FOOTBALL: Big comeback: Sheffield beats Smethport for AML North title
There hasn’t been a bigger game in recent memory, a louder crowd, or a better ending for Sheffield football.
Playing for the Allegheny Mountain League North title, the Wolverines came from behind one more time, beating Smethport 29-26, in the waning moments Saturday at Sheffield High School.
“We’ve been down before, so this is nothing new to us,” said Sheffield head coach Dave Fitch, whose Wolverines have come from behind in four of their five wins this season. “This is how we do things here. I got the kids to do what’s written on that bank (of Wolverine Mountain) down there – they believe (We Believe is written on side of hill). And we believed that we could do this. We scripted it out at halftime. I said, ‘we’re coming out, taking the opening kickoff down, we’re going to have a good defensive stop, we’re going score again,’ and that’s just what happened.”
Sheffield first overcame an 18-7 Smethport halftime lead with a pair of Jereek Jackson rushing touchdowns. But a Smethport 57-yard passing score late in the third quarter left the Wolverines trailing again, 26-22, with under four minutes to play.
Sheffield’s defense, feeding off of an electrifying crowd on Wolverine Mountain, was able to force the Hubbers to punt from deep in their own territory. Having success running the ball throughout the game, the Wolverines gained a quick 18 yards off of three Jackson carries to put them at the Smethport 35 yard line.
Two plays later, and late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Adam Higby dropped back to see a wide-open Noah Heeter. Higby sailed a beautifully thrown ball directly into Heeter’s hands for the 35-yard go-ahead score.
“I don’t think we have ever, in my 12-year career, played a game like this,” said Fitch, whose Wolverines are 5-3 overall and win the AML North title at 4-1 via the defeat of Smethport, also 4-1. “The kids fought and never quit.”
Despite the late touchdown, the AML North title hadn’t been settled. Smethport quarterback Dustin Zetwick, who already had three touchdowns in the game, had the ball first-and-10 at the Hubber 44-yard line with just under two minutes left in the game.
It took a quarterback to stop a quarterback, as Higby, who plays safety on defense, picked off a deep Zetwick pass down the Wolverines sideline to seal the victory for Sheffield.
“I looked at the clock, started doing the math, (and) thank God for my coaches, because my mind was scattered at the that time” said Fitch. “All my coaches came up to me, and started letting me know how the equation was going to work out. We knew if we could run the ball a couple times, and take just a little more clock off, we could make it happen. I hope they relive this moment for the next 50 years.”
Because that’s possibly about how long it’s been since Sheffield won its last league title.
According to records, Sheffield last won the District 9 AML North title in an undefeated 9-0 1964 season. Sheffield played in District 9 until the 1973 season in which the program moved to District 10 until it moved back in 2004.
“This game meant the world to the community and especially to the seniors to go off that field knowing that they are AML North champs,” said Higby, a junior. “We never quit and never went away just like all year. Everybody at the beginning of the year had this goal in mind and we made it come true with hard work, sweat, blood, and tears. This game will be remembered for a long time.”
Jackson’s three touchdowns and 173 yards on 24 carries, Saturday, pushes his season rushing total to 748 yards and 12 touchdowns with 7.7 yards per carry.
Higby added to his season total, as he closes in on 1,000 yards passing, and seven scores. Heeter currently leads the Wolverine receivers with 462 yards and four touchdowns.
“I love these guys, I love this community,” said Fitch. “You can see what they did today, and all week long. This is for us, as a community, as a team, and I hope we cherish this moment for a long, long time.”
Sheffield will face the AML South champion Kane in two weeks for the outright AML title, but first the Wolverines travel to Curwensville Friday.
“I still want Curwensville next week,” said Fitch.
SH-Jereek Jackson 6 run, 6:47 (Jimmy Vile kick)
SM-Dustin Zetwick 2 run, 2:04 (Kick failed)
SM-Ryan Stratton 43 pass from Zetwick, 9:55 (Conversion failed)
SM-Drew Burdick 2 pass from Zetwick, 5:43 (Conversion failed)
SH-Jackson 7 run, 9:11 (Brandon Kipp run)
SH-Jackson 5 run, 5:04 (Vile kick)
SM-Wilber Nate 57 pass from Zetwick, 3:37 (Adam Shunk run)
SH-Noah Heeter 35 pass from Adam Higby, 1:51 (Vile kick)
RUSHING-Smethport, Stratton 14-102, Shunk 7-35, Nielson Ryan 4-20, Zetwick 7-16 TD, James Duffy 1-2; Sheffield, Jackson 24-173 3TD, Dustin Holden 10-39, Kipp 4-26, Tommy Reeves 1-4, Nic Confer 1-1, Higby 3-(-5).
PASSING-Smethport, Zetwick 5-15-135 3TD, 2INT; Sheffield, Higby 8-12-100 TD, INT.
RECEIVING-Smethport, Nate 1-57 TD, Stratton 1-43 TD, Burdick 3-35 TD; Sheffield, Heeter 3-54 TD, Confer 1-32, Reeves 3-6, Jackson 1-(-1).