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NEPA Miners rally for win over Syracuse
Monday August 5, 2013


Published: August 4, 2013

Syracuse Shock running back Justin Hardwyck might have made more plays than anyone else on turf at Scranton Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, rushing for 205 yards.

But NEPA Miners linebacker Donovan Palmer made the biggest play of the game.

With his team trailing by six midway through the fourth quarter, Palmer forced a fumble with his huge hit on Syracuse quarterback TJ Sheard, which Miners teammate John Kudey returned for a touchdown to help the Miners escape with a 22-20 victory.

"Donovan is a heck of a football player," Miners head coach Darrin McDowell said. "He's got a motor on him. He just omega replica keeps going and going."

The Miners, now 3-0 in Empire Football League competition, were forced to fight back from the game's first offensive play.

Quinn Buckner returned the opening kickoff 28 yards to give the Miners good field position on their opening drive. However, quarterback JP Antosh quickly turned the ball over with a fumble.

But, at that point, Syracuse was unable to take advanatge.

Facing fourth-and-goal from the seven, Sheard pitched the ball to Hardwyck. Palmer and Jimmy Robertson were not fooled, combining for a tackle to end the threat.

After the Miners' ensuing drive, the Shock struck. Sheard scrambled for a 23-yard gain and was tackled just shy of the goal line. Hardwyck plunged into the end zone on the next play, and a two-point conversion gave Syracuse an 8-0 lead.

The advantage increased to 14 early in the second quarter. Following a 78-yard run by Hardwyck, Dewayne Gordon muscled his way to a 4-yard score with 14 minutes remaining in the half.

It looked as though the Miners would enter the break with a two-score deficit, but McKenzy Rene had other thoughts.

The Miners receiver broke free downfield with less than two minutes remaining and hauled in a throw from Antosh for a 56-yard touchdown. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt resulted in a 14-6 halftime score.

During the break, McDowell instructed his team to just keep fighting.

"I just told them to keep it up, keep going," he said. "It's eventually going to get there, and we'll make plays."

Turns out he was correct.

After an opening fourth-down stop by the Miner defense, a 28-yard connection between Antosh and Jay Torres put the Miners inside the Syracuse 10-yard line. After a short gain by Ahmad Shuler, Antosh snuck his way into the end zone. He then found Nico DiSabatino seconds later for a two-point conversion to knot the score at 14.

But Hardwyck just would not relent.

During the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, he sprang loose for a 48-yard gain. Later in the drive, his successful pass attempt set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Sheard.

Down six, the Miners needed someone to make a play.

Palmer did.

He motored toward Sheard on a blitz and leveled him with a thunderous hit. The ball flew into the air and landed right in front of Kudey, who picked it up and scored before Antosh hit Torres on what turned out to be the game-winning two-point conversion.

McDowell was proud of the fact that the entire team refused to give up.

"Tonight, the guys really came together," McDowell said. "When you can come together and win a game out of (adversity), that makes it good."

The Miners will hit the road to face Vermont on Saturday.

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