BROOKVILE — After winning the Route 36 Rivalry Trophy two years ago and retaining it last year, the Chucks football squad was forced to part ways with it Friday night in Brookville after falling victim to the Raiders' powerful, balanced running attack, 27-14.
"They did a nice job inside," Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol said of Brookville's running game, which amassed 244 rushing yards and all four Raider touchdowns. "No one's been able to do that to us this year, and we've been working hard on the edges. One of our goals was to contain their quarterback, (Steve) Kennedy, on the outside, and we contained that. But I give their interior offensive line credit. They had some big holes in there against a defense that's been stout all year."
Brookville's defense forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, and immediately after, Punxsy was served a heavy dose of tailback Brodie Zacherl, who returned the Punxsy punt 40 yards to the Punxsy 25-yard line.
Zacherl also had Brookville's first two offensive touches, and that was all he needed to put the Raiders ahead, going 15 yards on the first play and 10 on the second for a touchdown.
Cam Yard added an extra point to give the Raiders the 7-0 lead.
A nice return by Punxsy senior Alex Fedigan on the ensuing kickoff gave the Chucks good field position, but after a fumble recovered in the backfield by Jamie Bush on second down and an incomplete pass, the Chucks were forced to punt again.
Zacherl returned the punt 15 yards, and on the second drive, the Chucks were given a different look with tailback Zach Vroman running the first two plays. Punxsy was able to stuff the run, and after linebacker Bush stopped Kennedy short of the sticks, it seemed evident the Chucks' defense had earned its first three-and-out.
Unfortunately for Punxsy, Brookville had something up its sleeve and punter Jordan Young received the snap, tucked it under his arm and ran 29 yards for a Brookville first down deep in Punxsy territory.
"Our fake punt is something we do, and Jordan executed it well," Brookville head coach Chris Dworek said after the game. "He's fast, and he's big. He's a great blocking lineman, and he's playing well at defensive end for us, too."
Two plays later, Brookville scored its second rushing touchdown on a 21-yard scamper by Conan Gilhousen. The snap was botched on the extra point, and although the Raiders scrambled in hopes of picking up a two-point conversion, Punxsy stopped them short of the goal line to keep the lead at 13.
Brookville's defense stepped up on the first play of the next drive, and Sebastian Kerr intercepted a pass by Garrett Zimmerman — one of four interceptions for the Raiders on the night.
The Raiders' offense stalled on its drive, though, going three-and-out, but Punxsy's next drive resulted in another punt, as well.
Punxsy's Josh Neal was a presence on the Raiders' next drive, stopping Kennedy in the backfield on a keeper for a three-yard loss and picking up a sack on the very next play to force a Raiders' punt attempt.
The snap slipped through Young's hands, and Brookville had to fall on it, giving Punxsy good field position at the 37, but Yard picked off a Zimmerman pass on second down to keep the back-and-forth going.
Brookville then executed a 10-play, 52-yard drive highlighted by a 26-yard pass from Kennedy to Kerr and capped off by a one-yard keeper by Kennedy. Yard's extra point extended Brookville's lead to 20-0.
Both teams knew the importance of jumping out to an early lead coming into the game, but Brookville cashed in on the opportunities given.
"That was important," Dworek said. "We had a great week of practice and a great game last week, so it was important to keep that going, especially in a rivalry game. Coming out and putting them on their heels was big for us."
Nichol also noted that for his team, it was a bit frustrating to fall behind early.
"I think we're putting ourselves in a hole too much," Nichol said. "Tonight, they came out and played hard and played well. We give them credit, but we started to get it together there at the end of the first quarter. But Brookville sensed that and came back with a nice, long drive with a couple good, hard runs."
Punxsy mustered up one last drive with just 48 ticks left on the clock, but Derek Shattenberg picked off a last-second bomb by Zimmerman to end the half on a high note for the Raiders.
Brookville received the opening kickoff and after a two-yard run by Zacherl, Punxsy received just what it needed — a turnover deep in Raiders' territory — when linebacker Hayden Muth intercepted a Kennedy pass and returned it to the Raiders' 16.
On the second play of the drive, Punxsy cashed in for its first touchdown on a 12-yard
pass from Zimmerman to Jamie Bush, who jumped over a pair of Brookville defenders to cross the goal line inside the pylon.
An extra point by Christian Falgout made it a two-score game at 20-7.
Brookville was penalized on the touchdown play for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Chucks kicked from the 50.
But the Raiders ran it out to the 25 and orchestrated an eight-play, 75-yard drive, during which they worked harder than they had to thanks to a 15-yard chop block penalty backing them up.
Vroman became the fourth Raider to score a rushing touchdown with a 39-yard touchdown run, and Yard's extra point made it 27-7.
Punxsy continued the scoring frenzy on its next drive, going 59 yards for another touchdown.
Sophomore Cory Brooks was the star of the drive for Punxsy, receiving the kickoff as the up-man and returning it to the Chucks' 41 and finishing the drive with runs of 11 and two yards, with the two-yarder putting Punxsy back within 13 at 27-14.
Punxsy had three more opportunities to score in the fourth-quarter, but the Raiders' defense proved to be too much.
The 'D' put an exclamation point on its performance by intercepting Zimmerman with three seconds left inside the Brookville 10.
Brookville took a knee one time, and the trophy was theirs again.
Dworek said the Raiders understand the history of the trophy, and that's what makes it so special for their team to win it.
"Coach (Doug) Davis does a good job explaining the trophy's history, and we talk a lot about the traditions we have," Dworek said. "The ninth-graders were the last group to win it, and the seniors were on the team that lost it, so to win this game and bring the trophy back was big. We said we wanted to do it, and to actually do it is powerful."
Nichol knows that his team fell into a hole too big to crawl out, but he saw lots of positives once the Chucks started clicking, too.
"Overall, it was a good high school football game," he said. "From the second quarter on, we were playing the kind of game we wanted to play. You know, I tell the guys that it's that time of year. It's a rough year, but as a coach, I hate to see it come to an end (next week). We're scratching and clawing and taking on new assignments, and I really hate to see it down to the last week. But we're here, and we're going to work hard and hopefully, come out with a victory for these guys."
The Chucks hope to end the season on a high note next Friday when they take on West Shamokin at 7 p.m. at Jack LaMarca Stadium.