Panthers snap skid vs. Tech, secure winning season 20-14

Tucker Reed of Polytech triesto fight his way past Sussex Tech’s Jamiles Small on a punt return in the first half. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

WOODSIDE — With a clutch touchdown near the end of the game and a stifling defense throughout, Polytech High School’s football team was able to defeat rival Sussex Tech for the first time in more than a decade and also guaranteed itself that it would have a winning season.

The Panthers also battled through some adversity in the form of high snaps and interceptions, but prevailed — once again.

Junior quarterback Vincent Tascione connected with senior wide receiver Tucker Reed on a 14-yard touchdown pass with just 24.4 seconds remaining to lead the Panthers to a thrilling 20-14 victory over Sussex Tech in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division game on a full moon Friday night.

Ravens running back Michael Norsworthy takes a handoff around the right side in game Friday night against Polytech. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

The Ravens got the ball back one last time but were unable to move it against Polytech’s stingy defense, which, fittingly, ended the game by sacking sophomore quarterback Ricky Kane.

“This is a relief off of my back because last year they beat us,” Tascione said, of Sussex Tech. “This year beating them is really a relief and also ensures that we’ll have a winning season now.”

Polytech snapped a two-game-losing streak to improve to 3-2 in the Northern Division, 6-3 overall. The Ravens slipped to 1-4, 3-6 with their third-straight loss.

AJ Foster of Polytech breaks into the open past Sussex Tech cornerback Rayshone Teagle. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

It came right down to the end for Polytech, which took over at its’ own 32-yard line and the game tied 14-14 with 2:20 remaining.

The play that took the Panthers into scoring position came when senior running back A.J. Foster caught a short pass from Tascione and sprinted 38 yards to Sussex Tech’s 17 before he was pushed out of bounds by Tyzhir Morris.

Just three plays later, Reed was able to get open and make the game-deciding catch.

“That was a skinny post slant where I just try to get inside of the (defensive back) because there was no safety over top, so if I got inside it was wide open,” Reed said. “It was a perfect ball by the quarterback right to my chest.

“When we really needed to move the ball our offensive line and all of our players really stepped up.”

Foster rushed for 52 yards on 18 carries and Tascione completed 7 of 22 passes for 149 yards and a pair of interceptions for Polytech, which outgained the Ravens 206-130 in total yards.

Junior running back Michael Norsworthy gained 82 rushing yards on 17 carries for Sussex Tech, which was limited to just 13 yards passing.

“Honestly, both sides of the ball played great,” said Polytech senior lineman Zachary Lott. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without the defensive line standing up for us.

“I just kept my fundamentals down and played the best game that I could.”

Sussex Tech quarterback Ricky Kane hands off to Michael Norsworthy in the 2nd quarter. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

A couple of Polytech miscues led to the pair of touchdowns by Sussex Tech.

On the first play of the Panthers’ second possession of the game a high snap sailed over Tascione’s head and Sussex Tech junior linebacker Trey Hatfield recovered it in the end zone for a TD. The first of two PAT kicks by senior Michael Barr gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead.

Polytech answered with a 9-play, 68-yard drive and scored its first TD when junior running back Montrell Jones hauled in a short pass to the left side before bursting to the end zone for a 28-yard score with 3:43 left in the opening quarter.

Caleb Tascione then missed a 28-yard PAT kick attempt following a holding penalty as the Ravens held on to a 7-6 lead.

However, the Panthers fought right back.

After Reed had a 23-yard reception on a fourth-and-11 play from Sussex Tech’s 26, Foster rumbled through the middle of the line for a 3-yard TD. Tascione ran a keeper for the two-point conversion as Polytech took a 14-7 lead with 7:04 left until halftime.

Then, another high snap that got by Reed while he was taking a turn at quarterback in the third quarter was recovered by the Ravens at the Panthers’ 31.

Kane snuck into the end zone from two-yard out just two plays later as Sussex Tech tied it 14-14 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Barr missed a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left for Sussex Tech before Reed came up with his clutch touchdown.

“They were putting everyone inside the box and had about nine guys blitzing, but we made it work on offense,” Tascione said. “Thank God for my receivers here, they did a tremendous job and the line did their job and I just had to do my job at the end of the night.”

For Smith, the last 24 seconds of the game couldn’t have lasted any longer.

“I think they got three plays in with 13 seconds to go and I just wanted that clock to just hurry up and run out,” the Polytech coach said. “It’s a good win. It’s another that we’ve had this year where we’ve had to battle through adversity and come up at the end and make plays and we did that.”

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