NORTH EAST — The Susquehanna Division championship came down to a rivalry game on the final day of the regular season.
Rising Sun defeated visiting North East, 28-14, Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers captured their second-straight Susquehanna football title and finished the regular season 8-1 overall.
“It’s awesome. They’re excited about it,” Rising Sun coach Clem Vaughan said. “Eight wins – I’ve only had one team ever get eight wins – with 10 games. They did it in nine. We’re extremely happy.”
Vaughan coached the program from 2004-12 before stepping away for six years. He returned to the sidelines last season and guided the Tigers to a division title one year after they had posted a 1-9 record.
“It’s awesome. Coach has been saying all year ‘Leave you legacy.’ This is our legacy,” senior running back Noah Boyd said of earning the program’s first postseason berth since 2006. “I couldn’t be prouder of my brothers and I’m just so happy for the program, for Rising Sun football, for the high school itself. It just means everything.”
Boyd ran 15 times for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday. His 1-yard run put the Tigers ahead 7-0 midway through the opening quarter and he put the game away with 4:34 left in the final period with a 5-yard run to the end zone.
Boyd’s second touchdown capped a 78-yard drive that chewed up nearly four minutes of clock in the fourth quarter after Rising Sun’s Josh Moskes intercepted an Indians’ pass on fourth down.
“It’s 21-14, we had that fourth-and-2, and we made that critical error. It wasn’t the throw by the quarterback, it was a formation error. It would’ve been open for a touchdown and I know it,” North East coach Chris Schleich said. “I’m not going to make excuses, but when one of the No. 1 runners at running back in the state is really hobbled … You could see Jachai [Graham] struggling all game. But I think that our kids fought all year and I’m really proud of them. Not too many North East teams have been in this position, and we should all be proud. It was a good football game and if we played them again, we could win because it was toe-to-toe most of the game.”
The Indians dug themselves into too deep of a hole to climb out of, trailing by two touchdowns after one quarter.
Rising Sun took its 14-0 lead as quarterback Aydon Brown hit running back Ben Ehrhart for a 65-yard touchdown down the right sideline.
“We got the breakaway play we wanted. We were pounding them all game and we eventually broke one loose,” Ehrhart said. “It’s the best feeling ever. For me, it’s just so good beating North East, especially in my last game on this field. It feels great.”
The touchdown pass was similar to many others the Tigers have hit on this year. Their Wing-T, ground-and-pound offense can suck the defense in, leaving a big play open over the top.
“We’ve hit some timely passes here and there,” Vaughan said. “We’ve been working all week long because we thought the flat was going to be open and they’d be coming hard up on the speed. And it was there. It was a nice pass, Drew Opp made a great block on the outside and Ben sprung it free.”
North East cut its deficit to 14-7 by halftime on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brandon Maenner on fourth-and-goal.
After an Indians’ punt on the first possession of the second half, Rising Sun drove 73 yards to reclaim a two-touchdown advantage. The series featured a heavy dose of Boyd.
“We knew it at halftime. We were like ‘We need to get him going,’” Vaughan said. “We didn’t have him going much in the first half. Once he got going in the second half, things turned around for us.”
Ehrhart was the one to finish the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
North East answered again, driving 84 yards. Once again, Maenner punched it in with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The 21-14 score was as close as the Indians would get.
Officials made the decision to call the game with 1:33 still remaining after North East received three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following a single play.
“I’m proud of the whole environment and I’m proud of all the kids at North East. At the end of the game, it was kind of difficult, but I was standing up for my kids,” Schleich said. “I’ve had to do it since the day I took the job because a lot of people around here have never given us respect and that’s my way of standing up for a great group of kids that I love.”
Rising Sun earned the fifth seed in the 2A East Region and will travel to No. 4 Parkside Friday night. North East will meet No. 1 Elkton Friday.
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig