The statistics were astounding, the performance was impressive — and exhausting — but in the end the only numbers that counted were not in Penns Valley’s favor.
Ben Alexander may have broken the Penns Valley rushing record, but he — and everyone else — wished he had 10 more yards.
As his school celebrated homecoming, the junior quarterback had a game for the ages Friday night, rushing for 384 yards and scoring each of the Rams’ points, but the team’s final drive came up just short in a 49-44 loss to Huntingdon.
“I feel pretty good, but I’m sad that we lost that one,” Alexander said. “I was really hoping we could get that win for homecoming week. Everyone gave their best effort, and I couldn’t have run that many yards without all the linemen and everyone blocking. We just played our hardest and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”
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The junior had touchdown runs of 24, 22, 42, 20, 8 and 10 yards, and converted four two-point conversions. For the game he had 32 carries, and added a 9 for 14 passing effort for 62 yards.
“Ben’s performance was awesome, but you’ve got to give credit to every one of the kids out there,” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. “It takes all 11 of them to do their job to get him the opportunities, or others the opportunities.”
The total broke the school record of 378 yards by Derek Lucas, set against West Branch in 2000.
Alexander certainly had plenty of thank-yous for his line. On several of his scoring runs — for either six or two points — he wasn’t even touched before finding the goal line.
“They knew what they were doing,” Alexander said. “They were firing out, giving me time with passes, and I just couldn’t ask for anything better.”
With one of the team’s top rushers, Wyatt Sharp, sidelined, a lot more offensive weight fell on Alexander — but coach Tobias did not have a night like this in mind.
“That wasn’t part of the game plan, but it evolved as the game went on,” Tobias said.
Alexander had already posted 214 yards and three scores in the first half.
“At halftime, I felt like I had played a full game,” said the junior, who was planning on going to Saturday’s Penn State football game but may opt for rest and watching on television. “I’m pretty tired. I’m probably going to take a lot of ice.”
Alexander certainly was a handful, and with Chase Collison adding 66 yards rushing, including a key 40-yard run, the Bearcats had their hands full.
“We went in and changed up some things at halftime, it made just enough difference,” coach Mike Hudy said. “We spied him a little bit, our best guy on his best guy. He can run.”
For the game, the two teams combined for 912 yards of offense.
Huntingdon also did pretty well on the ground, with Jon Wagner overshadowed with his 135 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, plus a 79-yard kickoff return for another score. Jordan Oliver added 12 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Jordan Speck ran for one touchdown and completed just one pass for a 50-yard score to Matt Speck less than a minute before halftime.
“It’s exhilarating and it’s frustrating,” Tobias said of the night’s offensive fireworks. “You’re thrilled that you’re moving the ball and putting it in the end zone, but the other side of the ball you’re exasperated because you’re trying to figure out how to stop the other team.”
The drama hit its crescendo in the fourth quarter, when the lead traded hands four times. Alexander burst up the middle on an eight-yard run less than a minute into the final period for a three-point Ram lead, but an 11-yard burst from Wagner less than two minutes later put the Bearcats back ahead by five.
Penns Valley needed less than three minutes for its answer, capped by an Alexander 10-yard scamper. He also had a 47-yard run during the drive, after which he missed two plays with cramps. The run put him over the 300-yard mark.
Huntingdon then went on a controlled drive, using up just under five minutes, capped by a seven-yard burst by Jordan Speck.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff return left the Rams at their own 8-yard-line with 1:35 left and two time outs.
“We needed to get yards and get out of bounds,” Alexander said. “We needed to give our team an opportunity to score.”
After losing a yard on the first play, the Rams began to march with 15 yards of Alexander rushing and 42 yards passing, including a big 33-yard strike to Sean Beamesderfer.
It left nine seconds on the clock for the final play from the Huntingdon 37.
Alexander took off, raced down the sideline, then dodged a few tacklers before the ball was knocked from his hand, and he was tackled as he picked it back up at the Bearcats’ 10.
“Coach just said, ‘Just go,’” Alexander said. “I was trying to get down there, making a couple moves, I lost the ball and that made me really angry, I picked it up and tried to keep going but it got too clogged.”