HERSHEY, Pa. - North Penn gained some much-needed traction in the second half, but couldn't keep its championship bid from slip slidin' away.
In Saturday night's PIAA Class AAAA football final, Central Dauphin managed the surprise snow and slippery surface a shade better and earned the program's first state title with a 14-7 triumph before about 8,500 at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Knights, who had won 12 straight games after a shaky start to the season, fell short of claiming their second state crown.
"It's the hardest thing I've experienced in my entire life," said North Penn senior Ralph Reeves, a fixture in the lineup the last four years. "It's hard to handle right now. But you have to tip your hat to Central Dauphin. They earned it."
The difference, with a little more than eight minutes to play, was a 2-yard touchdown dive by Zayd Issah. The score was set up by a momentum-shifting, 47-yard kickoff return and 36-yard run that came after North Penn's only tally.
To seal the victory, the Rams, after stopping the Knights on three downs and forcing a punt, took over at their own 21-yard line and ran 14 plays, ending up at the North Penn 10. The drive consumed the final 6:57.
For Central Dauphin, which claimed District 3's first Class AAAA state championship since Cumberland Valley won in 1992, Drew Scales (10 carries for 109 yards), Adam Hollinger (10 for 79), and Issah (20 for 58) combined for 246 of the team's 265 rushing yards.
"They have some real good skill-position guys, no doubt about it," Knights coach Dick Beck said.
With 10:09 to go, North Penn running back James Fielder forged a 7-7 tie with a 6-yard, left-side dart. The score capped a nine-play, 72-yard drive highlighted by a 30-yard dash by handyman Dan Gevirtz.
Central Dauphin's stout run defense limited Fielder (six carries for 21 yards), Gevirtz (eight for 52), and junior tailback Kyle Mayfield (six for 7) to 80 yards on 20 attempts. The Knights (13-3) netted 131 yards on 30 tries.
In the second quarter, the Rams (15-1) went in front, 7-0, on a 74-yard throw from Brandon LaVia (2-for-9 passing, 74 yards) to Scales. The speedy junior caught the ball at the 35 and escaped a tackle attempt at the 20.
Said Beck: "If he doesn't throw a perfect strike there, the ball is either batted down or it falls incomplete."
After Fielder's equalizer, Issah accepted the kickoff at the 10, followed a blocking wedge, and advanced to the North Penn 43. Two plays later, Hollinger's 36-yard rumble, on a counter play, set up the clincher.
With 4:49 to go and Central Dauphin playing keepaway, LaVia moved the chains on fourth-and-1 with a 6-yard keeper. Scales' 23-yard burst with 2:22 left cemented the win.
"This was a great group of kids to coach," Beck said. "And this was a terrific experience, including the ride up here, the way the entire school district and community supported us, and the game itself."
North Penn 0 0 0 7 – 7
Central Dauphin 0 7 0 7 – 14
CD: Scales 74 pass from LaVia (Brandes kick)
NP: Fielder 6 run (Mandes kick)
CD: Issah 2 run (Brandes kick)