Published Date Written by Tom Klemick
Julius’ 46-yard kick sends LD to the District 3 title game for first time in nearly 20 years
Overcome with emotion, Lower Dauphin kicker Joe Julius wiped tears of joy from his eyes as he stood on the football field with his teammates, listening to the marching band play the alma mater after one of the biggest games in school history.
Just moments earlier, Julius, the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville-bound soccer star, lined up for the biggest kick of his life with a chance to cement his LD legacy – not by coming up clutch on the soccer pitch, but on the gridiron.
Just 16 seconds remained on the game clock. The Falcons were tied with Wilson, the defending District 3 Class AAAA champion, at 14 in a semifinal district tournament game. A light rain fell from the heavens. The snap was high, but holder Jason Shellenberger got it do wn.
Julius struck the bottom of the ball, sending it high into the night.
It was on target. And by the length of just a few footballs, it had the distance, sneaking over the crossbar from 46 yards out.
Ten seconds and two failed Wilson pass attempts later, the Falcons (12-1) had beaten Wilson 17-14 on Friday, Nov. 22. They stormed the field at John Gurski Stadium in West Lawn having just earned a berth in the District 3 championship game for the first time in nearly 20 years.
“Nothing was going through my mind. I just kicked it,” said Julius after being swarmed by reporters following his game-winner. “I was so nervous. I’ve been waiting for that for four years, so I’m so happy that happened. I love these guys more than anything. We’ve been through the worst times and now we’re going through the best. It’s awesome.”
Coach Rob Klock called Julius “an unbelievable weapon.’’
“He really is a great kicker, but Friday night he showed he is also a pretty cool customer,” Klock said.
That cool customer’s clutch kick was the culmination of the entire team’s hard-fought effort that lifted the fourth-seeded Falcons over the top-seeded Bulldogs (12-1).
The Falcons set the tone offensively on their opening possession. After the defense forced the Bulldogs to punt, LD took over at its own 19-yard line with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter. The Falcons ran right at Wilson, and 18 plays and 10:24 later quarterback Troy Spencer ran the zone-read option to perfection when he faked an inside give and ran 7 yards off right end for a touchdown. Julius’ extra-point gave Lower Dauphin the early 7-0 advantage with 10:10 left in the second quarter.
“That first drive gave our offense some confidence,” said Klock about his team’s dominant opening march. “Going 18 plays and finishing with a touchdown was huge.”
After their first two drives ended in punts, the Bulldogs showed why they had yet to lose a game when, on their third possession, they responded by driving 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Running back Shane Dantzler gashed LD’s strong defensive front for 13 yards and a score that tied the game with 1:06 left in the first half.
Lower Dauphin got a spark to begin the third quarter when Nate Dorwart returned the second half kickoff to Wilson’s 45-yard line. The Falcons broke out a trusted trick play for the third time this season when Dorwart took an end around from Spencer and hit tight end Trey Klock downfield for a 25-yard gain.
Spencer took matters into his own hands for the second time, punctuating the seven-play drive by keeping the ball and scampering off left end before lowering his shoulder, laying out a Bulldog defender, and crossing the goal line. Julius converted the PAT to put LD up 14-7 with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter.