LOCK HAVEN For the Lock Haven University football team, Saturday's PSAC West confrontation with Clarion ended in an almost, but yet so far away scenario.
Battling back from a 10-point deficit with five minutes left in the third period, the Bald Eagles scored two touchdowns to take a 28-24 lead with 1:26 remaining in the game and looked to win for the first time since 2007.
However, as fate would have it for LHU, the Golden Eagles marched 90 yards down the field behind quarterback Ben Fiscus to a first-and-goal with 2.3 seconds to play.
After a timeout, Fiscus took the snap, and scrambled under heavy pressure before finding tight end Anthony Becoate all alone in the corner of the end zone for the game winner as time expired.
The 30-28 defeat, marked LHU's 50th consecutive defeat, extending Division II's longest-ever losing streak.
Prior to Saturday's game-winner, Fiscus made big plays with completions of 24 yards to Nick Perry and 32 yards to Aaron Barlow.
"Those last two throws he made were tough," said LHU head coach John Allen. "The defense did a good job of keeping him corralled back there, but he kept scrambling and the kid (Barlow) made a heck of a catch. We had good coverage, but he just made a great play. Then on the last one we just lost the tight end. He (Fiscus) scrambled out and scrambled out again and made a tough throw back against the grain."
Despite the hard-luck loss, Allen liked what he saw from his young Bald Eagles.
"They (Clarion) are a good team, he (Fiscus) is a good player and we knew that going in," Allen said. "But I thought our team played really well. They battled back throughout the entire game, they fought through adversity a little bit and played well. What are you going to do."
Facing a 24-14 deficit, the Bald Eagles put together a pair of scoring drives behind the leadership of senior quarterback Jarrett Kratzer.
The first march was set up by an outstanding interception by George Christas, as he halted a Clarion drive at the LHU 11 with an interception. Making the most of his turnover, Christas bobbed and weaved his way down the field to the Clarion 21.
Three plays later, Kratzer hit Ian Smith with an 18-yard scoring pass, Noah Heimer tacked on the PAT, and in just 59 seconds, the Bald Eagles had cut their deficit to 24-21.
Desperately needing a score to put themselves in a position to win the game, the Bald Eagles then marched 88 yards on just six plays for the touchdown.
Four of the big plays in the march were back-to-back runs of 16 and 19 yards by Brandon Brader, a Kratzer-to-Jerome Charles pass covering 14 yards and a 12-yard run to the Clarion 32 by freshman Beau Swales.
Following a 10-yard penalty against the Golden Eagles for holding, Kratzer picked out Jesse Hoover in the corner of the end zone, and Hoover made a circus catch for the score. Heimer was again good for the extra point, and with only 1:26 remaining in the game, the Bald Eagles had again taken the lead at 28-24.
But Fiscus wasn't done, as he led Clarion on the game-winning drive.
Allen had been looking for a big play on special teams to ignite his Bald Eagles, and Bernie Smack gave that as he took the opening kickoff of the game back 88 yards for a score.
"That got it going for us right off the bat, it really did," said Allen. "It was a great start to the game and it got everybody into the game right away and it was fun from there. It took us a little bit offensively to settle in to what they were doing because they gave us a different look than those we had seen in previous weeks. It was just a fun game and that opening return sort of just kicked it off for us."
After the two teams exchanged possessions, the Golden Eagles went to work. They scored 17 unanswered points on a Fiscus-to-Becoate 11-yard scoring pass, a 28-yard field goal by Conway and a Fiscus-to-Rob Irwin TD toss of 17 yards.
Two series later and forced into a punting situation, the Bald Eagles tried a fake punt play, and it backfired to give Clarion the ball on the LHU 45. However, the Lock Haven defense held the Golden Eagles short of the end zone on a fourth down run, with Tyrek Morgan making the bone-crushing tackle on Clarion tailback Bobby Thomas.
The Bald Eagle offense brought the crowd alive as quarterback Kratzer hooked up with a familiar face in Jesse Hoover for a 60-yard catch-and-run for a LHU touchdown. Heimer made it 17-14 Clarion with two minutes left in the first half.
After the two clubs took turns slugging it out with each other for the first nine minutes of the third quarter, the back-breaker showed up for LHU as they lost a fumble on their own 31.
Breaking several tackles along the way, Day took the ball to the end zone on the first play following the turnover, making it 24-14.
Following Day's TD jaunt, it appeared as though Clarion might be in position to put the dagger into the Bald Eagles as they blocked their third punt of the game. However, the Bald Eagles had something to say about that situation as they scored their pair of touchdowns to regain the lead at 28-24 before losing the game on the final play of the contest.