By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
ALMEDIA — Jason Hippenstiel just got done talking to his team during a timeout after they failed to punch in a touchdown on a 3rd-and-2 from the Bloomsburg 5.
The Blue Jays were staring at a huge 4th-and-2 and had the entire game on the line. Hippenstiel told his team that he knew Blooomsburg was going to be bringing pressure on fourth down and if they could execute a screen pass just right, it could net a go-ahead touchdown.
Junior quarterback Steve Shannon snapped the ball and felt the pressure coming and rolled to his left slightly before trying to hit Cody Bowman on the screen just a few yards away. The pressure was just a little too much though, causing his pass to come up just shy.
Bowman tried a shoe-string reception, but couldn’t grab it. As soon as the pass hit the artificial turf at Blue Jay Stadium, Bloomsburg’s defensive players started jumping up and down celebrating.
Bloomsburg simply took a knee on the ensuing play and walked off the field with a thrilling 29-26 win over their rivals to conclude the regular season.
“We set up the screen (and) it was there,” Hippenstiel said. “They just got enough pressure that the ball was a little short. There was nobody left and that’s a touchdown, so it’s just inches short.”
The Panthers (6-7, 3-2 HAC-III) sank a huge 33-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter just five seconds in when Cade Harmon booted it through to make it a 29-20 game.
Two possessions later, the Blue Jays came through defensively with a forced fumble on Jahveal Hemphill and then punched in a touchdown when Lewis Williams ran one in from two yards out to make it a 29-26 deficit with 3:59 to play before recovering the onside kick.
The Blue Jays (3-7, 2-3 HAC-II) never led, but did tie Bloomsburg early in the second quarter when Williams scored his first of three rushing touchdowns to make it a 6-6 game.
“The offensive line was great tonight. They just continued to pound and batter. The backs saw the holes and hit them,” Hippenstiel said. “We continued to run the football and chew up clock, no doubt about it. We don’t want Ricky (Klingerman) on the field if we didn’t need to.”
Hippenstiel had good reason not to want Klingerman on the field, as the Panther quarterback played phenomenal for Bloomsburg. Klingerman ended the night going 18-for-28 with 257 passing yards and three touchdowns — all three coming in the first half on consecutive drives — as he continued to make incredible throws on the run to keep drives alive and keep the Blue Jay defense on the field.
“He made so many plays with his legs in the run game and the passing game. You know sometimes you just go ‘Wow, what a play,’” Bloomsburg coach Mike Kogut said. “Also a credit to our receivers. They know to come back to the ball and do such a great job in that scramble-type (offense).”
While the Panthers aired it out with success, the Blue Jays instead stuck to the ground game. On the night, Central Columbia ran for 292 yards on 58 carries and had two backs — Williams and Cody Bowman — each rush for over 100, as Williams ran for 127 and Bowman had 126.
The biggest lead of the night the Panthers had over Central Columbia was a 20-6 lead late in the second quarter. The Blue Jays had a big touchdown run from six yards out with 39 seconds to play until halftime to cut the deficit to just one score.