Dickinson gets milestone as Panthers hold on over Knights
BLOSSBURG - It was a big night for North Penn coach Tom Dickinson.
The longtime Panthers football coach earned his 100th career win Friday night - but it didn't come easy.
Despite a few setbacks, North Penn was able to stop Towanda when it counted, on a two-point conversation with 10 seconds left to play, to beat the Knights 21-20 in NTL Large School football action.
"Just a heck of a hard fought game," Dickinson said about the win. "It's all on the kids. Towanda had a very good game plan, gave the fans their money's worth."
Towanda's Brandon Dinelli began the game with a 78-yard opening kick-off return for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead after the Nick Place kick with 11:48 left in the opening quarter.
North Penn rallied late in the first quarter as Taylor Hillson found Sam Bohnert for a 17-yard touchdown pass play. After the Sam Rotella kick the teams were tied at seven, which held until halftime.
The Panthers struck again in the third quarter as Hillson found Bryce Zaparzynski for a six-yard scoring strike with 10:50 left to play in the third quarter. The kick failed but North Penn still led 13-7.
Towanda would retake the lead as Justin Hunsinger pounded in a touchdown from a yard out. Place's kick was good and Towanda 14-13 with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
It didn't take long for the Panthers to strike back as Hillson hit Bohnert on a 79-yard touchdown pass with 3:52 to go back up. Hillson then found Lucas Groover for the 2-point conversion to take a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter North Penn was backed up inside their five yard line with 10 seconds to play when they fumbled the snap and Towanda's Hunsinger fell on it in the endzone.
The Black Knights came out in kicking formation but North Penn called a timeout. After the timeout Towanda came out going for two.
They gave it to Hunsinger up the middle but the Panthers were able to stuff the play.
"We had no clue," Dickinson remarked. "From what the players told us Ryan Turner, our sophomore defensive line-man, had a big play."
Hillson had another strong game for North Penn, throwing for 226 yards on 17-of-33 with three touchdowns and a pick. He also led the team in rushing with 28 yards on nine carries.
Bohnert was Hillson's top receiver, he had six catches for 148 yards plus the two touchdowns. Rotella added six catches for 52 yards.
Hunsinger had a strong game for the Knights with 143 yards on the ground off 30 carries. Quarterback Noah Huff added 73 yards on 17 carries while Dinelli had 58 yards on 11 touches.
Huff was 3-for-4 for 44 yards through the air with Garret Mosier his favorite target. Mosier had two catches for 38 yards.
Dickinson was pleased with how his team responded late in the game.
"They held their heads," he explained. "They could have folded on the opening kickoff and they didn't."
This achievement is a longtime coming for the coach, who gives all the credit to his players.
"It's nice but its not about me," Dickinson said. "It's the kids, it's been about the kids for years. I don't think there's a lot in the state, just means I've been coaching a while."
There was also an interesting tie-in after the game.
"One of my current freshmen player's father came up to me and shook my hand," explained Dickinson. "He reminded me he was on the field for my first victory against Muncy and now his son was on there now."