“I’ve got to do this for him up there.”: Palisades Wins Poynton Classic
Emotions ran high as Wilson quarterback Cameron Clark’s pass hung in the air near midfield.
They were somewhat high since host Palisades was clinging to a 14-13 lead with 1:30 left, yet Wilson (0-2) had the ball and started to drive.
They were higher still since both teams were honoring the memory of Palisades line coach Tom Poynton, a Wilson grad who was tragically killed in an electrical accident on July 26. Poynton was just 32.
Poynton would want his players to not quit, and Pirate defensive back Ethan Brader did not, snagging Clark’s pass to ice an emotional win. Palisades improved to 1-1 with the victory.
“I’ve got to do this for him up there. He is watching us,” thought Brader. “I had to do it for (Poynton).”
A young Palisades team that has just one senior did make mistakes, posting a -3 turnover margin and committing eight penalties. “Hopefully it gives them some confidence and something to build with. In the second half we did some good things but man did we do a lot of bone head things,” assessed coach Kevin Ronalds. “We gave up contain. I don’t know where all of the holds have come from the last two weeks, but they are drive killers.”
The Pirate defense stood stout, using a key tackle for loss in each of their first three drives to keep Wilson off the board.
“We trust each other and believe in each other,” said lineman Drew Nickles. “We did our job and it all added up to good defense.” Palisades ran 20 more plays than Wilson.
But Warrior Job Goodman (18 touches, 153 yards) inflicted suffering of his own, recovering a Palisades fumble at the Palisades 29 and racing in for a touchdown one play later to stake Wilson to a 7-0 lead with 5:17 remaining in the first half.
Wilson’s Ethan Asiatico recovered the fumbled kickoff and three plays later, Clark found Goodman over the middle for a 55-yard touchdown pass. The point after try missed, and Palisades was down 13-0 late in the second.
The Pirates calmly pieced together an 11 play, 73-yard drive that ended when Jared Colletti made a beautiful diving touchdown catch on a 13-yard Brader aerial. Wilson took a 13-7 lead into the half.
“Ethan Brader said from the start that he was throwing my way,” said Colletti, a track star who ran for 163 yards against Notre Dame the week prior. “I saw the ball thrown and went to it.”
“Jared has a speed and he faced a linebacker so I knew my guy had this,” added Brader. “He ran the route perfectly and it happened to be a touchdown.”
Palisades opened the second half with an impressive march, that ended at the Wilson-6; Jarin Kozemchak recovered the fourth lost Pirate fumble of the game. The Pirate defense forced a three-and-out which set up Colletti finding Matt McGrath on a 51-yard touchdown halfback option pass nine seconds into the fourth quarter. The PAT gave the Pirates a 14-13 lead.
“We practice that a lot. That was cool,” grinned Colletti. “I was just trying to get it up and over the (line’s) hands. Matt saw the ball and got the ball. He said that if he dropped it, it was on him! But he did a good job stalk blocking.”
McGrath, as defender, would be the hero three series later. It looked like Wilson’s Ethan Aquino would score on a long pass; McGrath caught him at the Palisades 20 and punched the ball through the end zone, turning a likely Wilson touchdown into a Palisades touchback.
Colletti’s 96 yards on 21 carries led all rushers. Brader ran for 87 yards on 20 carries and completed 6-of-8 pass attempts for 72 yards.
“We don’t give up,” said Brader. “We have some of the biggest heart in this League. I thank the linemen for doing their jobs today. It was an all-around great effort from the offense.”
“At Notre Dame, we didn’t play to our capability,” Nickles assessed. “But we’re starting to get there. We’re building up and need to get on a roll for the rest of the season. We ought to use this momentum.”
“We needed to win, coming out 0-1. We couldn’t go 0-2,” Colletti pointed out. “The win is a big win on this night. People supporting us and supporting Coach Poynton means the world to us.”
As exciting as the game was, there was still a feeling that it was secondary to honoring Poynton. Both schools wore white in a tribute to their late mutual comrade. Nickles and Kozemchak received the first Thomas Poynton 110% Awards after the game.
“It means the world,” said Nickles. “Coach Poynton was such an influence on everyone who came to this game and me individually. It was incredible to receive it. It was an honor.”
“It was difficult. I can’t get over how everybody responded,” said Ronalds tearing up. “Unbelievable and it was very emotional for us all. (Palisades) were awesome. Since this happened, they can’t do enough. I know the Poyntons have been overwhelmed with Palisades and the way they’ve responded.
Ronalds pointed to the Pen Argyl football team who came to support the effort while wearing their whites. “There is not another league where that would happen,” he said. “(Pen Argyl) just felt it was important to be here. They’re not getting anything out of being here. They already played Wilson and they don’t play us for another two months. That kind of stuff is overwhelming.”
The t-shirts that were sold to benefit a scholarship in Poynton’s name summarized it best: Two Teams. One Brother.
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