On the first chilly night of the 2019 campaign, it was only fitting that Oil City's football team kept its cool when it mattered most.
After watching a 14-point first half lead evaporate into a seven-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, the Oilers came up clutch when it mattered most - and standout running back Noah Petro in particular.
Petro capped off a five-touchdown, 357-yard peformance by scoring on a 10-yard run with just 33 seconds remaining in the game before then plunging in for the ensuing 2-point conversion to give Oil City a 34-33 victory over Meadville at the Oil Field on Friday night.
And, it wasn't just any victory. The Region 7 clash locked up at least a share of the region title for the Oilers as they improved to 7-0 overall on the year and 5-0 in the conference while dropping Meadville to 5-2 and 4-1.
"We've got some good leaders on this team," Oil City head coach Dan York said after the dramatic comeback win. "We suck it up and we're never out of it."
Especially with Petro in your backfield.
The 6-1, 215-pound senior workhorse pounded the Bulldogs' defense from the get-go as he carried the ball four times on the game's opening drive for 54 yards, including a seven-yard scoring plunge over the right tackle that gave the Oilers a 6-0 lead after the snap on the extra point was botched.
On the Oilers next possession, they put the ball on the turf and the Bulldogs recovered at the OC 45 before fullback Aryan Cotterman capped off an eight-play drive with a one-yard TD plunge to even the score after they also failed on their point after.
The Blue and White responded quickly, though, regaining the lead on a four-play drive with that fourth play being a 44-yard sprint to daylight from Petro. Cam Russell added a 2-point conversion run that gave OC a 14-6 edge heading into the second frame.
That lead swelled to 20-6 at the 7:24 mark of the quarter when Petro provided the exclamation point on a seven-play, 91-yard drive with yet another 44-yard jaunt to paydirt.
Meadville, however, refused to fade away as it fired back with a 64-yard drive that was highlight by runs of 14 and 18 yards by Cotterman, leading to a one-yard TD keeper by quarterback Landon Beck. That pulled the Bulldogs to within 20-12, where the score would remain until the half.
Coming out of the break, Meadville went back on the offensive, needing just four plays to score, with Beck providing the big blow bootleg around the left side of the defense that he ended up taking 46 yards to the endzone. Sam Burchard added the extra point to pull the Bulldogs to within 20-19 with 10:15 left in the third.
The Bulldogs completed their comeback on their next possession when Beck used the bootleg to score again on a three-yard TD that finished off a 68-yard march. That drive bridged the third and fourth quarters, giving Meadville a 26-20 lead after the extra point with 9:46 left to play in the game.
The situation went from bad to worse for Oil City when Petro mishandled a pitch from quarterback Holden Stahl on the next play from scrimmage, putting the ball on the ground. Logan Hawn pounced on it for Meadville, setting the Bulldogs up in prime position at the OC 27.
They looked poised to capitalize on the mistake, driving down inside the 5-yard line, but Cotterman returned the favor by having the ball punched out at the 2, where Dakota Cole jumped on it.
That gave Petro a chance to make up for his mistake, and he did so in record-breaking fashion by taking the next play around the right side of the defense for a 98-yard sprint that tied the game at 26-all.
It was the longest carry in school history, besting Bert McClellan's 97-yard run against Strong Vincent in 1997.
The Bulldogs, though, were undeterred as they fired right back with an eight-play, 63-yard march that saw Cotterman cross the goalline from 23 yards out to put Meadville back in front, 33-26, after the PAT with 3:40 left in the game.
That left Oil City with just enough time for one more drive.
It started at its own 34 and was jumpstarted by an 11-yard keeper from Stahl before he passed to Cole on a quick out pattern that picked up 11 more yards. After another run from Stahl - this one for three yards - it was Petro's turn again, and he carried tacklers for a 17-yard gain. But, the play ended with him lying in pain on the field again, requiring him to exit to the sideline. He spent two plays there - a Russell four-yard run and an incomplete pass - before returning at the 1:06 mark.
The Oilers went right back to him as picked up seven-yards before Stahl rushed for two more. Petro then fittingly provided the scoring blow, bulldozing his way in from 10 yards out on a toss play to the right with just 33 seconds left on the clock.
That pulled OC to within 33-32, setting up a decisive 2-point conversion that saw the Oilers once again toss right to Petro. And, once again he drove his way into the endzone for the winning points.
"Noah just works hard and he runs hard," York said. "When he puts his shoulder down, he's just not going to be denied."