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Loyalsock hands Southern first regualar season D4 loss since 2011

Tagged under: District 4, Gameday Hub, News

| September 10, 2022

Loyalsock has set lofty goals this season and will continue pursuing them come Monday afternoon.

But players always search for moments they can call their own; moments they will never forget. Those moments came Friday night in Catawissa.

And Loyalsock owned them all. This moment, this game, this memory belonged to them and what a time it was.

A physical offensive line controlled an elite defense, Davion Hill ran for 182 yards and the defense stifled a potent offense as Loyalsock shocked the state of Pennsylvania and thumped five-time Class AA state champion Southern Columbia, 27-10 at Jim Roth Field. The Lancers (3-0) became the first District 4 team since Montoursville eight years ago to beat Southern and handed the 11-time state champion just its second regular season loss since 2011.

More challenges lay ahead, but this was a moment to savor.

“They certainly deserved it. We’ve never shied away from competition as we’ve tried becoming a strong program and in the end this group of kids is special,” Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. “They were able to rise to the occasion and work hard all year, mostly while nobody was watching. They kept grinding and they were able to accomplish something pretty special.”

“This is something we will definitely remember forever,” Hill said. “Not just because it was Southern, but because of how we played.”

Jaylen Andrews returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score and also caught a touchdown from Tyler Gee as Loyalsock led from the second quarter on. The defense allowed just eight points and Loyalsock became the first team since 2016 to hold Southern to fewer than 30 points. Not many outside the program thought Loyalsock could win Friday, but the Lancers believed and turned words into powerful action, controlling all facets against the state’s top-ranked Class AA team.

Southern had not lost a regular-season league game at home since 2010. The distance between that night and Friday tells the story about how exactly how dominant Southern Columbia had been. But Loyalsock did not care about the past. This was their time. On a field where Southern has claimed so many victims, it was Loyalsock standing tall and reigning supreme.

“It felt great to beat a great powerhouse team such as Southern,” Hill said. “We know what they bring as a team and an organization and what they’ve produced over the years, so to give them a loss on their home field definitely felt great.”

“The kids really bought in. They really do trust each other,” Van Fleet said. “The kids stepped up and played really hard and made certain they were going to come through.”

Southern has won so many games over the years by owning the trenches. Loyalsock flipped the script Friday. The offensive line pushed Southern around and the defense contained an explosive running game.

Offensive linemen Dom Cellini, Carter Secora, Ian Hornberger, Ethan French, Jake Ackerman and Jeremiah Johnson all imposed their will and helped Loyalsock control both the line and the clock. Loyalsock ran the ball 46 times for 246 yards with quarterback Tyler Gee adding 70 to Hill’s 177. Hill ripped off a 37-yard touchdown to put Loyalsock up 13-2 at halftime and Gee capped the scoring with a three-yard score early in the fourth quarter.

Hill carried the ball a career-high 29 yards and Loyalsock wore Southern down with its time-consuming marches. So many times in the past, opponents were stymied on the ground and forced to abandon the run. Not this time. Not on Loyalsock’s night.

“I told Davion before the game and throughout week to get ready for 30 carries. We hadn’t done that with him in the past, but we said this is the week that it’s going to happen,” Van Fleet said “Our line did a great job. They’re a pretty motivated group of kids. They try to find a reason to be angry.”

Loyalsock played just angry defensively. Southern put together a 75-yard scoring drive to open the second half and pull within, 13-10. Against Berwick in the opener, the Tigers had rallied from down 14 at halftime, scored 42 second-half points and won, 42-27.

But Southern learned Berwick is not Loyalsock.

The Lancers surrendered no more points and a big stop late in the fourth quarter sealed the victory, Loyalsock’s first against Southern since 2009. The Lancers forced three fumbles and held Southern to its lowest point total since the 2016 state final.

“The defense played incredible,” Van Fleet said. “They played lights out again. Southern wasn’t able to sustain drives with any consistency.”

The special teams also made a monster impact for a second straight week. A week ago, Andrews took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Hughesville. This time he struck again at the perfect time. After Southern had made it 13-10, Andrews returned the ensusing kick 96 yards, following some excellent blocking, and Loyalsock was up 20-10.

Southern was never the same as Loyalsock controlled things from there. Andrews also caught a touchdown pass for a second straight week as Gee found him for an 11-yard score in the second quarter which put Loyalsock ahead to stay, 7-2.

Often in the past, especially the last two years at Southern, a bad play or bounce here or there quickly snowballed as Loyalsock lost consecutive blowouts. Heck, that is the way it has been for nearly every Southern opponent these last five years.

This time, whenever Southern hit, Loyalsock hit back harder. The Lancers would not be denied.

“l always seems to bounce the wrong way against Southern or something occurs that upsets the unit and in beginning of the game we ended up giving a safety. Often times, teams unravel in those moments but this group of kids, most of them have been playing varsity football the last three years,” Van Fleet said. “I’m not discounting the effort right now, but all those games that led to this were able to tapped into and those experiences allowed them to overcome and move on to the next play.”

And create an unforgettable moment.

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