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Top 25 Countdown 2021

Top 25 Countdown No. 19: Oil City Thrills in Back-to-Back PIAA Football Playoff Games is counting down what we believe are the Top 25 moments/games/performances of the 2020-21 high school sports season in District 9 and District 10.

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No. 19: Oil City Thrills on the Football Field in PIAA Playoffs

After winning the District 10 Class 4A football title, Oil City entered the PIAA playoffs shorthanded without star running back Cam Russell or star defensive player Braydon Crocker.

No one knew what to expect.

What came next were back-to-back heart-pounding, heart-stopping, unforgettable football games.

First up was Juniata on a sunny, brisk afternoon in Altoona.

Things started great for the Oilers, as a defensive touchdown followed by a 33-yard run by Isaiah Aeschbacher gave Oil City a 14-0 lead at the end of a quarter.

That lead grew to 26-7 by halftime thanks to touchdown runs by Sean Stack and Holden Stahl, and Oil City still led by 12, 26-14, going to the fourth quarter.

That’s when things turned crazy.

A pair of Yaneil Ortiz touchdown runs in just over two minutes of play gave Juniata a stunning 27-26 lead with just under nine minutes left.

But then Oil City, a team known for keeping the ball on the ground, went to the air to retake the advantage as Stahl hit Dakota Cole with an 87-yard touchdown pass to make it 33-27. The scoring pass tied for the second-longest in Oilers’ history.

OC wanted to go for two to make it a seven-point lead. But the conversion had to wait – a half-hour.

One of the referees and a photographer had collided on the Oil City sidelines during the scoring play with both individuals taken from the field on stretchers.

After the long delay, Cole scored on the conversion run to make it 34-27.

The game remained at seven points until late in the contest.

Taking over at its own 38-yard line with 1:52 to play, Juniata found itself in a third-and-30 hole from the Indians’ 18-yard line.

But quarterback Jacob Condo threw a 35-yard pass to Emmanuel O’Donnell to convert the first down and give Juniata the ball at the Oil City 47-yard line.

A roughing the passer call moved the ball to the Oilers 32-yard line, and, eventually, the Indians had third-and-2 from the 5-yard line when Condo found a wide-open Caleb Seeger in the end zone to get the Indians back within one.

Juniata initially lined up to kick the extra point in an attempt to tie the game, but after a timeout changed the play to a 2-point attempt.

On the attempt, Condo rolled out to the right and was unable to find an open receiver, which led to a scramble that was denied by a group of Oilers defenders who took him down behind the line of scrimmage.

Needing to get the ball back again, a failed onside kick attempt allowed Stahl and Oil City to take a knee and seal the victory, 34-33.

Some teams will never play a postseason game with that kind of excitement.

Oil City managed a repeat the following week, on the same Mansion Park field in Altoona, this time against Upper Moreland.

The game went back-and-forth with the squads trading touchdowns in the first and second quarters with a pair of 2-point conversions giving the Oilers a 16-14 halftime lead.

Upper Moreland took a 21-16 lead going to the fourth quarter before a Stahl 1-yard run gave the Oilers a 22-21 advantage.

Cam Jackson answered with a 6-yard run for Upper Moreland to put the Golden Bears back on top, 27-22 just over a minute after the Stahl scoring run with 9:34 to play in the game.

Oil City responded with a 5-yard Stahl scoring run with four minutes left to go back ahead, 28-27. A 63-yard pitch-and-catch from Stahl to JT Stahlman set up the touchdown.

The Oilers’ defense then came up with a monster play when Cole intercepted a pass to give Oil City’s offense the ball back.

The Oilers, though, faced a fourth-and-two from their own 43-yard line with two minutes left and Upper Moreland out of timeouts.

That’s when head coach Dan York rolled the dice, listened to his players, and went for it.

Stack and the offensive line proved that York’s faith was well deserved, as Stack picked up three yards for the game-winning first down sending Oil City to the PIAA semifinals with a 28-27 win.

The Oilers season ended against WPIAL powerhouse Thomas Jefferson, which went on to claim the state title. But the two games leading into the semifinal game will live forever in OC history.

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