MOUNT UNION — Winning five of their last six games, Penns Valley overcame a difficult 0-4 start to the season to reach a .500 regular season — something the Rams haven’t done since 2007.
But to watch the Rams in their 21-18 defeat over Mount Union on Friday night, it would be hard to guess they had started the season in such a sub-par manner.
Both teams battled it out on the field, and the three-point margin is a testament to the intensity with which the Rams and Trojans played in the Rams’ win. Mount Union, which was led by quarterback Kahlil Fortson, who had taken over at the helm for the Trojans’ last two games after regular quarterback Trevon Walker suffered an injury — put up a fight to the end, but ultimately succumbed to Penns Valley, which scored just five seconds into the fourth quarter to take the 21-18 lead.
The game-winning drive, which culminated in a Rams’ touchdown, started late in the third quarter when Penns Valley’s passing game started to click.
Mount Union went ahead 18-14 on a Darrien Stapleton 30-yard run with 3:54 left in the third, as the Rams charged back. After getting the ball on their own 34, the Rams put together a few short runs before Penns Valley quarterback Cameron Tobias found Luke Weaver for a 21-yard pass to push the ball to Mount Union’s 5. From there, the Rams ran the ball to the 1 before the third quarter ended. To start the fourth, Weaver finished off the drive, plunging into the end zone for the winner.
“Mount Union came out and they gave us a really good look,” Penns Valley coach Marty Tobias said. “They were ready and they really took away from what we have really done well in the past. Give the credit to their defense for taking us out of our passing game.”
Penns Valley struck with its passing game when it needed to, as Mount Union also found success in the air. Fortson completed 16 passes for 175 yards — including one for 46 yards to Jamal Smith to mark the Trojans’ second touchdown. Stapleton also added an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter to keep Mount Union in contention for the win.
Trojans coach Corey Wertz was pleased with his team’s effort, as they closed their season at 2-8.
“I thought we played well. I really do. For the first time in weeks, we came out ready to play,” Wertz said. “We played some defense, started hitting, and executed on offense. That kick return from Darrien right after they scored was big.”
Tobias, whose team finished with a 5-5 record and will play the waiting game for a playoff berth, was also proud of his teamás regular season performance.
“We started out 0-4, and won five of our last six, so it really shows a lot for their commitment and how they were able to finish,” he said.