LANDISVILLE — The Dallastown football team rarely found itself trailing in its District 3 6-A quarterfinal contest on Friday, Nov. 10 against Hempfield.
On the road against the fourth-seeded Black Knights, the fifth-seeded Wildcats went toe-to-toe with a team that beat them by three scores back in Week 1. And, for the better part of the game, Dallastown was arguably the better team against Hempfield.
But, when the Wildcats had their chances to put away the Black Knights, they didn't and it came back to haunt them.
With 39.9 seconds to play, Hempfield quarterback Mark Himmelsbach crushed the upset hopes of Dallastown, rushing in from two yards out to go in front by one. A successful two-point conversion put the Black Knights in front, 31-28, a score that held as the final, as the Wildcats' season came to a close.
"Too many mistakes and then to lose a player like (Nyzair Smith), that makes a big difference," Dallastown head coach Kevin Myers said. "I'm proud of them. I guarantee 11 weeks ago, (nobody) was giving us a shot to be in this game and here we're three points away from playing next week. But, just too many mistakes."
Leading by four at halftime, the Wildcats (8-3) were in a strong position to advance to the semifinals with two quarters of football to play. Things got even better when Nyzair Smith took the first play from scrimmage 82 yards for a touchdown to put Dallastown in front, 21-10, just seconds into the third quarter.
To make things better, on Hempfield's ensuing possession, the Wildcats forced a fumble, giving them the ball in plus territory, with a chance to put a stranglehold on the contest. Instead, a fumble of their own gave the ball back to the Black Knights (8-3) and kept the home side in the game and completely swung momentum.
Late in the quarter, Temple-commit David Martin-Robinson, who played with a full cast on his left wrist, hauled in a 26-yard touchdown to pull Hempfield to within five going into the final quarter.
But, before the quarter could come to a close, the Wildcats committed maybe their most costly turnover of the season. A pitch to Smith was fumbled, leading to the Black Knights recovering and regaining possession. On the skirmish to come up with the ball, Smith was hit hard and stayed down injured, leading him to play scarcely the rest of the way.
While the fumble didn't cost Dallastown on the ensuing possession, it prevented it from putting points on the board. The Wildcats eventually would re-establish their two-score lead, with Max Teyral rushing in from two yards out to put Dallastown in front, 28-16, with 9 minutes, 28 seconds to play.
That would be the final time the Wildcats would score and the defense couldn't make it stand. A 66-yard catch-and-run touchdown for Hempfield shortly after the Wildcats' TD made it a one-possession game again heading into the final minutes.
Then, after Dallastown was forced to punt, the Black Knights came up with their drive of the season to steal the victory. A big fourth-down conversion and then a pair of key third-down conversions kept the team's drive alive, until finally Himmelsbach plowed ahead for the game-winning score, capping Hempfield's comeback.
"I thought both teams played hard and it was going back and forth," Myers said. "They made mistakes too and didn't play super clean. ...It was kind of just back and forth and they had the last hurrah."
The Wildcats' final attempt at trying to at least get into field goal range to force overtime was halted near midfield as time ran out on their season.
Defensive first half: In the first half, the Dallastown defense kept its offense in the game early, save for one big play that led to points for Hempfield.
Midway through the first quarter, on a 4th and 1 from the Wildcats' 40, the Black Knights elected to go for it and it paid off in a big way. Himmelsbach called his own number, broke through a hole and ran it in from 40 yards out to open the scoring and put the home side in front, 7-0. It was the only time Hempfield would lead in the game before the game-winning score.
It was the only real mistake the Dallastown defense made in the first half, allowing the offense time to finally find a groove. In the first quarter, the Wildcats had three possessions that all ended in three-and-outs.
But, early in the second quarter, the Dallastown offense finally clicked. A long third-down pass completion and fourth-down conversion kept the team's fourth drive of the game alive. Nyzair Smith capped the drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
On the next possession, Smith finally broke off a long run of 43 yards, setting up the Wildcats at the Black Knights' five. Quarterback Brett Smith ran the next play in to make it 14-7 Wildcats late in the first half.
Hempfield converted a 25-yard field goal just before the half ended to cut Dallastown's lead to 14-10 going into the break, after getting a short field due to poor kick coverage.
"We score, give up that big return and they go and kick the field goal," Myers said. "Our kick coverage was not very good tonight. That was probably more huge than anything else tonight."
Despite not playing much of the fourth quarter and being held to just 17 carries, Nyzair Smith did still manage a game-high 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns. However, most of his yardage came on three long runs, which accounted for 145 of the 187 yards.
In his final game of his high school career, Teyral accounted for 86 yards of total offense. He hauled in four catches for 71 yards and ran for 15 yards on four carries and the one score.
Himmelsbach and running back Stephen Wenzel were tough to stop defensively for the Wildcats. The duo rushed for 259 combined yards, all but 13 of the team's rushing yards.
Despite the tough defeat, Dallastown still finished the year 8-3 overall, which included being co-Division I champions in the York-Adams League.
"We were one of eight teams left playing in Week 11," Myers said. "I told these guys and I meant this: I've coached for 41 years and this team has come further from start to finish than any other team I've been a part of as a coach and that says something to their testament and will-power."
HEMPFIELD 31, DALLASTOWN 28
H - Himmelsbach 40-yard run (Johnson kick), 5:03
Dt - N. Smith 4-yard run (Groh kick), 6:01
Dt - B. Smith 5-yard run (Groh kick), 2:13
H - Johnson 25-yard field goal, :10
Dt - N. Smith 82-yard run (Groh kick), 11:38
H - Martin-Robinson 26-yard catch (Kick blocked), 2:52
Dt - Teyral 2-yard run (Groh kick), 9:28
H - Ressler 66-yard catch (Johnson kick), 8:21
H - Himmelsbach 2-yard run (2-point conversion good), :39.9
First Downs: Dt, 12. H, 15
Rushes-Yards: Dt,31-246. H,47-272
Passing Yards: Dt, 127. H, 129
Completions-Attempts-INTs: Dt, 6-18-0. H, 7-16-0
Penalties-Yards: Dt, 5-40. H, 5-31
Punts-Average: Dt, 5-36.4. H, 4-33.3
Fumbles/Lost: Dt, 2-2. H, 2-1.
RUSHING: Dt, N. Smith 17-187, Ward 2-30, Teyral 4-15, B. Smith 6-13, Strine 2-1. H, Himmelsbach 23-145, Wenzel 19-114, Martin-Robinson 5-13.
PASSING: Dt, B. Smith 6-18-127, 0 TD. H, Himmelsbach 7-16-129, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING: Dt, Teyral 4-71, Ward 1-45, Sebastian 1-11. H, Ressler 2-76, Martin-Robinson 2-35, Kreider 2-15, Beinhauer 1-3.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com