In sports, teams and players are often defined by wins and losses. But every once in awhile the normal standards we measure our athletes by takes a back seat to something bigger. And that's the beauty of sports.
In Friday's contest between Hughesville and South Williamsport, that bigger meaning took hold when Brandon Stonge turned in his normal jersey number in exchange for Colt Young's No. 34.
Young, who is listed on the roster for every game, suffered a debilitating neck injury last year during wrestling practice. And although Young, who was last year's second leading tackler, has recovered, his injury forced him to withdraw from any contact.
Brandon Stonge, wearing Colt Young’s jersey, takes a breather during South Williamsport’s win Friday.
With his best friend in mind, Stonge grounded out 88 rushing yards and made a game-saving tackle on South Williamsport's third goal line stand en route to a 20-15 win.
"Him going down in the wrestling room really took a toll on me. I cried every day," Stonge said. "He fought hard in the this game last year, and he asked if I would want to where his jersey. He's my best friend and I loved to do it for him."
Stonge capped South Williamsport's (5-1) opening drive (10 plays, 57 yards) with a one-yard plunge through the middle of Hughesville's line. Stonge carried the ball five times for 29 yards on South Williamsport's initial drive and then added two more carries for 18 yards on South Williamsport's second drive, which ended with Billy Rummings recovering a fumble in the end zone.
Tyler House (9-for-13, 132 yards) connected with Heath Newcomer for a 30-yard pickup on a fourth-and-11 from the Hughesville 34. Newcomer was brought down inside the five and dropped the ball, which Newcomer quickly jumped on for a 14-0 South Williamsport lead.
"It was just a great football game," South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth said. "I can't say enough about the staff and players."
South Williamsport's defense was up for Hughesville's (1-5) pounding ground game, stuffing the Spartans three times from the 1-yard line. The first stop forced a punt deep from inside end zone, which gave Hughesville the ball at the South Williamsport 23 yard line.
Once again, Hughesville drove down the field only to have the offense stall on the one-yard line. The momentum created from its second goal line stand fizzled quickly, though, as Stonge was stopped in the end zone for a safety.
"Momentum wise I don't think was that big," Hughesville coach Andy Brown said. "We stopped them on one and then got the safety so I don't think the momentum was a big deal. Leaving the points on the board was the big deal."
Despite being stopped on the one twice, Hughesville, after a four-and-out on its first possession, converted two fourth downs on its second drive. In need of something to take the raucous South Williamsport homecoming crowd out of the game, Hughesville used a quarterback sneak on the fourth-and-one to extend the drive.
The Spartans were challenged again when their next three plays failed to yield a first down. This time, though, Alec Walter was called on for the yardage.
Walter muscled through the line on a counter for a nine-yard pick up. Hughesville then continued to push its way down the field, running the ball six consecutive times before being stopped at the one. Of the Spartans 39 first-half plays, 38 were runs with the only pass coming on a hook-and-ladder play at the end of the half.
As good as Stonge was on the offensive end, it was one big defensive play that will be remembered. Stonge, who was playing with an injury, was asked to help on South Williamsport's third, and final, goal line stand of the night.
"He was a little dinged up and we didn't play him much on defense," Eiswerth said. "I asked if he thought he could do it and he said he could."
Facing a fourth-and-two, Hughesville elected to go with Alec Walter, who rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries. The blocking up front split the line, forcing a one-on-one between Stonge and Walter.
"I was just reading the guards and saw the back coming and got excited and took him out," Stonge said. "Coming out and beating this team means a lot."
In a quality game between two of the area's elite running teams, an unusual situation developed when the official warned South Williamsport's band for playing during Hughesville's offensive possessions. The tension then escalated when pass interference was called in the end zone on a Hughesville two-point attempt. A fan, who had no business being on the field, yelled at the official until a timeout had to be called and security escort the fan out of the stadium.