STATE COLLEGE - As the final seconds ran off the clock in State College, the Bishop McDevitt faithful saluted their team with a chant that was nine weeks in the making: "Un-def-eat-ed!"
The Crusaders beat the State College Little Lions 28-17 at Memorial Field on Friday night, sealing the team's first perfect regular season since 2005.
They earned it.
Trailing in the second half for the first time all season, RivalsHigh 100 No. 53 Bishop McDevitt (9-0) was forced to face adversity they had never encountered.
Their response was brilliant.
Down 17-14 in the third quarter, Crusaders running back Jameel Poteat knew his team needed a spark.
The junior running back provided just that when he broke off a 35-yard touchdown run with 5:43 remaining in the quarter to give the Crusaders a lead they would not relinquish.
"Good teams go through adversity," Poteat said. "We made the changes we had to make and we got the job done."
Despite Poteat's score, the Crusaders were not out of the woods yet.
After forcing State College (7-2) to go three-and-out following the touchdown, Bishop McDevitt's Dawan Smith muffed a punt, giving the State College offense prime field position deep in Crusaders' territory.
On a crucial fourth-and-goal from the Bishop McDevitt six-yard line, trailing 21-17, State College head coach Al Wolski opted to go for the touchdown rather than kick a field goal.
The Bishop McDevitt defense made the coach regret his decision, stuffing quarterback Dom Mills at the two-yard line.
"We could have kicked the field goal," lamented Wolski. "I thought we needed seven points instead of three. We just didn't get it done."
The Crusaders never looked back.
Following the pivotal stop, on a third-and-18 from their own 42-yard line with 7:23 left in the game, Bishop McDevitt quarterback Matt Johnson hit senior wide receiver Dan Leonard for a 45-yard pass that stuck the sword in State College's jugular.
"Matt Johnson played a heckuva game," said Bishop McDevitt head coach Jeff Weachter. "Our receivers did a great job too. Not many people appreciate him but Dan Leonard made some big plays.
Running back Jonathan Duckett then punched in a two-yard score giving the Crusaders a 28-17 lead.
Although they trailed later in the game, Bishop McDevitt dominated much of the first half.
The Crusaders took a 7-0 lead with less than a minute left in the first quarter when Duckett powered his way into the end zone for a three-yard run that put Bishop McDevitt out in front.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bishop McDevitt kicker Connor Maloney sent the ball a mile high in the air but not very far downfield.
As the unsuspecting Little Lion fielded the ball, he was rocked by a swarming Crusaders defense that forced and recovered a fumble.
Coach Wolski was disappointed with his player's judgment.
"We practice that play during the week," Wolski said. "We saw it earlier in the game. He should have fair caught it."
Bishop McDevitt immediately capitalized on the turnover when Johnson hit wide receiver Salath Williams on a beautiful fade route in the back corner of the end zone to stake the Crusaders to a 14-0 lead.
The rout was on … or so it seemed.
With 1:48 to go in the second quarter and leading 14-3, Bishop McDevitt was driving in State College territory and appeared on the verge of breaking open the match.
But that's when the Little Lions defense made it a game.
On first-and-10 from the State College 35, senior linebacker Brad Holzwarth sacked Johnson for a 17-yard loss. The next play was met with an even crueler fate, when Johnson's pass went off the outstretched hands of Williams and landed in the arms of Little Lions star, Alex Kenney.
An offensive standout, Kenney sprinted through the Crusaders' offensive line like he does most porous defenses, racing into the end zone for a touchdown.
"Turnovers killed us," Weachter said. "We gave 14 points off them. Our defense played great though. They did the job when they had to."
The biggest difference in the game was the Bishop McDevitt aerial attack against State College's lack of a passing game.
Whereas Johnson connected with multiple Bishop McDevitt receivers for big gains, the longest completion to a receiver for State College came on a fake punt when offensive lineman Aaron Sallade hit tight end Colby Way for a 14-yard reception.
Wolski seemed to be at a loss of words when discussing his team's aerial woes.
"We need to complete some more passes," Wolski said. "That's all we can do. We need to change that."
As for Bishop McDevitt, Friday's win was only another fork in the road on its way to what it hopes will be a banner season.
"Our biggest concern right now is the playoffs," Weachter said. "We just want to stay healthy and keep winning."