Hornets shutout Panthers in final regular season game to go 10-0
By: Ed Weaver | WellsboroFootball.com | October 30, 2016
4 years ago first year head coach Matt Hildebrand went undefeated in the regular season. 4 years later he accomplished the same feat.
Prior to Hildebrand taking the helm, the Hornets were coming off a four year slump where they won a combined 11 games after qualifying for their first trip to District IV playoffs in 2008. Four years later, Hildebrand has flipped the script and has rattled off 38 wins and turned the Hornets into an NTL powerhouse and District IV champions.
"It's gratifying in the fact that I've put in a lot of time and with that comes sacrificing family time. My wife (Amber) has been terrific. I wouldn't be able to do this without her," Hildebrand said. "She supports me in everything I do, and now having a son its added even more to the plate. She never complains, she wants me to keep doing this. We're a football family. It's meant a lot because you do spend a lot of time away from your family investing in the kids, but like I've said they're a part of our family. We consider them, myself, my wife and all the kids as family. We're trying to build this atmosphere and you're only as good as the people you surround yourself with. None of this would be possible without the coaching staff that I have. The staff is almost all intact since the time I started and without that consistency you wouldn't have all these wins and these numbers. Without those guys this wouldn't be possible. Mike Pietropola every week has these guys ready to go. Hopefully we can all stay together, keep the band together and keep this train rolling. We're having fun as coaches, we enjoy being around the kids, and the kids are having fun."
Tioga County rivals Wellsboro and North Penn-Mansfield battled in the annual Morton F. Jones Trophy game on Friday, October 28 and Saturday October 29 in the final regular season game of the 2016 season. Coming into Friday night, Wellsboro was 9-0, North Penn was 8-1, and both teams were looking to win the NTL Large School Division title and bring home the Morton F. Jones trophy.
Both teams traded drives to start the game before the Hornets settled in. On the Hornets' third play from scrimmage junior Quinn Henry dropped back to pass and rolled out to his right and found senior Brandon Lamphier open behind the Panther secondary. Lamphier caught the ball, but the North Penn defender wrestled the ball away from him, Lamphier brought it back, and wound up in the end zone with the ball for 6 points. Junior Nic Ingerick's was wide of the mark and the Hornets led 6-0 with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers' moved the ball effectively on their following drive, picking up 2 first downs to midfield, only to have Joel Whitteker fumble a jet sweep handoff. Junior Hunter Brown pounced on the ball for the Hornets, setting them up with great starting field position. The Wellsboro offense put together an 8-play drive, highlighted by a 16 yard swing pass from Henry to junior Chase Moser and runs by Henry, that chewed up the rest of the first quarter clock. Henry setup the Hornets with a first-and-goal after breaking off an 11 yard run down to the Panther 9, then finished the drive two plays later from 5 yards out. Wellsboro dug into their bag of tricks and Henry connected with junior Dalton Prough on the two-point conversion to give the Hornets a 14-0 lead after the first.
Wellsboro added one more score in the half after the area's best defense held the Panthers to a three-and-out and forced a punt. The offense went back to work as Moser and sophomore Robert Brown picked up chunks of yardage before Henry broke a huge 33-yard run to the Panther 20-yard line. A 14 yard pass from senior Parker Jones put Wellsboro at the 6-yard line, then Henry again found the end zone, this time from 6 yards out, to push the score to 20-0 with 8:10 remaining in the half.
Neither team could generate any offense as both defenses stepped up their play before the half ended. Once the clock hit 0, Wellsboro found themselves up 20-0 then everything went black. Literally. Karl Van Norman Field on the campus of Mansfield University, Wellsboro's home away from home for the 2016 season, experienced a blackout forcing University officials and police to suspend the game. Both teams agreed to meet Saturday afternoon over at the Panthers' home field at Island Park.
Once play resumed on Saturday afternoon, Wellsboro started with the ball to begin the third quarter. The Hornets came out with their ground game to start the drive as Moser broke a run of 10 then a run of 56 down into Panther territory, but 2 negative runs by Henry and a personal foul pushed the Hornets back to midfield. On third-and-long Henry scrambled around to try and make a play but ended up throwing an interception to Whitteker. The play wouldn't hurt the Hornets as Prough intercepted Brock Burleigh on thrid-and-11 to give the Hornets back the ball.
"It wasn't an ideal situation going from Mansfield to here, it was a little sloppy over here today," Hildebrand said of the field conditions. "I would've liked to have finished the game last night and we tried to wait it out. The kids have adapted all year, we've been on the road all year every game we have to take a bus. The kids have been very flexible with our schedule and have developed the mentality of we'll play anybody anywhere."
As both teams struggled with their footing on the afternoon after heavy rains the past two weeks, so did the offenses in the third quarter. The quarter was scoreless, but that didn't deter the Hornets. After stopping the Panthers on third down the Hornets took over at their own 38. Wellsboro's drive went in reverse as they were hit with a holding penalty on third down, but on the next play Henry found a seam in the defense and took it 71 yards to paydirt to make the score 26-0.
Wellsboro added one more score late in the game. With junior Collin Pietropola punting, North Penn's Judson Wise fumbled the return and junior Alex Kozuhowski fell on the ball inside the Panthers' 5-yard line. 3 plays later senior Dupree Hosey scored from 5 yards out to make the score 32-0 Wellsboro with 2:12 left in the game.
As time ran out, Wellsboro came home with the Jones Trophy for the 5th straight year, their 7th shutout, the NTL Large School Division title, and an undefeated 10-0 regular season. Over the last 4 seasons under Hildebrand, the Hornets have had two 10-0 regular seasons and have won 2 NTL titles. Prior to Hildebrand the last coach to win 2 NTL titles was Ted Yeager in the 1974-75 and the 1977-78 seasons.
Henry went 6-for-8 through the air for 96 yards with an interception and touchdown and rushed for 111 yards and 3 scores on 18 carries. Henry has now thrown for 2,082 yards in his career and has rushed for 1,863 yards and 30 touchdowns.
"It was great execution not only by our offense but our defense," Henry said. "Obviously another shutout, but our offense is just clicking. The offensive line was making great holes to run the ball through. It was easy to run the ball."
Moser finishd with 102 yards on 13 carries and Hosey had 7 yards and a touchdown on 4 tries. Lamphier led all the Hornet receivers with 2 catches for 57 yards, while Moser, Jones, Prough and Kozuhowski all caught a pass.
Defensively, the Hornets allowed just 100 yards of total offense by the Panthers. Pietropola had 9 tackles and a sack to lead the Hornets.
"We came out well and played as a team," Pietropola said. "We just wanted to win the NTL so bad. All the people out there that were hating on us... we just wanted to show them that we were a good football team and we could come out and win."
Jones had 7 tackles and a pass deflection, senior Dominic Spencer recorded a sack, Prough had an interception, and Hunter Brown, Moser, and Kozuhowski all had 6 tackles.
For the Panthers Burleigh was 8-for-20 passing for 63 yards, Brendan Hill had 36 yards on 16 carries, and Garrett Bickhart had 2 catches for 19 yards.
Next up for the Hornets is a first round District IV Class AA playoff game with #7 Hughesville on Friday, November 5.
Ed Weaver is the owner of Circle W Sports in Wellsboro, PA, is the Sports Director for The Home Page Network and the creator of WellsboroAthletics.com and WellsboroFootball.com. You can follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.