No matter the opponent, Eric Nangle and his Exeter teammates weren’t going to be denied.
Despite suffering a lopsided loss to Gov. Mifflin eight weeks earlier, Nangle and his teammates believed they could pull off what many thought was nearly impossible and win the District 3 Class 5A title game.
Nangle rushed for 225 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter Friday night to lead Exeter to a 31-28 win over defending champion and previously undefeated Gov. Mifflin in Shillington.
Gov. Mifflin (10-1) had defeated Exeter 54-21 Oct. 8 in Reiffton en route to a second straight undefeated regular season.
“We knew we could compete with them,” Nangle said. “We didn’t fear anyone. Everyone doubted us coming into this game. We had nothing to lose. We just took it like that.”
The victory, which gave Exeter its first District 3 championship, put the Eagles in the PIAA 5A semifinals next week. They will face the winner of Saturday’s Moon vs. Penn-Trafford District 7 championship game.
The District 3 final was billed as a matchup between Gov. Mifflin’s Nick Singleton, Berks County’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, and Nangle, who had 332 yards rushing and more than 400 yards in offense in last week’s semifinal win at Cedar Cliff.
But with Nangle and Exeter controlling the clock, Singleton’s touches were limited. He had a 51-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and a 2-yard TD run in the third. But Singleton was limited to 40 yards on eight rushes and carried just once for the touchdown in the entire second half.
Meanwhile, Nangle carried 41 times and also had two receptions, including one that went 33 yards for a touchdown, one of three TD passes thrown by Colin Payne.
“I think they knew that they could compete,” said Exeter coach Matt Bauer. “We talked about momentum swings and controlling the clock. We executed that to perfection.”
Exeter (10-3) jumped out a 21-7 lead in the first half. Payne threw a pair of touchdown passes to Joey Schlaffer and hit Nangle for another score.
But Gov. Mifflin battled back. The Mustangs got a 9-yard touchdown run by quarterback Eden Johnson late in the first half, then opened the second half with a 60-yard touchdown drive to tie it. Singleton lined up as a wide receiver on the first seven plays of the drive before running in from the 2.
Following a short punt, Gov. Mifflin took its first lead on 28-yard run by Johnson. With a 28-21 lead and all the momentum on their side, the Mustangs seemed on their way to winning the District 3 title many felt was inevitable.
Unfazed, Exeter came back to regain control. The Eagles drove from their own 27 to the Gov. Mifflin 1 before a penalty pushed them back and forced them to settle for Mikey Moser’s 22-yard FG in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Gov. Mifflin couldn’t handle the ensuing kickoff and Exeter recovered at the 40.
After three plays netted 9 yards, Exeter faced a fourth-and-1 at the 31. Nangle got the call, picked up the first down and then broke out of a pack to finish a 31-yard TD run.
“It was hard to get holes but when we found them we hit them hard,” Nangle said. “This is incredible. No one thought we could have done this except for us.”
Gov. Mifflin went three-and-out on its next possession and punted with 7:35 left. With Nangle running and Payne completing a couple of key passes, the Eagles were able to run out the clock and celebrate their first District 3 championship with special thanks to Nangle.
“We weren’t going to take the ball out of his hands, especially when he’s falling forward for 4 and 5 yards at a pop,” Bauer said. “He won’t be denied. His yards after contact are unheard of in my opinion. He belongs with the best.”
Source: Berkshire mont