ARMAGH — Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff has used words like powerful, talented and blessed to describe running back Grant Syster.
On Friday night, Syster became historic.
Syster rushed for 354 yards and scored six touchdowns in the Red Dragons’ 63-30 victory over United in a Heritage Conference football game at Thomas J. Madill Field.
Syster, who was responsible for 44 of his team’s points, broke the Purchase Line single-season rushing record with a 31-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. The previous record of 1,808 yards was held by Overdorff, who set the mark in 1990.
“It’s a very special night,” Overdorff said. “To be his coach, and have him break the record, that’s special. He’s done a lot of hard work to be where he is. He deserves it.
“It’s a great night for him, a great night for Purchase Line history and a good win. … It’s special for me to coach the kid who broke my record. That doesn’t happen every day. I told him to remember who blessed him and to keep working hard, and I wouldn’t have wanted any other kid to break it. He earned it.”
Syster, who has rushed for 2,030 yards this season, is only 102 away from the area’s single-season record of 2,132, which was set by Penns Manor’s Danny Ferens in 2011. Ferens set the record in his junior season, when the Comets played 14 games and advanced to the state semifinals. Syster is on track to break it in nine games and hasn’t been held under 100 yards in a game yet this season. Overdorff’s record was also set in 14 games.
“It feels great,” Syster said of reaching his coach’s mark. “He’s known around here as the legend of the ’90 team. He’s known for coaching now, but he’s even more known for running the ball in the ’90s.”
Syster scored on runs of 71, 12, 31, 71 and 64 yards and had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“He’s very good defensively, and he’s obviously very good on special teams,” Overdorff said. “He’s a great football player, and obviously, the stats don’t lie. Hats off to our offensive line, too, because he had some gaping holes tonight and has all year. We should go down the list and name all the guys that block for him because they’re pretty special, too.”
Syster is only the seventh area player — and the first running back — to amass more than 2,000 total yards in a season.
“I don’t know what happens,” he said. “I just lower my shoulders and hope I can get through. I’m just looking good because (the line) is doing great again.”
On just the second play from scrimmage Friday night, Syster took off for his first of the two 71-yard touchdown runs to give the Red Dragons an early 8-0 lead.
“Defensively, we struggled a little bit tackling,” United interim coach Scott Boring said. “Of course, Grant Syster is tough to bring down. He’s a good running back. When we came in, we knew what he was, and our goal was to try to keep the ball on offense to keep it out of his hands. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.”
The Lions turned the ball over on their first play and gave Purchase Line excellent field position at the United 30-yard line. Syster struck again, and the Red Dragons went up 16-0 in what looked like it was going to be a blowout.
But on the next possession, United’s Warren Lowther, who saw limited playing time this season, broke away for a 41-yard touchdown to put the Lions back in the game.
Lowther rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns for United, which was operating under the interim coach after Lance Holupka was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday. School officials declined to comment as to why Holupka was relieved of his duties as head coach.
The Lions are 1-17 in the past two seasons and had scored just 40 points this season before Friday night’s game.
Lowther also scored on runs of 1 and 65 yards. Entering the game, he had 13 carries for 95 yards.
“We know a lot about Warren because when he was a sophomore, we came over here and he returned a kickoff against us,” Overdorff said. “We know he has speed and we know he has moves, and we didn’t tackle. He burnt us, and he’s a good back. That kid played a great game, and he should be proud.”
Beau Sheriff returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, and quarterback Jesse Beacker also scored for the Lions.
Hunter Rice added two touchdowns for Purchase Line, and Shamar Campbell scored one.
The game was never really close, but the Red Dragons had a hard time putting it away. They previously played in four straight games that came down to the wire.
“Our offense was stellar, but defensively, we’ve got to get better,” Overdorff said. “They executed and they moved the ball on us. We’re not playing with the physicality that we need to play with at this point in the year, and that’s a challenge we have to come back next week and try to answer.”
And next week won’t be easy with a 6-2 Penns Manor team coming to town. The neighboring schools have a longtime rivalry and will be battling for a large chunk of points that count toward the District 6 Class A standings. Entering the weekend, the Comets were in sixth place with 570 points, and the Red Dragons were eighth with 460. The top eight make it into the playoffs.
“I haven’t seen them a lot on tape, but I know they have a lot of athletes and a lot of speed,” Overdorff said of the Comets. “They’re talented. They’re on top of the mountain, and we’re climbing the ladder to try to get there. We have a lot of work to do because we know they’re a good football team.”