After the first quarter, the Yorktown Tigers trailed the Norwell Knights by 21-points in the Sectional 27 Championship game.
With 24.8 seconds left in the game, all that stood between the Tigers and a sectional championship was a goal-line stand with their backs to their endzone.
With the game on the line, Norwell lined up for a two-point conversion that would seal the game. The crowd for both teams roared when the ball was snapped.
Yorktown’s Brayden Foltz broke free off the edge and with a dive to the quarterback’s ankles, sacked the quarterback. Only one sideline remained cheering.
When the clock showed all zeros, the Tiger’s head coach, Mike Wilhelm, found himself soaked in Gatorade.
Yorktown (9-3, 4-3 HHC) defeated Norwell( 10-2, 6-1 N8) with a score of 42-41.
During the first quarter, it was all Norwell, who scored rushing touchdowns on back-to-back offensive drives.
Then, Yorktown’s third-year quarterback, Mason Moulton, threw an interception leading to another touchdown run by the Knights with 47-seconds left in the first quarter.
The Tiger’s fourth-year wide receiver, Kolton Nanko, said Yorktown was not worried about the deficit.
“It's not something we haven't seen before,” he said. “I mean, most of our errors were self-inflicted.”
With 5:17 left in the second quarter, the visiting team found a foothold in the form of Moulton connecting with Nanko for the touchdown, but the Tigers still trailed 21-7.
Less than two minutes later, Norwell fumbled and Yorktown’s third-year running back, Jalen Thomas, scored on a short touchdown run with 3:45 in the second quarter to make it a one-possession game.
Forcing the Knights to go three-and-out on the following possession, Yorktown was lined up to receive the punt. The Tigers managed to block the punt leading to another score from Thomas and it was all even with 2:05 left in the half.
Norwell finally struck back with a long touchdown run which would leave them up 28-21 with 51 seconds left in the half. After a fumble by Nanko, the Knights had an opportunity to add to their lead, but missed the field goal and went into halftime up by seven.
Yorktown received the ball and kept up the pace going into the second half. Nanko made a catch and looked like he was tackled, but stayed up and scored a touchdown. The Tigers had tied it up at 28-28 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
To open up the fourth quarter, Norwell scored with a wide-open touchdown pass, regaining the lead with a score of 28-35.
After a three-and-out by the Tigers, Norwell drove down the field and attempted another field goal. But this time, the ball bounced off of the right upright, falling incomplete.
Then, Jalen Thomas had the defense scratching their heads on a trick play. With a little misdirection, he was off to the races. No one could catch him as he found the endzone with a 74-yard touchdown run, making the game tied at 35-35 with 7:17 remaining.
I mean, it feels amazing,” he said. “When you go to the sideline and your teammates celebrate with you. It's an amazing feeling.”
Looking for Yorktown’s first lead of the game, Moulton fired a deep ball that was barely out of reach for Nanko. A few plays later, he tried it again.
This time, it was right where it needed to be, hitting Nanko for a 28-yard touchdown. Yorktown had taken the lead of 42-35 with 3:17 remaining in the game.
Norwell would get the ball and drive down the field. After a long pass play on fourth down, it looked like it was the Knights’ game to win. But then their pass attempt was intercepted and returned for a pick-six.
With the traveling fans going wild, flags flew to simmer their excitement. First thinking of defensive holding, the officials discussed and ruled the foul pass interference.
This gave the Knights a first down and allowed them to score on a quarterback-keeper. Yorktown was up 42-41 with 24.8 seconds left.
The knights elected to go for it. After a Yorktown timeout, the ball was snapped. Norwell’s quarterback swung out to his right side but realized he was in trouble. Trying to cut the other way, he was tripped and brought down by Yorktown’s fourth-year outside linebacker Brayden Foltz.
Taking a knee, the Tigers had won the sectional championship.
After his Gatorade shower, coach Wilhelm couldn’t praise his team enough for winning the championship and helping him get to 100 wins as Yorktown’s head coach.
“I'm so excited for our kids and for our program,” he said. “We talked with this group about being champions months ago, because we knew we had the ingredients to be a championship team. But we had to grow and we learned from our losses and from some of our weaknesses throughout the year. I think we corrected those and that's how you become a championship team.”
For Moulton, this year is not done, but this is the success he wants to expect with the program.
“We still have a lot more work to do this year,” he said. “Our seniors deserve more. They put in so much work and have been such good leaders.”
The Tigers will travel to Bishop Chatard High School to face the Trojans next Friday.