Neshannock was 2 yards from the end zone and three points behind Sto-Rox with fourth down coming up and 10 seconds left on the clock in a matchup of WPIAL Class A powers.
The Lancers went for the win, pitching the ball to Gianni Oliva, who already had two rushing touchdowns from short distance.
Oliva lowered his head and ran right for the goal line but could only push a yard before the Sto-Rox defense came up with its biggest stop so far this season.
Sto-Rox, ranked No. 2 in Class A, then ran out the clock to come up with a thrilling, 34-31 victory Thursday against No. 3 Neshannock at a wet Sto-Rox Memorial Stadium.
The finish was a near replica of the game between the two teams last season, but Neshannock scored last year to win.
"We can't let this happen again," Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams said of his team's mindset before the fourth-down stop. "They got down to the goal line, and we were like, 'Y'all want to let this happen again or not?' We stopped them four downs; last 20 seconds we stopped them.
"It's like last year. We've been in this situation before, but last year we didn't come through. We didn't want to let history repeat itself, so we knew we had to man up and get this win, and that's what we did."
With the win, the Vikings improved to 3-0 and gained the inside track on the Big Seven Conference title; Neshannock fell to 2-1.
Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio asked his team if they wanted to go for the tying field goal or the win, and they gambled on victory.
"Once we got down there at the end of the game in that situation, when there was a timeout, I called my kids over and I asked them, I put it in their hands," Mozzocio said.
"They wanted to go for the win. We went for the win and won't second-guess that. We laid it on the line, and I'm proud of them that they had the confidence to want to go for the win.
"Last year, same type of game, we were on the other side of it. That's just the way football is."
Williams finished with 283 yards and five touchdowns on 14 of 25 passing while becoming the Vikings' all-time completions leader.
He also moved closer to WPIAL all-time records for passing yards and touchdowns.
Sto-Rox was in trouble late, trailing 31-28 and facing a fourth-and-13 after taking a delay of game penalty.
No problem for Williams. Sto-Rox kept all but two receivers in to block, allowing Williams time to go deep to Javell Kirkland for a touchdown that put the Vikings up, 34-31, with 5:08 to play.
Kirkland finished with three receptions -- all touchdowns -- for 101 yards.
Neshannock's Eli Owens ran for 121 yards on 23 carries and quarterback Ernie Burke ran for 158 yards and a score, aided by a 66-yard touchdown that came on a fake punt. Neshannock led at halftime, 23-22.
"Definitely one of the craziest [games]," Williams said. "We knew it was going to be like that.
Nick Veronica: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @NickVeronica. First Published September 13, 2013 4:00 AM