Late in the fourth quarter against Wyomissing, with its hopes of reaching the District 3 Class AA championship on the line, Littlestown needed to make a stop, and it got one.
The Thunderbolts forced a turnover on downs, and the Bolts came away with a 29-23 semifinal victory Friday night at Memorial Field to reach the district championship game for the first time since 2005.
In the process, Littlestown defeated the Wyomissing team that had ended its season in the quarterfinal round in each of the last two seasons.
"Being the eighth seed the last two years, we had to go take our spanking at their place," Littlestown head coach Mike Lippy said. "So it was nice to have them here at our place tonight."
Littlestown (12-0) will make its seventh appearance in a district championship game and looks to bring home its fourth crown, the first since 2004. The Bolts will face Berks Catholic (12-0) -- a 42-14 winner over Bermudian Springs -- at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
"We figure we have nothing to lose next week," Lippy said. "Berks Catholic must be a helluva team if they beat Bermudian like that. But we'll go to Hershey and give it our best shot."
The Bolts trailed all night until a Dustin DeGroft touchdown run from three yards out with 4:09 left in the game put them in front 29-23.
Wyomissing took over after the kickoff at its own 46 and wasted little team pushing into Littlestown's red zone. The Spartans had a second down at the Bolts' 16 with just under two minutes to go.
However, a seven-yard loss on a scramble by quarterback Scott Kuczala, followed by Darren Dickensheets' sack on third down put the Spartans back at the 24 on fourth-and-18. An incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs with 1:10 remaining.
Littlestown couldn't earn a first down and had to punt, but Wyomissing's last-ditch effort ended in an interception by Littlestown's L.J. Miles. It was his second pick of the night.
Miles' first theft came on a fourth-down play early in the fourth quarter and he returned it from his own 6 to his own 33.
That's where Littlestown's winning drive started, and a lot of it came on the legs DeGroft. A 16-yard pickup by Trevor Hildebrand put the Bolts inside the Spartan 5.
The visitors had taken a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter on the strength of two bruising scoring drives. They started the game with a nine-play, 54-yard march, capped by Scott McAvoy's 2-yard scoring run. The Spartans later mounted a 16-play, 65-yard foray that ended when Kuczala hooked up with Tom Paolini for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Following Paolini's touchdown, Peter Geyer snared a tipped pass out of the air and took it 34 yards to put the visitors in front, 21-7, with 7:46 to go until halftime.
Hildebrand's 29-yard touchdown run on a keeper around the left end cut the deficit to 21-14 with 0:41 to go until the break, and DeGroft capped the opening drive of the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
"We couldn't stop them, but they couldn't stop us either, early," Lippy said. "Then we threw a pick and it put us in a hole.
"But we scored right before halftime and felt great going into the locker room."
Wyomissing took a 23-21 lead late in third quarter on a safety, but after racking up 11 first downs in the first 16 minutes of the game, the Spartans managed just four more the rest of the way.
"We couldn't do anything consistently on offense after the first two drives," Wyomissing head coach Bob Wolfrum said. "We had the ball in their territory twice with a 14-point lead and couldn't add to it.
"Then we gave up a score right before the half and they went in with a lot of confidence."
DeGroft finished the night with a game-high 119 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 23 carries.
Wyomissing 7 14 2 0 -- 23
Littlestown 7 7 7 8 -- 29
Wyo -- Scott McAvoy 2 run (John Masano kick) 7:10
Lt -- Dustin DeGroft 14 run (Jeff Garmen kick) 4:04
Wyo -- Tom Paolini 6 pass from Scott Kuczala (Masano kick) 8:53
Wyo -- Peter Geyer 34 interception return (Masano kick) 7:46
Lt -- Trevor Hildebrand 29 run (Garmen kick) 0:41
Lt -- DeGroft 1 run (Garmen kick) 8:30
Wyo -- Safety Brandon Workman tackled Hildebrand in end zone 3:26
Lt -- DeGroft 3 run (Todd Cook pass from Hildebrand) 4:09
First downs 15 19
Rushes-yards 49-154 37-195
Passing 5-12-3 8-18-2
Passing yards 73 89
Total yards 227 284
Punts 2-27.5 4-26.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-50 2-14
Rushing -- Wyomissing, Paolini 14-79, McAvoy 10-30, Bryan Weber 6-22, Jack Baker 9-21, Caleb Naylor 4-18, Geyer 1-11, Kuczala 5-(-27). Littlestown, DeGroft 23-119, Hildebrand 10-62, Lucas Reynolds 3-10, L.J. Miles 1-4.
Passing -- Wyomissing, Kuczala 5-12-73-3. Littlestown, Hildebrand 8-17-89-2, Reynolds 0-1-0-0.
Receiving -- Wyomissing, Paolini 2-32, Sean Smith 1-30, McAvoy 1-7, Finnegan Daly 1-4. Littlestown, Garrett Trout 5-62, Reynolds 3-27.