PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy Chucks once again hold the Route 36 title after defeating the Brookville Raiders in a hard fought 26-23 season opener behind a strong rushing effort by Jamie Bush and Christian Falgout.
"It was nice to have (senior quarterback) Garrett Zimmerman and Jamie Bush in there to lead, and I thought Falgout and (Caesar) Maruca did a nice job of blocking from their running back spots," said Punxsy head football coach Alan Nichol.
Punxsy took the first go at offense after Brookville's Cameron Yard kicked off the ball to officially start the Chucks' season.
Junior Falgout ran the ball to the 18-yard line to start Punxsy's offensive drive. He ran for two yards on first down, and, then, another eight on second down to give Punxsy its initial first down of the season.
Senior Bush then took his first run the of night, which was good for a 3-yard gain.
After that, quarterback Zimmerman connected on a pass to a running Bush for a gain of 30 yards.
The Brookville defense then clamped down and contained Falgout from getting a first down on the next three downs.
But on fourth-and-three, Zimmerman found receiver Clayton Dale for a 22-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
Then, Bush showcased his tough running game with a hard-fought 8-yard carry.
Bush tried the run again but was stuffed by the Brookville line.
After that, Punxsy went back to Falgout for a 4-yard gain good enough for the first down.
Falgout was unable to capitalize on the next play and was brought down for a loss. On second down, Zimmerman kept the ball and took it to the 6-yard line.
On third and six, Falgout found the end zone for the first time for the Chucks to give them the lead. Kicker Trevor Peace then connected on the point after to put the score at 7-0 Punxsy.
After a 6:34 drive, Punxsy kicked the ball to Brookville's Evan Matheny, who ran the ball to the 46-yard line.
Brookville quarterback Cameron Yard ran the ball first for the Raiders. There was a Punxsy personal foul penalty, and the Raiders advanced to the 30 yard-line.
Punxsy's "D" then clamped down. Yard tried to run again but only advanced two yards before being taken down by Punxsy's line. Yard then tossed an incomplete pass on second down. He tried to pass again but could not get the ball past safety Maruca, who batted it down. Yard then threw the ball to Matheny on fourth-and-eight but the ball bounced out of his hands for the turnover on downs.
Punxsy then alternated between Bush, Falgout and Maruca until they reached the red zone. On a second-and-one, Bush ran the ball in for his first touchdown of the night. Peace then put the ball through the uprights again to put Punxsy on top, 14-0.
Brookville was shut down on offense again, punting from their own 46-yard line.
Punxsy's running back trio followed its example from the previous drive and got the ball to the 6-yard line after just five plays.
Then, Bush split the Brookville defense again and scored his second touchdown of the night to give Punxsy the 20-0 lead, as Peace missed the PAT.
Down 20-0, the game looked bleak for the Raiders. They quickly turned the game around with a 67-yard touchdown run from junior
running back Zach Vroman which reignited the Brookville offense. Yard then connected on the PAT to cut Punxsy's lead 20-7.
Brookville received the ball to start the second half.
Punxsy forced the Raiders to fumble, one that was recovered by Brandon Wingert.
Punxsy struggled on the first two downs, then Zimmerman hit Alex Bevak for a potential touchdown run that looked to put the Raiders away.
The touchdown was waived off, though, as Punxsy had an ineligible man down the field.
On third and nine, Zimmerman was sacked by Conrad Schindler for a 5-yard loss.
Punxsy punted the ball 32 yards to the Raiders. But Brookville was unable to capitalize as Punxsy's Parker Weaver picked off an errant throw by Yard on the ensuing drive.
Punxsy could not put Brookville away on its next possession either and punted again.
To start the fourth quarter, Yard took the ball nine yards to the end zone to put the score at 20-14 after he completed the PAT.
The Chucks struggled during the next possession and were forced to punt again.
After a six-play, 69-yard drive, Yard took the ball in for another Raider touchdown.
He then completed another PAt to give Brookville its first lead of the night, 21-20.
Punxsy was not about to give up so easily, though. Falgout returned the kickoff to the Raider 27 yard-line, and after a 3-yard loss and another sack by Schindler, Punxsy faced a 3rd-and-13 from the 30-yard line.
Zimmerman then stayed cool in the pocket and tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Clayton Dale to put Punxsy back on top, 26-21.
With 5:22 left on the clock, Brookville pushed the ball to the Punxsy 20-yard line.
On first down, Vroman fumbled the ball after Wingert stripped the ball, and Bush dove on it to give Punxsy the ball again with 55.8 seconds on the clock.
Punxsy did its best to burn the clock over three downs. On fourth and six, Zimmerman ran into his end zone for a safety to narrow the lead 26-23. Punxsy kicked the ball back to the Raiders with 20.8 left on the clock.
The defense clamped down one last time and contained the Raiders on the final two plays to reclaim the Route 36 title.
Coach Nichol credits his defensive unit's clutch play late for saving the Chucks from defeat.
"Brookville spread us out with their offense to use their speed... we changed defenses with 6 minutes to go and were able to be successful enough to slow them down on defense," said Nichol.
The offensive rushing attack was also a strong point for Punxsy, with Bush having 66 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns — a 1-yarder and a 6-yarder.
Falgout had 21 carries for 72 yards with the 6-yard touchdown scamper highlighting them.