score as time ran out.
“We had them spread out a little bit, but a lineman cut in front of him (right after the catch) and he cut back and made a beautiful run,” Falisec said.
Again Syster scored on the two-point run to give Purchase Line the win.
Blairsville jumped out to a 6-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage in the first quarter, as Burkhart connected with Ratkus on a 74-yard touchdown pass.
The Bobcats stopped Purchase Line twice on downs and twice on turnovers in the first half before Barnett rolled out to his left on second-and-9 from the Blairsville 31 with just 11 seconds left in the half and found Syster all alone in the flat. He encountered defenders inside the 20 but ran through them almost untouched for the score.
Blairsville answered with a strong drive to open the third quarter. Passes of 17 yards to Henigin and 29 yards to Josh Koches set up a 15-yard touchdown pass to Henigin, and Blairsville led 12-6 with 7:57 left in the quarter.