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Lancers defense came up big vs. Mounties

Written by: on Saturday, October 26th, 2019

 

DANIELLE FIORINI/Sun-Gazette Correspondent South Williamsport’s Zack Miller gets tackled as he attempts to run by Loyalsock on Friday night at South Williamsport.

Loyalsock split its first two 2019 games and the defense felt unsatisfied. The Lancers allowed 57 points in those games before holding a meeting and addressing that issue.

That marked a significant turning point.

Loyalsock changed its approach and its mentality. Now, a team long associated with explosive offense is looking like a hard-nosed, physical, blue-collar group that can take games over.

It certainly was that way Friday at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium. The defense dominated again, allowing just 132 yards and shutting out South Williamsport over the final three quarters as Loyalsock defeated the Mounties, 24-7. Davion Hill ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns, Chase Cavanaugh (164 total yards) ran for another and Loyalsock (7-3) ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.

“We had a little talk as a team and we said we want to be nasty in the games and in practice and how that could flip over to the game,” outside linebacker Aiden Gair said after making 10 tackles. “That’s what is happening right now.”

“This year we want to be known as a tough team,” linebacker Joeb Schurer said after making a game-high 14 tackles. “Loyalsock has not been known as the toughest team before, but we wanted to come together and show people that we’re tough and strong.”

The Lancers have done that quite well the last four weeks. That stingy unit has played a major role in helping Loyalsock vault to the No. 2 seed in District 4 Class AAA. The Lancers will host either Danville or Mifflinburg in next weekend’s quarterfinals. South will be the No. 4 seed in Class A and play at Canton.

The starting defense has surrendered just four touchdowns during this winning streak and limited South to 75 yards during its final seven possessions. Loyalsock bottled up South’s strong running game over the last three quarters, constantly harassed the quarterback and played well at all three levels. That has been a common theme throughout the last eight weeks with Loyalsock lowering its yards allowed average to 228 per game.

Linemen Malaki Parlante and Aeden Holler each had sacks, Parlante dropped Zack Miller for a 2-yard loss on a critical third-quarter third-and-1 when it was 14-7 and the Lancers adjusted well after South took a 7-0 lead on a 12-play first-quarter drive. South crossed midfield just twice the rest of the way and never moved inside the 35-yard line again.

“Looking at film all week, we know how South plays and they always have a big running back,” Schurer said. “We knew they were going to pound it, so at the beginning we were trying to shift and we finally found out what was working so we stuck with that.”

That 12-play, 66-yard Mountie touchdown drive was classic South. The Mountie offensive line blew up holes and Luke Winner, Lane Lusk and Zack Miller churned out yards and ran clock as South methodically moved the ball downfield. Lusk capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown and South took nearly eight minutes off the clock while taking a 7-0 lead.

“I cannot say enough about how they came out and put that drive together,” South coach Chris Eiswerth. “They were crisp, they didn’t make any mistakes and they held up very nicely.”

Cavanaugh and Hill ran for second-quarter touchdowns and Loyalsock took a 14-7 halftime lead, but South hung tough with the Class AAA title contenders all night and it did not become a three-score game until the fourth quarter when Hill’s bruising 11-yard touchdown run made it 24-7. The Mounties held Loyalsock to 291 yards, below its season average, but short fields following a fumble on a bad snap and a short punt proved difficult to overcome.

South dressed only 22 players last night, but again showed why it will be dangerous in districts. The Mounties concluded their second half gauntlet of a schedule against bigger schools that will be competing for district and/or state titles. They are tough and resourceful players who often have switched positions but who have given some outstanding teams good battles. Luke Winner made nine tackles, Lusk had a sack, Dakota Hill added two tackles for loss and Austin Nash covered well in addition to totaling 64 receiving yards.

“I’m really pleased with how they fought and how they played. They came out at 5-5 and I feel very fortunate and very happy that they did that,” Eiswerth said. “I think they feel that they can compete with schools like them because they have competed against some Triple A schools. We have to put a good week together and see how we do next week, but I cannot say enough about their work ethic and how they have stayed the course. They’ve played tough.”

So has Loyalsock.

The offense did a lot of damage through the air earlier this season, but has become a ground and pound team the last two weeks. Parlante, Holler, Jeff Hamilton, Aspen Stahl-Emig and Brennan Hartman were outstanding last night, imposing their will up front and opening up good running lanes for Hill and Cavanaugh. Loyalsock ran for 211 yards and it was the second straight week that both Hill and Cavanaugh went over 80 yards.

Cavanaugh brilliantly ran the ball on read-option plays and his 8-yard touchdown concluded a nine-play touchdown drive that tied the game early in the second quarter. Loyalsock then put together an 11-play, 74-yard scoring drive that Hill capped with a 2-yard run. On those two touchdown drives Loyalsock ran the ball 17 of 20 times. Hill all but sealed the win early in the fourth quarter when he broke outside, ran over a defender at the 5-yard line, carried another who pulled at his jersey and flipped inside the right pylon while finishing his 11-yard touchdown.

“At the beginning of the year we knew that (line) was our weak point so we’ve been harping on it a lot in practice. I’ve been getting out on scout team defense working with all the guys and trying to get them better and it’s paying off,” Gair said. “I like to get it intense and I think it’s setting a tone for everybody right now.”

Holler recovered a third-quarter fumble at the Loyalsock 27-yard line when a snap sailed over Winner’s head. Brady Dowell kicked his fourth field goal this season seven plays later, giving Loyalsock a 17-7 lead.

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