Penn-Trafford stops Imhotep Charter to win 1st state title in OT thriller

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Friday, December 10, 2021 | 10:26 PM


HERSHEY — It might not equal the Miracle on Ice, but Penn-Trafford’s 17-14 stunner against Imhotep Charter will hold a prominent place in Westmoreland County sports history.

Nathan Schlessinger kicked a 24-yard field goal in overtime, and defensive end Conlan Greene’s sack on fourth down lifted Penn-Trafford to a thrilling victory in the PIAA Class 5A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium.

The winning kick came after the Warriors (13-2) rallied late to tie the score 14-14 with 34 seconds left when Greene, a junior tight end who also is the backup quarterback, tossed a jump pass to senior tight end Jack Jollie for a 2-yard score.

“This hasn’t hit me yet,” Greene said. “Maybe I’ll realize what happened back at the hotel. It’s a crazy feeling.”

Senior running back Cade Yacamelli added: “This is more than unbelievable. This is overwhelming, everything. We just have character.

“It sounds so cliche and generic. When you talk about team chemistry and team bonding, coach (John) Ruane said this is the tightest group we’ve ever had. That’s what wins this (gold medal).”

Imhotep Charter (11-2) used two touchdown runs by Rahmir Stewart, the second with 7:29 left, to grab a 14-7 lead.

But the Warriors started their tying drive and got a little help from Imhotep Charter, which first was penalized for fair catch interference and later pass inference on a fourth-down play.

The 2021 Warriors left their mark in the school’s record book. They won their first WPIAL title and now their first state title.

Yacamelli rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown.

“We were 2-2 at one point, and I remember coming home one day and I was getting frustrated and getting no sleep,” Yacamelli said. “I knew we were better than this because I knew what we had. It just wasn’t clicking for us.

“Then all of sudden, we went back to practice and I talked to my coach and talked to my team and stuff started clicking. And we kept getting better every single week. This program is built on getting better every week. And this program is built on being the underdog. Finally, we win something, and finally, maybe people will give us credit.”

Imhotep Charter went to a power ground game on its third possession to grab a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Behind the running of Stanley McLeod, who carried the ball six times for 39 yards, the Panthers drove 67 yards in 12 plays with Stewart capping the drive with a 12-yard score on fourth-and-6. The run for conversion failed.

McLeod rushed for 185 yards on 28 carries.

“I think our defense won the championship,” Ruane said. “That old cliche held true: Defense wins championships. The defense was the reason we were in this game, and the defense was the reason we won the game.

“It was a phenomenal effort across the board by the defense. The offense had a couple big drives when we had to have them. We made just enough plays to tie it.”

Penn-Trafford, which just missed connecting on a couple of pass plays, got a big 20-yard completion from Carter Green to Yacamelli to the Imhotep Charter 42. Two plays later, Yacamelli darted through the middle of the Panthers’ defense, spun out of a tackle and raced 36 yards to the Imhotep Charter 2.

Three plays later, with four seconds left on the first-half clock, Yacamelli plowed through the center of the Imhotep Charter defense for the touchdown.

Schlessinger added the extra point to give the Warriors a 7-6 lead at halftime.

“The safety net is Nathan,” Ruane said. “We knew we were going to get three, and we had to stop them and we did.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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