Ryan Stover's 43-yard scamper, with the savvy quarterback avoiding a sack and then dodging several would-be tacklers, gave Upper Dublin a 14-7 lead early in the third quarter.
That sensational run gave his squad a real shot at stunning Allentown's Parkland and earning a berth in next weekend's PIAA Class AAAA state final at Hersheypark Stadium.
But the Trojans, gradually wearing down the smaller Cardinals in the trenches, responded with a long scoring drive and added two more touchdowns, capitalizing on an interception and safety, to claim a 30-14 semifinal victory Saturday afternoon.
After the tearful Upper Dublin coaches and players gathered for a final time and shared hugs, they received a well-deserved ovation from the Cardinals' faithful as they left Souderton's field.
"It's been awesome playing for this team and with these guys," Stover said. "It hits you hard when you realize it's over."
With Upper Dublin (14-1) forced to all but abandon its ground attack because of Parkland's stout and aggressive defensive line, Stover completed 22 of 36 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown.
"We knew they were going to give us some trouble up front," Stover said. "They do a lot of things that you see at the next level."
In the last minute of the first half, Stover found Danny Boggs in the back of the end zone to make it 7-7. The Cardinals' defense made a strong recovery after Parkland seized the lead on its first possession with a nine-play, 80-yard series that was highlighted by Devante Cross' 48-yard pass to Nolan Ridgway.
With the game tied at 14 late in the third quarter, Stover's third-and-3 throw toward John Barrett was intercepted by Temple recruit Kenny Yeboah at the Upper Dublin 45. "I didn't get that pass off quickly enough," Stover said.
The Trojans (14-1) took the lead for good four plays later, with Cross' 34-yard connection to Zach Bross setting up Erik DiGirolamo's 5-yard TD run.
Cross, who was nursing a knee injury suffered in the previous week's 16-13 overtime defeat of La Salle, hit on 16 of 24 passes for 238 yards.
After Stover's dazzling run gave the Cardinals the upper hand, Parkland answered with a 13-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by Ridgway's 10-yard dash out of the Wildcat formation. On fourth and 5 from the Upper Dublin 38, Yeboah made a 22-yard grab.
"That was really the spark we needed," longtime Parkland coach Jim Morgans said. "We needed to score, because they're tough as hell on defense."
Outside linebacker Stacey Gardner spearheaded Upper Dublin's defense with 11 tackles, including four solos. Cornerback Mike Sowers (five solos) and Isaiah Henrich (four) each posted seven stops.
Said Morgans: "They're not very big, but those kids are quick and get off the ball well. It kind of took our kids by surprise."
For the season, Stover, who has scholarship offers from Towson and Millersville, converted 158 of 247 passes for 2,489 yards and 27 touchdowns. He rushed 85 times for 990 yards and 13 TDs.
The Cardinals set a school record for wins in a season, successfully defended their Suburban One League American Conference title, and earned their first District 1 crown. They went 34-5 over the last three years.
"We're definitely on the map now," Stover said. "And there's some talented kids coming up in the system. Upper Dublin football is here to stay."