DALLAS - As Isaac Foust sped across the goal line and scored a third-quarter touchdown, his Williamsport teammates jumped, slapped hands and yelled.
The Millionaires were excited. And they were not just happy about the game-tying touchdown or because they had just ended a 14-quarter offensive scoreless streak. They were excited because they sensed a turnaround was occurring. Maybe what happened Saturday at Mountaineer Stadium is just the start too.
Williamsport dominated the second half, owned the line of scrimmage and played spectacular defense, scoring 21 straight second-half points and rallying for a 21-7 win. The Millionaires (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak, but more importantly looked like an improving team that can do some damage if they build off this performance.
"That's a real big step in the right direction," cornerback Brice Harris said after intercepting two passes and returning a fourth-quarter pick 38 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. "This year we're working a whole lot harder and have a lot more focus and better chemistry. It's as simple as that."
"Everybody contributed and we got excited when we made plays and that just lifted the momentum," linebacker/fullback Justin Hoffman said after playing well on both sides. "We had heart today. That was the big thing."
They had a new attitude too. Williamsport played nasty defensively the whole game and its offensive line took control in the second half as Williamsport scored 14 third-quarter points and took its first lead since Week 1. The Millionaires allowed only 75 yards, put together two third-quarter scoring drives and did not buckle after Dallas scored the game's first touchdown with 36 seconds remaining in the first half.
Williamsport mustered just 19 first-half yards but the only halftime adjustments it made were mental and physical. Linemen like Malachi Price, Jay Westbrook, Terrell Pittinger, Garrett Nork, Jonathan Sands and Frank Rose drove Dallas off the ball throughout the second half and paved the way for a nine-play, 79-yard scoring drive on the second-half's first possession.
Foust (91 yards) followed his blockers, worked hard for extra yards and gained 55 yards on the drive. Once he broke a tackle and capped his 13-yard touchdown run, Dallas was in trouble.
"We knew we could get the win," said Tyler Gardner, who had two sacks and punted and kicked well. "Our line just pushed through and we had big holes the whole second half. We got big gains when we needed them."
"We started running the ball, started hitting some people and started playing like Williamsport is supposed to do," coach Kevin Choate said. "That drive got us fired up."
Price recovered a fumble late in the third quarter at the Dallas 29-yard line, setting the stage for Williamsport's go-ahead score. It appeared the big play might mean nothing until quarterback Dale Berkheimer made a huge 12-yard 4th-and-9 pass to Hoffman. Two plays later, Berkheimer was under heavy pressure but threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jerah Reeves, who made a brilliant sliding catch.
While Williamsport only led by 7, the way its defense was playing it felt more like a 37-point lead.
The defense played its best game since the 2009 season, overpowering Dallas at the line and allowing only 11 second-half yards. The Mountaineers, who lost by only seven to undefeated Coughlin last week, ran 43 plays yesterday and 29 gained two yards or fewer. During one fourth-quarter sequence, Dallas lost yards on three consecutive plays, Gardner highlighting it with a 15-yard sack.
"We all handled our responsibilities and we all did our jobs," Gardner said. "We made the big plays when we needed to."
Dallas only moved the ball on its last-minute first-half scoring drive. The Millionaires held Dallas to five yards on its first five series and forced seven punts while forcing three turnovers. Running lanes were closed shut, receivers were covered well and the quarterback under pressure. Jesse Walker and Jed Chestnut combined for 15 tackles and Foust and Tanner Bashnick combined on a sack.
Take away that one scoring drive and Dallas gained 16 yards on 12 series.
"All week we worked hard. We knew it was coming," said Hoffman, who made a game-high 12 tackles. "We studied film a lot this week and we just executed and it paid off big time. We felt like we could carry the team."
Dallas still had a chance to tie or take the lead when it took over at its own 17-yard line with 3:44 remaining. One play after converting a third down, however, Harris dashed those hopes.
The senior cornerback perfectly read the play, jumped a route near the sideline and raced 38 yards for the touchdown. Harris made a leaping interception on Dallas's final possession and also came up with a big 3rd-and-1 stop in the third quarter.
"I was reading the quarterback's eyes and I made a quick cut to the ball and that was it. I just took it from there," Harris said. "It was a great feeling. This was a real big win for us. The whole team did well and this was a victory we needed."
Williamsport0 0 14 7-21
Dallas0 7 0 0-7
D-Justin Mucha 15 run (Aaron Napkora kick), :36
W-Isaac Foust 13 run (Tyler Gardner kick), 8:01
W-Jerah Reeves 15 pass from Dale Berkheimer (Gardner kick), 1:11
W-Brice Harris 38-yard interception return (Gardner kick), 2:07
TEAM STATISTICSW D
First downs10 7
Rushes-yards 44-110 29-61
Passing Yards49 14
RUSHING: Williamsport, Isaac Foust 22-86, TD; Rhomello Martin 10-25; Justin Hoffman 7-21; Dale Berkhimer 5-(-22). Dallas, Logan Brace 13-38; David Simpson 3-22; Ryan Cheskiewicz 4-8; Justin Mucha 9-(-7), TD.
PASSING: Williamsport, Berkheimer 6-8-0, TD, 49 yards. Dallas, Mucha 4-9-1, 14 yards; Matt Harrison 0-4-1, 0 yards.
RECEIVING: Williamsport, Hoffman 2-17; Reeves 2-16, TD; Tanner Bashnick 2-16. Dallas, Chris Behm 1-14; Mark Michno 1-1; Brace 1-0; Simpson 1-(-1).
RECORDS: Williamsport 2-3. Dallas 0-5.