Mustangs lose 18-15 heart breaker to first place Pal-Mac

Gary Pinneo
The Penn Yan varsity cheer squad poses with Doug Westerdahl behind the flag he presented to the school before the Mustangs football game Oct. 9. He and his brother, Steve, were members of the PYA class of 1975. The brothers earned varsity letters in football, tennis and track.

As the old adage goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. 

But sometimes close in an athletic event can mean a lot.  It is a sign of determination and improvement.  The Penn Yan Mustang football team entertained the first place Pal-Mac Red Raiders on Friday evening at Mustang Field.  The Red Raiders came to town sporting a perfect 5-0 record and were sharing first place in the Finger Lakes East with Midlakes. 

They had outscored their opponents 141-39 and are enjoying their best season in their school's football history.  The Mustangs, on the other hand could show only a single win in league against four loses. Crunching the numbers, few would have given Penn Yan much of chance against the visiting Wayne County Raiders. 

But the Orange and Blue gave their lofty visitors all they could handle in this contest.  After spotting Penn Yan a 9-0 lead in the first half, Pal-Mac had to struggle to score three touchdowns and hang on for a 18-15 win to remain undefeated. 

Despite a gallant effort by the Mustangs, their upset bid would come up just short.  Pal-Mac survived the scare and remained undefeated. 

They will play Midlakes this weekend for the league title. Pal-Mac timidly left town with the narrow win, fortunate to still have their unblemished record.

The Mustangs struck quickly in the first quarter.  The Mustang Field crowd barely had gotten damp on this drizzly night when Penn Yan quarterback Scott Miller connected with Adam Stork on a 68 yard passing play for a touchdown.  Anthony Luppino nailed the extra point and the Mustangs quickly led 7-0. 

A little later in the opening period, Penn Yan upped their lead to 9-0, thanks again to Miller. He upended a Pal-Mac runner in their end zone for a two point safety. 

The first quarter ended with the hometown Mustangs leading 9-0 and a feeling of upset in the air.

Pal-Mac rebounded in the second quarter, scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard run.  The P.A.T. was unsuccessful.  The first half ended with Penn Yan still enjoying a 9-6 lead.

The Red Raiders tallied two touchdowns in the second half on a couple of short runs. They grabbed a 12-9 lead in the third quarter and extended this lead to 18-9 early in the final stanza. 

But Penn Yan wasn't finished yet. Adam Stork scored his second touchdown of the game midway through the final quarter.  He broke loose and galloped 66 yards for the score.  The two point P.A.T. attempt failed, but Penn Yan trailed by just three points with quite a bit of time remaining in the game. 

The Mustangs continued to fight. They had the ball one more time late in the game.  Penn Yan drove to the Pal-Mac 30 yard line with the clock winding down. 

But their almost winning drive was short circuited by an interception with just 10 seconds remaining.  Pal-Mac held on for the narrow win.

Offensively for Penn Yan, Adam Stork had a solid game,  catching four passes for 101 yards and grabbing a touchdown pass.  He also ran for 68 yards and another score and completed another pass for 20 yards. 

Senior quarterback Scott Miller threw for 156 yards and a touchdown.  He also played very well defensively accounting for a safety. 

In fact, the entire Penn Yan defense played a spirited game, holding the powerful Red Raiders to just three scores. 

For Penn Yan, it was a loss on the scoreboard, but there was a lot to be happy about.  Penn Yan Head Coach Bill LaRock is happy with his team's effort. 

"I'm ecstatic with how our kids are playing.  Every week we seem to be coming back in games. We're improving every week and we're so close,"  he said.

The Mustangs wish the season was just starting.  But Penn Yan closes out their regular season schedule on Friday at home against the Geneva Panthers.  

Kickoff at Mustang Field is scheduled for 7 p.m.