CUMBERLAND — After Nick Willison punched in the go-ahead score for the Personal Best/Hartley’s Pizza Patriots in the final two minutes of the Cumberland Area Youth Football League Division 1 Little Super Bowl Saturday, the touchdown looked to be enough to take home the title.
But Northern had the CAYFL MVP on its side in quarterback Luke Ross, who orchestrated a two-minute drill. Ross capped the game-winning series with a pass to Walter Brands, giving the Steelers a 27-25 victory and handing the Patriots their only loss of the campaign.
Northern (6-1) received its lone blemish of the season in a 54-34 shootout defeat to the Patriots (6-1) during the regular slate, but Ross and the Steelers’ defense wouldn’t suffer the same fate twice.
Ross finished the afternoon 5 for 7 passing for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns, carrying it 14 times for 165 yards and another score. His title-winning efforts earned him the Bruce Lynn Memorial Award given to the league’s best player, as well as the Alfred “Biz” Manges Award for the Division 1 Super Bowl MVP.
Ross couldn’t have done it without his offensive line, though. His best blocker on the afternoon was Nick Riley, winner of the James R. Steckman outstanding offensive lineman award.
Before Ross’ late-game heroics, however, the Patriots looked to be on their way to a perfect season.
Willison, who ended with 110 yards on 14 rushes, started the scoring with a 15-yard scamper — the lone TD of the first quarter. Then, Chevy Perkins took a carry 30 yards to the house, and Jabril Daniels rushed in the extra point to put the Pats up 13-0. Perkins would finish with 100 yards on the ground on 14 tries.
Ross countered with an explosive 54-yard run to put the Steelers on the board, but Daniels — he carried 12 times for 130 yards — countered with a five-yard rushing TD.
With a long rushing play under his belt, Ross settled and found Brands in the end zone on a 15-yard pass play to cut into the deficit and make it 19-13 Patriots at intermission.
In the second half, Northern’s defense shut down the Patriots, not allowing any points until Willison’s late rushing touchdown.
Tim Folk pushed the Steelers ahead 20-19 with a two-yard run and a Ross extra point run during the third quarter, and then Ross recaptured the lead on the final drive.
Riley led the way on Northern’s defense with eight tackles and Owen Acord tallied a pair of fumble recoveries. Walker Savage and Liam Steward were the team’s defensive standouts.
The Patriots’ defense was led by Dakota Shambaugh, Shane Combs and Perkins — who each tallied eight tackles. Daniels, Willison, Noah House, Kenny Martin and Mason Bennett had six tackles each. Martin recovered a fumble.
Ridgeley’s Daniel Marley won the Memorial Award, which shows good sportsmanship and team spirit.
Mike Morgan won the D-1 Chester “Chet” Payne Coaches Dedication Award. John Crock received the D-2 Rusty Warnick Memorial Coaches Dedication Award.
The Division 2 MVP was the Patriots’ Carson Bender, who won the D-2 Little Super Bowl MVP, and Northern’s Devon Opel.