Huntingdon coach Mike Hudy could see it all slipping away.
Four minutes into the second quarter, his team trailed Tyrone 6-0 at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field. They had just punted, and for the fourth straight series the ‘Cats failed to make it out of their own end of the field.
You could say the ‘Cats needed a spark, but what they really needed was anything, which would have better than the nothing its offense had come up with to that point.
Instead, Huntingdon answered with two things – two players to be exact – that from then on would set the pace of the game over the next two-and-a-half quarters and send the Bearcats into the postseason with a 38-12 victory.
The players the Bearcats turned to were Andrew Hudy and Jacob Wagner.
“I didn’t know if this was going to be my last game as his coach or not,” said Coach Hudy of his son Andrew, Huntingdon’s senior quarterback. “I guess we’ve got another one.”
Andrew Hudy with his big-game moxie and Wagner with his big-game play-making were too much for the Golden Eagles, who once again failed to follow up after taking an early lead. And this time it spelled curtains on Tyrone and on one of the more incredible runs in the history of District 6 football. After 23 straight postseason berths dating back to 1995, the Golden Eagles were sent home early with a third consecutive losing season (4-6).
Huntingdon (5-5), which entered the game as the No. 6 team in 3A, jumped ahead of Penn Cambria and No. 4 Tyrone and will likely face either Bald Eagle Area or Forest Hills next week.
“Just like all year, it seems like whenever they got that matching score things started going south for us,” said Tyrone coach Jason Wilson. “Once they got the momentum, we could never get it back.”
After getting a score from Zac Albright to close the first quarter, Tyrone’s offense nearly went on life support for a quarter-and-a-half, and the meantime Hudy and Wagner went to work.
With 8:07 left until halftime, Hudy hit Wagner on a short slant from the 20 and Wagner did the rest, weaving through traffic on an 8-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
Then Tyrone imploded. A high snap from center on their ensuing series had the Eagles punting form their end zone, and after a second kick following a rouging penalty against Huntingdon Wagner took Aric Reader’s line-drive punt in stride and zipped 48 yards for the go-ahead score.
Derrick Fultz blocked Reader’s next punt, setting up the ‘Cats at the Tyrone 19. After an illegal block moved the ball to the 28, Andrew Finkle covered the distance on a run up the middle, and Giovan Scaccia’s PAT lifted Huntingdon to a 19-6 halftime lead.
It was three touchdowns in six minutes, and it had Tyrone holding the ropes for a standing 8-count.
“They made a lot of big plays on special teams, and once again penalties hurt us in several situations,” said Wilson. “We still played tough, and we still moved the ball, but they really won the special teams part of the game with their return for a touchdown, a blocked punt, and another long return to the red zone.”
For all of the scoring Huntingdon did in the second quarter, Tyrone had 191 yards to the ‘Cats’ 165 at halftime. But any movement they could make was again negated by a slew of penalties. The Golden Eagles were flagged 12 times for 109 yards, adding onto the total of more than 500 penalty yards they had accumulated heading into the game. And their special teams meltdown contributed to three Bearcats touchdowns.
Tyrone forced punts on the ‘Cats’ first two series of the second half but in turn went three-and-out, and on the second one Wagner again came through with a second big punt return, this time going 35 yards to the 20.
A personal foul against Tyrone put the ball on the five, and Andrew Hudy cut off tackle for a score from there to make it 25-6. The Eagles were then flagged for two more personal fouls after the score and on the failed PAT attempt.
Meanwhile, after the first-quarter score by Albright, Tyrone’s offense was stymied, with Huntingdon limiting the Eagles to nine series of three offensive plays.
“We have a great defensive coordinator who studies film like you wouldn’t believe,” said Coach Hudy. “I’m so blessed to have John Mykut on our staff. He does a lot of work and gets these guys ready to play. Give him a lot of credit.”
Tyrone gave itself a sliver of a chance in the third quarter with a 65-yard drive for a score that made it 25-12. Tommy Hicks played a big role in it, breaking free on a 30-yard run to get the march going before capping it with a 10-yard run at the 8:16 mark.
Hicks then intercepted Hudy on the ‘Cats’ next drive, but a holding penalty quickly had Tyrone punting from the shadow of its end zone again. Huntingdon took over at the 30 and after a 21-yard run by Hudy that had him pushing a pile of tacklers 15 yards down the field, he scored from the 1 to make it 321-12.
Finkle, who ran for 94 yards on 12 carries, finished the scoring with a 42-yard run when the ‘Cats got the ball back.
Andrew Hudy completed 8 of 17 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown to go along with 56 yards and two more scores on 8 carries, while Wagner finished with two receptions for 87 yards.
“These guys, I’m so proud of them because at one point we were 1-4,” said Coach Hudy, whose team improved to 5-5. “We played Bellefonte, Clearfield, Susquehanna Township, and Penns Valley, and now they snuck in the back door of the playoffs. We finished strong. I told them at the beginning of the year, because we had to replace so many guys, we were going to try to build a football team, and we’ve built one.”
Tyrone, on the other hand, was left to deal with he reality of allowing a twenty-fourth straight playoff appearance to slip through its grasp. The Eagles had gone through the same grind as Huntingdon with similar results, but after failing to capitalize on opportunities last week in a 13-7 loss to Penns Valley, they had an ideal situation in Week 10, playing at home on Senior Night for a trip to the playoffs.
“It’s been a tough season. It’s a tough league, and out-of-conference games are tough,” said Wilson. “But this senior group, I know their record doesn’t show it, but I’m really proud of what they’ve done. We took a step in the right direction from last year to where we are here. This senior group is a credit to that.”
Albright, who electrified the crowd with his touchdown run – an incredible 86-yard jaunt that saw him reverse field and outrun everyone after picking up a block from Denver Light – was stalled just short in his bid for the Eagles’ first thousand-yard season since 2105. Needing 173 yards, Albright finished with 137 yards on 21 carries.
Light managed to reach one milestone. He needed 105 yards going into the game to reach 4,000 for his career, which he did, passing for 91 yards and rushing for 22. He finishes his career with 4,008 yards, joining an elite group that includes Jesse Jones, Steve Franco, James Oliver, Christian Getz, Marcus Owens, Leonard Wilson and Brice Mertiff.
HUNTINGDON 38, TYRONE 12
HUNTINGDON 0 19 6 13 – 38
TYRONE 6 0 0 6 – 12
T – Albright 86 run (PAT failed) :38.5
H – Wagner 80 pass from Hudy (PAT failed) 8:07
H – Wagner 33 punt return (PAT failed) 6:28
H – Finkle 28 run (Scaccia kick) 1:52
H – Hudy 5 run (PAT failed) 1:37
T – Hicks 10 run (PAT failed) 8:16
H – Hudy 1 run (PAT failed) 4:13
H – Finkle 42 run (Scaccia kick) 2:50
First Downs 8 12
Yards Rushing 179 155
Pass Att./Comp. 7-25 8-17
Yards Passing 91 178
TOTAL OFFENSE 270 333
Fumbles/Rec. 1-1 2-1
Intercepted by 1 2
Punts/Avg. 8-32.6 6-37
Penalties/Yards 12-109 5-60
Tyrone – Albright –21-137; Light 12-22; Nevling-Ray 1-(-3); Hicks 3-41; Team 1-(-18).
Huntingdon – Finkle 12-94; Kocik 6-4; Wagner 1-6; Hudy 8-56; Zook 3-3; Team 4-(-8).
Tyrone – Light 7-22-91, 0 TD, 1 Int.; Lucas 0-3-0, 0 TD, 1 Int.
Huntingdon – Hudy 8-17-178, 1 TD, 1 Int.
Tyrone – Gripp 2-18; Lehman 1-5; Reader 2-36; Homan 1-22; Hicks 1-10.
Huntingdon – Miller 2-62; Wagner 2-87; Zook 3-14; Fultz 1-15.