BLOOMSBURG, Pa. – For all that the Bloomsburg Panthers did to shut down Danville running back Anthony Sori for the first three and a half quarters, it would have been easy for #28 to get frustrated and not keep his head in the game.
The Panthers’ speedster running back, who entered the game with more than 700 rushing yards, had been held to just 13 yards on nine carries, mostly on sweep plays.
But in the fourth quarter, Sori came up big for the Ironmen, and he helped bring the purple and orange another big W.
Sori caught two touchdown passes from Andrew Andreychik, including the game-winning 26-yard scoring reception with 56 seconds left to propel Danville (9-0) past Bloomsburg (7-2) for a thrilling 34-30, come-from-behind victory Friday night at Bloomsburg High School.
The two touchdown catches were Sori’s only receptions of the game, but boy, were they big.
“It was frustrating when they were stuffing the ground game,” Sori admitted.
Bloom’s defense did plenty of stuffing the potent Ironmen ground attack, which entered the game averaging more than 270 yards on the ground. This night, the red and black held Danville to just 115 yards on 36 rushing attempts, and battering ram of a fullback Russell Heath had a team-best 76 yards on 17 carries, most of that in the first half.
And the Panthers had Danville down by 10 points on three separate occasions in the second half – 16-6, 23-13, and 30-20. But the leads weren’t safe.
“These kids just don’t ever give up,” said Danville head coach Jim Keiser. “(This win) is huge for this program and for this town. They’ve waited 11 years for this.”
Early on, though, Bloomsburg was stealing the show, through, of all things, the legs and mobility of junior field general Blake Rankin.
Bloom led 9-6 at halftime, thanks in large part to the play of #5, who is getting looks from Rutgers. By halftime, Rankin had run for 49 yards and thrown for 47 more. He scored Bloom’s first touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 39 ticks left in the first quarter. He also helped pin Danville deep in its own territory on its initial possession with a beautiful punt downed inside the five yard line. Danville went three-and-out, and the snap of the punt sailed out of the back of the end zone to give Bloom a 2-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first stanza.
Danville found its rhythm following Rankin’s touchdown run. The Ironmen began a slow, methodical march down the field, matriculating the ball Hank Stram-esque with a steady diet of Heath, mixed with the occasional Sori sweep or Andreychik keeper. All told, the 15-play, 78-yard, 6:58 drive was capped on a 4th-and-3 pass from Andreychik to Mikeal Owens-Wright from four yards out.
The second half became all about the aerial assaults.
Rankin (17-of-36, 222 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) suddenly got his connection with sophomore wide receiver John Klingerman going, and it paid big dividends for the Panthers. Klingerman hauled in scoring passes of 32, 34 and 9 yards in the second half, and caught six passes for 138 yards on the night.
“He’s an outstanding player,” Bloomsburg head coach Larry Sones said of Klingerman. “His speed, his change of direction….” – Sones tailed off, practically left speechless of #2′s playmaking ability.
Each Bloomsburg score brought an answer from the Ironmen. Andreychik scored on a 5-yard run to make it 16-13; hit Garrett Llewellyn on a 54-yard scoring pass to make it a 23-20 game.
“That (pass to Llewellyn) was a 5-yard hitch,” Andreychik said. And with Llewellyn’s speed, the short and simple pass turned into a bigtime play.
After Bloom made it 30-20, Andreychik and Sori hooked up twice. The winning touchdown was set up by Danville blocking a Bloomsburg punt and recovering at the Panther 25 yard line. Two plays later, Sori scored the winning touchdown, sending the Ironmen faithful into delirium.
Bloomsburg still had a chance to win it, as Rankin (26 rush, 142 yards) broke off runs of 23 and 12 yards to advance to the Ironmen 27 yard line with less than 30 seconds left. But Rankin was sacked to end the game, and Bloom was left to wonder what might have been.
Sori might have summed things up most succinctly after the win.
“Good teams don’t come back and win games,” #28 said. “Great teams do.”