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Written by: Chris Masse sungazette.com/ on Saturday, September 19th, 2020
MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville’s Rocco Pulizzi rushes against Central Columbia on Friday.
ALMEDIA–As the offensive linemen surged forward, Montoursville fullback CJ Signor spotted a blitzing linebacker. Signor sprinted ahead, delivered a punishing block and Rocco Pulizzi followed through the gaping hole, going 39 yards untouched while scoring the second-half’s first touchdown.
The sequence featured some power, some intensity, some physicality and some speed. In a game filled with impressive Montoursville plays this one best epitomized a sterling collective performance. Stop the film and hit rewind. That was the way most plays unfolded Friday night at Blue Jay Stadium as the two-time defending District 4 Class AAA champions served notice they remain as powerful as ever.
Signor and the offensive line shined, Pulizzi ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns and a stifling defense allowed just 54 yards as Montoursville routed Central Columbia, 55-3 in an early-season showdown between district title contenders. Maddix Dalena threw two touchdowns to Dillon Young (5 catches, 117 yards) and the defense surrendered just one yard per play as Montoursville (2-0) topped 50 points for a second straight week and mercy-ruled its 12th opponent over the past two seasons.
“That (block) felt really good, especially when you hear the fans react to it. They heard the collision,” Signor said. “I’m a physical person and when I have to fill a gap I do what I have to do. That’s football and I love it.”
The Montoursville fans in attendance loved their team’s performance. All night long, those fans heard Montoursville play blue-collar football, dominating both lines of scrimmage, building a 36-0 second-quarter lead and rarely letting Central ball-carriers gain extra yards. It was a performance as complete as it was dominant.
MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville’s Dylan Moll stiff arms a Central Columbia defender during Friday’s game.
If coach J.C. Keefer wanted to hand out a game ball last night to last night’s top player, he would have to cut into about 40 pieces because every player he used made a strong impact.
“In every facet of the game we gave 100 percent effort. It was not 100 percent perfect by any means, but we gave 100 percent effort and that’s all I’m asking,” Keefer said. “When everyone does their job good things will happen. It was just a good overall win.”
“Our coaches were saying how good Central was and that this is their best team they’ve had in the last 20 years, so we were ready,” two-way starting linemen Lane Stutzman said after a fantastic performance. “I was kind of nervous going into it, but we all came together and played really well.”
Standout linebacker Dylan Bennett set the game’s tone on the first play, dropping Troy Johnson for a 3-yard loss. It was a preview of things to come as Central kept running into a brick wall. The Warriors forced eight punts and two turnovers, and half of Central’s six first downs came via penalties. Linemen like Stutzman, Zach Schmalhofer, Jacob Fellinger, Gavin Livermore and Thad Anderson consistently exploded off the ball while Signor, Bennett and fellow linebacker Heath Jones gobbled up ball-carriers. They all did an outstanding job on containment, never letting mobile Central quarterback Garrett McNelis scramble out of the pocket. Young, Dylan Moll, Isaiah Fenner blanketed receivers and broke up a combined five passes with Moll adding an interception.
All pistons in the Montoursville defensive machine were firing and by halftime, Central had gained 44 yards on 37 plays. Bennett, Signor and Stutzman collected sacks and Jones made some key third-down stops as Montoursville’s defense proved as stingy as its offense did lethal.
“We already knew what they were going to run before coming out. We studied them like the back of our hand,” Signor said. “I’ve been saying all week, ‘let’s make this statement,’ and that’s what we did.”
The big question entering the game was whether a Montoursville offensive line featuring four new starters, could match up against a terrific Central defensive line with all its starters back from a district semifinalist. There are no more question marks now. Stutzman, Anderson, Sam Carson, Jeremiah Caseman and Hunter Hanna have quickly come together and consistently produced the blocks that sprang Pulizzi for big yards and which allowed Dalena the time to set up and throw for 137 yards.
Montoursville scored on five first-half possessions and the starters produced touchdowns on seven of nine series. Bennett capped the first scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown, Pulizzi followed with an 11-yard score and Dalena hit Young in stride for a 61-yard score on the second-quarter’s second play as Montoursville built a 22-0 lead. Give a dynamic set of playmakers some lanes and watch them produce some highlights.
That was the case last week and it was again last night as Montoursville gained 440 yards. Moll made a cut that would make Barry Sanders smile on a 26-yard touchdown run and Young made a fabulous catch on a jump ball, catching Dalena’s 28-yard touchdown which made it 36-0 just past the second quarter’s midway point. In less than 20 minutes, Montoursville had scored 36 points against a strong unit which surrendered just seven in last week’s victory against Lewisburg.
“If everyone makes their blocks and does their thing everything goes right,” Stutzman said. “If we open a hole our skill guys are taking it there. They’re really good.”
“I’m really proud of the line hanging in there against one of the best defensive lines in the area,” Keefer said. “I know what we have behind them and if you give them some space we’re going to do some damage and they did a really good job against an extremely well-coached team and a tough line.”
Central took advantage of two questionable pass interference penalties to kick a last-second field goal and make it 36-3 at halftime. The penalties seemed to only motivate Montoursville more and the Warriors showed no let up in the second half. Signor’s signature block helped Pulizzi go 39 yards for a touchdown on Montoursville’s first possession and, following Moll’s interception, Pulizzi ripped off two straight 17-yard runs, his second one capping his fantastic performance with his fifth touchdown in two games.
Pulizzi topped 100 yards for a second straight week and Montoursville’s reserves played well, too, mounting a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive. Bryce Eberhart capped that with a 1-yard touchdown run and Montoursville’s defense surrendered just 10 second-half yards.
“I just want them to be themselves and they’re going to win a lot of matchups if they do that,” Keefer said. “Do what you do and good things are going to happen.”
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