By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG — Bloomsburg quarterback Ricky Klingerman, an all-state candidate for his passing prowess, brought the Panthers back by running against HAC-III rival South Williamsport and to within mere inches of victory Friday.
The Mounties, responsible for two of Bloomsburg’s three losses a season ago, stopped Klingerman an eyelash short of the goal line on a potential game-winning 2-point conversion, preserving a thrilling 27-26 win at Panther Stadium.
Klingerman keyed a decisive drive in the waning minutes of the season opener, bolting inside the 10-yard line on a long run and then scoring 1-yard TD on a fourth-and-goal keeper with 1:22 to play.
Mike Kogut, in his debut as Bloomsburg’s coach, opted to ride the momentum and try for the win. He sent the 6-foot, 190-pound Klingerman into the teeth of South Williamsport’s defense on a keeper. An initial gap was quickly filled by the Mounties’ Rocco Bausinger and Klingerman was ruled short of the winning score.
Bloomsburg (0-1, 0-1) trailed by 14 points not even 10 minutes into the game as junior tailback Dominick Bragalone ran for touchdowns on each of South Williamsport’s first two possessions.
Klingerman, who passed for 2,500 yards and 25 TDs in a stellar junior season, got the Panthers on the board and, after their defense stopped a South drive, had a chance to march for a tying score. Instead, Mounties cornerback Riley Hengler returned an interception for a 21-7 lead.
Bloomsburg’s ensuing possession ended with an interception in the end zone midway through the second quarter. However, the Panthers slowed the Mounties’ run game considerably and got the ball back twice more in the half.
Senior halfback Sam Miller broke a 29-yard TD run on a fourth-and-inches call with 1:34 showing. Bloomsburg then drove into the red zone but settled for a 28-yard field goal try that was kicked low into the line at the horn.
The Panthers’ opening series of the third quarter ended with electric freshman Jahveal Hemphill taking a Klingerman swing pass to the end zone. A botched PAT kept South ahead at 21-20.
Bragalone’s third touchdown pushed the margin to 27-20 with 5 minutes left in the third. He finished with 212 yards rushing.
The Mounties’ Brett Garbrick then picked another Klingerman pass in the end zone, the QB’s fourth interception.
Midway through the fourth quarter Bloomsburg junior T.J. Harkins sacked Matt Boone on third-and-long near midfield. That was followed by a short punt to the Panthers’ 39 with 4:40 to play.
Klingerman, who rushed for 78 yards, raced on a QB draw more than 30 yards to inside the Mounties’ 10. A penalty pushed the ball to the 14 from where Klingerman followed with a keeper to the 1. Klingerman later scored on a fourth-down keep, setting up the 2-point attempt.