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Montoursville wins Battle of the Bridge @Hold_The_Rope @sockathletics

Tagged under: District 4, News

| September 22, 2018

Making big plays. Hoisting the Bridge Trophy high into the night sky. Watching jubilant teammates storm the field. All those moments are ones Montoursville linebacker Connor Morse and his senior teammates always will fondly remember.

But maybe the best part was simply watching those final minutes unfold Friday at Memorial Stadium. It allowed those players time to savor something they had not before achieved as varsity players. And what a rush it was.

Morse helped spark a ferocious defensive effort, Hunter Shearer threw two touchdown passes and Jaxon Dalena clinched the win with his team’s version of “Montoursville Special,” as Montoursville defeated Loyalsock, 24-7, and won the Battle of the Bridge Trophy for the first time since 2015. The Warriors (4-1, 2-0 HAC-II) snapped a two-game losing streak against Loyalsock, took sole possession of first place in the HAC-II and allowed just 196 yards.

“It’s been two years and those two years have been such heartbreaking defeats. Finally this year, to see our brothers take it 24-7 is a feeling of joy that I probably am never going to feel again on this football field,” Morse said after making nine tackles and adding a drive-altering sack. “This is one that sits in the back of everyone’s mind. Even when the season starts, everybody knows that Loyalsock is sitting there. It was such a special moment. As the clock keeps running down it just builds up and builds up.”

Montoursville has lofty goals and is hoping to capture a third district championship since 2014. But make no mistake. This was a big deal. This is Loyalsock-Montoursville. This is about more than championships. These are rivals separated by a bridge who have competed against each other since they started playing football years ago.

Any time a team wins this game it means something big. That certainly was the case last night as Montoursville blanked Loyalsock in the second half, outscoring it 10-0 and clinching the win with Dalena’s 25-yard touchdown to Ott with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining.

“It was awesome,” said Shearer, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 164 yards. “Nobody on this team has beaten Loyalsock so to beat them is a great feeling.”

Montoursville won its second straight and this was the first time it did not mercy-rule an opponent in its four wins. That was a good thing, too. The Warriors needed to know they could go the distance against a strong team. Both teams could cross paths again in the District 4 Class AAA playoffs and Montoursville controlled this game from the start, showing why it can be so dangerous.

“We needed to beat a good team and I don’t care who was on the field for them they’re a good team,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “Their defense is tough, they’re well-coached and they are a good football team so this was a good four-quarter win for us. Guys were working hard right to the end.”

Loyalsock (2-3, 1-1) played its first full game without all-state quarterback Connor Watkins who broke his collar bone a week ago at Bloomsburg. The Lancers cut a 14-point deficit in half during the second quarter and hung tough all night. Montoursville, however, stifled its offense and dominated the second half. The Warriors were so strong defensively that went Colin Gorini kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it 17-7 midway through the third quarter, it felt more like a 20-point advantage than 10. Montoursville played well at all three levels with players like Logan Balouris and Dylan Bennett swarming ball-carriers.

Gerald Ross caught eight passes for 67 yards and reached 100 career receptions. Loyalsock’s all-state wide receiver made an incredible 35-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, catching Chase Cavanaugh’s pass at the highest point with a defender draped on him before falling into the end zone. That pulled Loyalsock within 14-7 and capped a 71-yard scoring drive. Jaiden Cioffi sparked that series with a 29-yard catch. Take away those two plays that totaled 64 yards, however, and Montoursville limited Loyalsock to 132 yards on 11 other series.

Micai Henriquez intercepted a pass on the play following Ross’s touchdown and it looked like Loyalsock might tie the game late in the first half when he returned it to the Warrior 27-yard line. Morse, though, changed everything when he sacked Cavanaugh, causing a fumble. Loyalsock recovered but faced a 2nd-and-26 and the drive stalled when Dylan Moll broke up a 4th-and-21 pass in the end zone.

“I knew I sacked him, but I was oblivious to the ball coming loose. I go to help the quarterback up and he’s looking the other way and there’s two other guys going for the ball,”Morse said. “It was big, but what I kept telling the guys is, whatever the score is, this game is 0-0 and we have another half to play.”

“That could be the play of the game,” Keefer said. “That was important to go into the half up seven. If they get one in there it’s a different game, so that was a huge play.”

Montoursville made some huge offensive plays as well. Shearer continued his strong season, finding Zac Caseman for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Moll for a 49-yard second-quarter touchdown as Montoursville took a 14-0 lead. Moll played an excellent all-around game, totaling 92 yards and adding an interception. Moll turned Shearer’s one-yard pass into something big, breaking tackles and sprinting away from the defensive backs down the right sideline.

Moll is one of many weapons Montoursville possesses and it utilized them all Friday. Moll, Ott and Jacob Reeder all reached 50 yards rushing and played a role in setting up Gorini’s field goal that made it a 10-point game. Loyalsock received gritty performances from players like Bam Brima, Eli Holler and Aeden Holler, but Montoursville set the stage for the game-clinching play with hard running from all those players and C.J. Signor behind an offensive line that imposed its will. Montoursville then unveiled a new play at the perfect time.

Dalena took an end-around toward the right side before pulling up and throwing toward the end zone. A standout catcher last spring, Dalena showcased his arm strength, hitting Ott in stride in the end zone with the 25-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 and sealed the win.

“That was drawn up last week and we were saving it for this week,” Shearer said. “We worked on it a lot and were waiting for the right time to use it. Their safety was up for the run after their timeout (the previous play) and we caught them off guard.”

The goal now is staying on guard moving forward. Last night was a game Montoursville will never forget. Now the Warriors would like making this a season they will never forget.

“Next week we have to come out and play hard,” Shearer said. “Milton is a good team and their quarterback can really sling it so we have to come out and play our best game.”

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