PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- When Dwayne Collins took an inside handoff to the right side, cut back to the left and raced down the sideline, the Cathedral bench and fans had every reason to believe he was about to tie the game on the Panthers' first possession of the second half.
But Taconic sophomore Anthony Whiteley had other ideas.
Whiteley caught Collins at the 2 to preserve a 14-8 Taconic lead that became a 20-8 win.
"That was the play of the game," Taconic coach Jim Ziter said. "If Whiteley doesn't run him down, it could have been a whole different game. To step up and make that stop -- that was a huge part of the game."
After Whiteley's touchdown-saving tackle, there was still the matter of keeping Cathedral out of the end zone.
On first-and-goal, Tyrell Council stopped Collins behind the line of scrimmage. On second down, a fumbled snap sent the Panthers back to the 9. On third down, Jake McNeice made another TD-saving tackle at the 2.
And after a 5-yard procedure penalty against the Panthers, quarterback Erik Taylor's pass was incomplete on fourth down.
"That's a turning point of our program," Ziter said of the goalline stand. "I mean, last year, that would have never happened. This year, these kids were denying all day.
"The process we've been going through from last year to now -- it just improves every day."
Taconic improved its record to 1-1 with the victory and gave the Berkshire County football league teams an 8-2 record in independent games in the season's first two weeks.
McNeice ran for 88 yards and a touchdown to lead a Taconic rushing attack that amassed 172 yards and nine first downs. Devon Gollman and Whiteley ran for 55 and 33 yards, respectively, and a touchdown apiece.
"It's great," McNeice said. "Every time someone gets tired, we have to more people to go in. And they have fresh legs, and they just want to run and play football."
Gollman said Taconic's backs push each other to excel.
"It's good because it gives all of us a break, but at the same time, we're all out there, and we're all ready to play," he said. "All we do is compete, compete, compete. You've got to fight for your position. That's how I think of it."
Taconic's offense got off to a rocky start with a fumble at midfield on its first possession. But two plays later, Cathedral (1-1) gave the ball right back at the Taconic 43.
Eight plays later, Whiteley punched it in from the 1 to make it 6-0. Zach Gage hit Devon Walker in the end zone to give Taconic an 8-0 lead.
Cathedral responded with a 61-yard drive that ended in a 20-yard run by Taylor. Taylor then ran in the two-point conversion to tie the score.
A 24-yard punt return by McNeice set up Taconic at the Panthers' 14, and two plays later Gollman barrelled into the end zone to put his team ahead to stay.
It was 14-8 going into the second half, and it stayed that way thanks to McNeice's heroics.
Cathedral's next possession ended with an interception by Council.
"I was just waiting for the moment," the Taconic lineman said. "He lofted the ball, and I was there.
"Then I just ran. I ran as far as I can."
After Council's short return, the teams traded punts into the fourth quarter.
Taconic took over at midfield early in the quarter and got some insurance when McNeice broke free for a 47-yard TD that put the game out of reach.
Taconic hosts Lee next Saturday.