Flick TD run is game-winner

MANSFIELD — Gideon Green sat on the South Williamsport aluminum bench alone and dejected. He was slouched over, covering his blue No. 26 backed by his white jersey. Quinn Henry sat on the trainer’s bench on the Wellsboro sideline while being consoled by coaches and teammates and Parker Jones was taken to a hospital. With three potential all-state players out, an opportunity presented itself for unlikely players to step up in the District 4 Class AA semifinals, and each team had players that did.

Wellsboro receiver and backup quarterback Brandon Lamphier drive down the field to give Wellsboro its first lead late in the fourth quarter, but South Williamsport quarterback A.J. Flick had his own moment.

Flick faked a handoff to a hobbled Green and ran off left tackle and hurdled into the end zone with three seconds left to give South Williamsport an unbelievable 28-24 win Friday night at Mansfield University.

South’s reward? A date at Southern Columbia for the district championship while Wellsboro’s season ends without a chance to defend its title.

“Right now I’m just in awe of these kids and this staff. We went through so much adversity in this game with losing Green early and (Aaron) Guerrisky early in the second half. The kids just kept fighting and fighting,” said South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth.

Flick, a sophomore, never really had to come from behind late in a game. South relies on a run-heavy offense that can get the lead early and run out the clock. But Flick showed that he can bring his team back, even against an elite defense and without his two best weapons in Green and Guerrisky.

Lamphier drove Wellsboro down the field for the go-ahead drive and Flick got the ball back with 4:27 left. He used play action fakes and completed all three of his passes for 20 yards on the drive. And Ashton Martin had a 20-yard run that got the ball down to the four-yard line with 40 seconds left. But after two straight runs up the middle that gained three yards, Flick took matters into his own hands, or his own feet. The game-winning touchdown was even Flick’s call.

“Great players make great plays when they have to and that’s what he did there,” said Eiswerth.

“I didn’t know what the play was to be honest,” said Flick. “It was kind of hurry up and I think half the team thought we were spiking it and I tried giving it to Gideon and I think that’s what most people were expecting so I decided to keep it and go around the outside and it worked out.”

Green hopped off the field with 6:07 left to play in the second quarter with an ankle injury, and he didn’t return until South drove down to the goal line. Green left in the first half with 21 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown. Martin got the bulk of the carries after and ran 31 times for 159 yards and a touchdown, and 128 of those yards were in Green’s absence.

A big play deserving notice was a tackle by Ben Johnson late in the game. Wellsboro was just five yards away from taking a six-point lead when Lamphier scrambled up the middle and looked like he was going to walk into the end zone but Johnson reached out and tripped him up, forcing the field goal try.

“Unbelievable play by Ben,” Eiswerth said.

Wellsboro lost key starters in Henry and Jones, each all-state candidates. Henry first left in the opening quarter with an ankle injury and missed an offensive drive. But he came back and ran for an 85-yard touchdown on his first offensive touch. But when making a tackle on Martin in the third quarter, Henry hurt his wrist and didn’t return. Jones was carried off by two teammates early in the first quarter with what is thought to be a broken ankle.  But the defense stepped up in each player’s absence as Lamphier passed for 134 yards and a touchdown, including a 66 yard pass to Alex Kozuhowski that tied the game late in the third. And the defensive front held South to below four yards a carry.

“We just had one guy step up after another,” said Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrand. “Brandon Lamphier is a prime example. He’s been a fighter his entire career. …Last year he came back from an ACL injury. Tonight’s probably the best I’ve ever seen him throw the ball in all four years of him at quarterback. It speaks volumes of him, just the rest of the guys were ready to step up and we came out a little short.”

Wellsboro even had a chance to win. On the final kickoff, a Wellsboro player picked up the squib kick and ran about 15 yards into a scrum, then he tossed the ball back to Chase Moser who looked like he was going to take the touchdown back for the walk-off win but before the lateral, the play was whistled dead even though it looked like he wasn’t down.

“The plan was to throw I around so I don’t know if it was a fumble, or he was down or if they called forward progress or not,” Hildebrand said. “We didn’t hear a whistle on our sideline. I just hope that it wasn’t an inadvertent whistle. I hope that we just didn’t hear it and they got the call right. We can live with that. I’d hate to see that the game ended on a missed call like that.”