HUGHESVILLE - Quarterback Justin Lambert was trying to run out the final six seconds when a North Penn contingent converged upon him. Lambert cut back, ran toward open space and slid as time expired. Suddenly, Lambert was under attack again.
This time he let the rush come right at him.
Lambert was engulfed by happy Spartan teammates as Hughesville celebrated its hard-fought 21-14 win Friday. The Spartans (1-4) won their first game and on Homecoming Night, when many Hughesville football alumni were in attendance, they treated them to a vintage Hughesville win. Alec Walter ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns, the offensive line dominated and the defense made big plays as Hughesville showed why it should never be underestimated.
"We just wanted to come in here and prove everyone wrong," said two-way starting lineman Logan Rucker, who was dominant on both sides. "Nobody really believed in us and we just wanted to come through and tell them that we're still here and we're not going away."
"It was a classic Hughesville win," Hughesville coach Andy Brown said. "We ran the ball really well, we got a big push from our offensive line, our backs hit the hole hard and we played great defense. We got back to Hughesville football."
The Spartans did so by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides, forcing three turnovers, running the ball 76 times and holding the ball for more than 35 minutes.
The game featured three lead changes and Hughesville trailed 14-13 early in the fourth quarter before launching another traditional drive. The Spartans moved the ball 64 yards on 13 straight runs and went ahead to stay on Walter's second 1-yard touchdown run. Lambert added a big 2-point conversion and the defense made two big stops afterward.
"We kept our heads up. We fought back," said two-way starting lineman Devante Oliver, who shined on both sides. "That's all we can do is fight back and we got the lead back."
Logan Henry put Hughesville into position to win when he made his second interception, leaping up and snagging a jump ball headed for Sam Bohnert. The Spartans ran out the clock from there as the offensive line and backs made one last statement. Walter ran for 179 yards on 39 carries, Dakota Nixon gained 86 yards and Lambert added 51 more, converting a big 3rd-and-8 on a clock-eating fourth-quarter drive.
"I'm hurting a little bit, but it feels really good to finally get a win. We were pretty confident and we kept our heads and just had to finish it," Walter said. "The line really did a good job tonight. It's all them with our offense and they did a great job."
North Penn led 6-0 in the second quarter when Taylor Hillson (174 passing yards) scored on a 9-yard quarterback draw. Most of the half belonged to Hughesville and the Spartans controlled the ball for all but 2:42. Oliver, Rucker, Austin Benedict, Zach Kline, Colin Ohnmeiss and Fred Newhart consistently blew players off the ball and Walter sometimes was four yards downfield before anyone touched him.
The Spartans missed some scoring chances early but Lambert and Walter capped two long second-quarter drives with 1-yard touchdowns and they went up 13-6. At that point, they had run 47 plays to North Penn's eight.
"It's a lot of fun just to know you can manhandle guys that are maybe as big or maybe a little bigger than you up front and just run all over them," Rucker said. "It was nice to see our backs go down the field and knowing the big guys up front helped them succeed in that."
North Penn scored on its first second-half possession as Hillson completed 4 of 5 passes for 72 yards and then scored from a yard out before converting a 2-point play, making it 14-13. The Spartan defense dominated from there, though. Hughesville usually only rushed three, but the secondary swarmed receivers while Oliver, Rucker and Lane Kitzmiller chased Hillson all over the field. Hillson completed only one of his final nine passes while Lambert and Henry had key interceptions.
"The rush really helped and our defensive backs really stepped up," Walter said. "The turnovers really helped. We really needed those."
As it has done so often in the past, when Hughesville desperately needed a win, it earned it.