HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. – With the outcome of Saturday’s PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal game hanging in the balance, there was no way Oil City wasn’t finishing on its own terms.
Facing a fourth-and-two from their own 43, up 28-27 with two minutes left and Upper Moreland out of timeouts, the Oilers went for it, and Sean Stack ran them straight into the state semifinals, picking up three yards to close it out.
“I asked the kids, I gave it to the kids,” said Oil City coach Dan York. “I asked them do you want to play defense or go for it? They said we wanted to end it now and I said OK, let’s do it.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
It was a fitting end for an Oiler team that has overcome its fair share of adversity, and now has its second 1-point win of the state playoffs.
The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, the last of which came on Holden Stahl’s 5-yard touchdown run with exactly four minutes to go.
It was Stahl’s fourth total touchdown of the game, as he threw a pair to JT Stahlman in the first half and ran for two in the second half.
“You’ve gotta do what you gotta do,” Stahl said simply.
In a way, it’s a fitting mantra for this team that bullied teams through District 10 play and has passed every test with their backs against the wall in the state playoffs.
Trailing 21-16, the Oilers went on a 16-play, 73-yard drive that spanned from the 6:09 mark of the third quarter to the 10:38 mark of the fourth, capped by Stahl’s 1-yard plunge that put the Oilers up 22-21.
The Golden Bears (5-2), meanwhile, needed just four plays to re-take the lead.
Cam Jackson’s 40-yard run was the catalyst, and Jackson took it in from six yards out to make it 27-22.
Oil City (10-0) responded, as Stahl and Stahlman connected for a huge 63-yard pitch and catch, setting up Stahl’s go-ahead score.
“Close game, a lot of close calls,” York said.
Dakota Cole’s interception gave the Oilers the ball back, and the Golden Bears took their two remaining timeouts in an attempt to go back on offense.
The Oilers simply weren’t having it, however.
“Sean (Stack) didn’t practice all week and he took a good shot in the first half,” York said. “But he got back up off the ground and just kept going.”
The Oilers methodically moved the ball in the second half, but struck for big plays in the first half.
Stahl and Stahlman were responsible, hooking up on touchdown passes of 29 yards in the first quarter and 58 in the second quarter, that, coupled with a pair of successful two-point conversions, gave OC a 16-14 halftime lead.
“Every week we practice a couple main passing plays we know might work and they worked today,” Stahl said.
Of his senior quarterback, York noted: “He’s just a great leader.”
Upper Moreland had a connection of its own working in the first half, courtesy of quarterback Byron Hopkins and receiver Jahaire Johnson.
The duo hooked up for a pair of scores – a 31-yarder in the first quarter and a 3-yarder in the second.
The Golden Bears elected to kick extra points after each score, both of which were successful.
“They have a good team, that quarterback scared me because he’s fast,” York said. “They have a lot of speed on their team.”
The Oilers did intercept Hopkins twice in the first half, courtesy of Stahlman and Stack.
Jackson had 114 yards on the ground for Upper Moreland, while Stack had 87 to lead OC. Stahl finished with 170 yards passing, 150 of which went to Stahlman.
Oil City will meet Thomas Jefferson, a 35-28 overtime winner of Aliquippa in the WPIAL title game, in the semifinals next week at a site and time to be determined.
“Our team has battled so many injuries this year and we just kept fighting through it,” Stahl said. “It was a great team win today.”
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Upper Moreland 7 7 7 6 – 27
Oil City 8 8 0 12 – 28
O – JT Stahlman 29 pass from Holden Stahl (Seth Yeager 2-point conversion from Stahl) 6:40
U – Jahaire Johnson 31 pass from Byron Hopkins (Jaryd Meehl PAT) 5:02
U – Johnson 3 pass from Hopkins (Meehl PAT) 9:16
O – Stahlman 58 pass from Stahl (Dakota Cole 2-point conversion from Stahl) 3:41
U – Hopkins 5 run (Meehl PAT) 6:16
O – Stahl 1 run (2-point conversion failed) 10:38
U – Cam Jackson 6 run (2-point conversion failed) 9:34
O – Stahl 5 run (2-point conversion failed) 4:00
First Downs 11 15
Rushes-Yards 26-181 39-127
Comp-Att-Int 7-11-3 4-11-0
Passing Yards 78 170
Total Yards 259 297
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Rushing: UM – Cam Jackson 14-114, Byron Hopkins 8-44, Anthony Broderick 4-23; Oil City – Sean Stack 17-87, Holden Stahl 10-33, Isaiah Aeschbacher 7-21, Zac Kiefer 2-2, Team 3-(minus) 16
Passing: UM – Hopkins 7-of-11, 78 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs; Oil City – Stahl 4-of-11, 170 yards, 2 TDs
Receiving: UM – Jahaire Johnson 3-40, Jon Knight 2-28, Broderick 1-15, Jackson 1-(minus)4; Oil City – JT Stahlman 3-150, Seth Yeager 1-20
Interceptions: Oil City – JT Stahlman, Sean Stack, Dakota Cole