Seneca Valley stuns Pine-Richland with late touchdown pass

Friday, September 3, 2021 | 11:50 PM

The adrenaline still was running at maximum for Brandon Ross moments after catching the winning touchdown pass in the final 10 seconds to propel his Seneca Valley Raiders to a 24-20 win over Pine-Richland.

“I might have blacked out a little,” Ross said. “I just remember catching it, running on the sideline with my helmet off, and then my little brother came running down to the field. I don’t really remember much after that.”

It was a play that will be talked about by Seneca Valley faithful for years to come.

With 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining on the clock, quarterback Graham Hancox drove the Raiders down the field and found Ross on a 24-yard strike in the black-and-blue colored end zone at Nextier Stadium.

The win ended a seven-game losing streak for Seneca Valley (1-1) against Pine-Richland (0-2) dating to 2013.

“When we got the ball back with a minute, 50 seconds left there was no panic,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “We have a young group that’s maturing quickly.”

Hancox passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns. In his third varsity start, the junior quarterback had a signature drive and play to remember forever. It made it even more special for Hancox that the play callers Tim Sasson and Ryan Lehmeier were former Pine-Richland assistants who were not retained after head coach Eric Kasperowicz was fired after guiding Pine-Richland to the Class 5A state championship.

“I knew coach Sasson and coach Lehmeier have great play-calling ability and that they would put us in the right situation,” Hancox said. “It 100% had more meaning. They (Pine-Richland) were jawing at us on Twitter, and coach Butschle told us to keep our cool. We did. We just went out here and let our work on the field do the job. We just executed.”

Before the deciding drive, Pine-Richland had a stunning play of its own. Facing a third down and long, Cole Boyd ran a quarterback keeper up the middle, and the seas parted. Boyd ran right up the middle and broke a couple tackles near the goal line to score from 48 yards and put Pine-Richland on top 20-17 with less than two minutes remaining.

The late score by Seneca Valley denied Steve Campos his first win at the helm of the Rams. Campos was an assistant with the Raiders the last nine seasons.

“For us it’s simple: It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish the season,” Campos said. “We haven’t got into conference play yet. It is growing pains right now for us. We have a lot of guys that didn’t get any playing time last year, Cole (Boyd) being one of them. We’re also using a lot of younger guys on special teams. We were cramping up tonight. I thought we were conditioned well enough. The first game we were in hot weather, but tonight there really weren’t any excuses for that.”

Boyd scored on a 3-yard run on fourth and goal early in the second quarter to give Pine-Richland a 7-0 lead. Later in the quarter, staring down a 4th-and-10, in his own territory, Boyd decided to run on a fake punt but was stopped short of the first down near midfield.

Seneca Valley took advantage of the good field position, and Hancox found Jake Rape with a 39-yard touchdown pass that tied the score going into halftime.

Hancox hit Luke Lawson with a 64-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the second half. Brooks Eastburn responded for Pine-Richland by scoring on a 34-yard run, but the extra point was missed, giving Seneca Valley a 14-13 lead.

Camden Busch added a 25-yard field goal for the Raiders.

After an emotional victory, Ross is hopeful his Raiders can keep the momentum rolling for the rest of the season.

“We have to stack wins like coach Butschle says every week,” Ross said. “We can’t be winning games on the last play every week, though. That isn’t going to work. We have to dominate from the start of the game.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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