This wasn't working, Alex Anzalone
thought to himself.
That subconscious siren in his head kept repeating, I don't make mistakes like this
. He was killing his team. And slowly, killing himself with the throbbing idea burning his temples that if Wyomissing (Pa.)
didn't capture its first PIAA state Class AA state championship, it would be his fault
Anzalone, the Spartans' 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior fullback/linebacker, wasn't about to leave for Notre Dame in a month without toting a little hardware with him. Two Anzalone fumbles led to two Aliquippa (Pa.)
touchdowns, but Anzalone restored all order—and made things right with himself—with a sterling second half in leading Wyomissing to a come-from-behind 17-14 victory over Aliquippa in the PIAA Class AA state championship before 5,530 on Saturday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.
Wyomissing captured its first state championship in school history, finishing 16-0, establishing a school single-season record for wins.
led the way offensively with two touchdowns, including a 36-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give Wyomissing a 17-14 lead it would not relinquish.
Senior kicker Jonah Bowman
added to the lore of the 2012 Spartans by booming a 52-yard field goal that created a record for the longest field goal in Pennsylvania state championship history.
It was Bowman's boot that not only snapped the Pennsylvania championship game record, formerly a 45-yarder previously held by Bethlehem Catholic's Tony Lasiello vs. Wilmington in 1988. Bowman also now owns the Pennsylvania state playoff record, which was previously a 47-yarder held by Bishop McCort's Matt Domoncos in the state quarterfinals vs. Sharon in 2001.
"I was patiently sitting on the sidelines, counted out and realized it was a 52-yard field goal and got the goose bumps when the coach called my name," said Bowman, who's getting lukewarm interest from colleges. "I went to camp this past summer and I hit a 62-yard field goal, but to throw on the pads and helmet and everything, with the pressure of the state championship, it still hasn't sunk in yet."
The victory redeemed Anzalone, whose fumble on the Spartans' first possession led to
's 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter. In the second quarter, an Anzalone muffed punt was converted into Henry's second score, a 10-yard run that gave Aliquippa (15-1) a 14-7 lead going into halftime.
"I put that on myself," Anzalone said. "Turnovers can lose a game, and my seniors helped me Put it behind me and did my best. I told our guys at halftime that I had to pick my game and make plays. I wasn't doing anything on offense and I had to step up on defense. I was a little angry at myself. I can go to Notre Dame knowing I won a state title and I did it with a bunch of guys who are my best friends."
That motivational push came out on Anzalone's forced fumble early in the third quarter, which set up Bowman's amazing kick. Later in the quarter, Anzalone broke up a pass in the Red Zone, where Aliquippa was 2-for-6.
"I thought we played better defense after the first half," Spartans coach Bob Wolfrum said. "Alex had a couple of tough breaks early, and responded. He's not going to let a mistake or two get him down. We knew we had a shot to be good this year, but you never know. We had to score with 20 seconds left to beat Schuylkill Valley [37-33, on Dec. 1]. We knew we had a special team and a chance to be special. We've had a bunch of great teams here and great players, but obviously this is the greatest team in the school's history. We started six sophomores two years ago. It's nice to see them get the big prize."