Then came Week 5 against Loyalsock. An injury to Garrett Cillo opened the door for Trick and he responded by rushing for a school-record 311 yards. By season’s end Trick was a 1,000-yard rusher who helped Montoursville reach the PIAA Class AA semifinals.
That’s the great thing about sports: you never know who is going to step forward and play a big role.
What will happen in the 2007 District 4 and Eastern Conference playoffs is a mystery. But this much is certain—an array of players will make a big impact.
The following is a list of key players from each area postseason team who could figure prominently in his team’s playoff fortunes.
Lucas Bailey, Canton
One of the area’s most versatile players, Bailey does a little bit of everything and has helped Canton go 8-2. Bailey is a starting cornerback and running back who also returns both punts and kickoffs. With Bailey starting on both sides of the ball, Canton is 15-6 over the last two years after going 2-8 in 2005.
“He’s a jack of all trades and he’s good at all of them,” Canton coach Miller H. Moyer said. “He receives, he runs well and he’s instrumental in the return game. He’s not a rah-rah kid. He just goes out and he does his job.”
And he does it well. Bailey has combined for 698 rushing/receiving yards and has scored eight touchdowns. He also returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown against Sayre.
Bailey, though, might be best at cornerback where he often goes one-on-one against the opponent’s top receiver. Bailey had four interceptions in Canton’s first three games and the Warriors need him to continue that strong play against Bloomsburg, which features three dangerous receivers. Bloomsburg quarterback Tyler Coombe has thrown for 1,638 yards and 16 touchdowns so Bailey will be tested early and often.
“He’s the one that is going to cover the No. 1 person,” Moyer said. “He goes out and does what needs to be done.”
Matt Cosentine, Hughesville
A two-way starter on the offensive and defensive lines, Cosentine has boosted the Spartans late-season surge with his steady play. Costentine, 6-foot-3, 294 pounds, is part of a defense that allowed just 16 points in its last three games and his blocking helped fullback Ammon Swisher record three straight 100-yard games. The solid defensive and offensive efforts have propelled Hughesville into districts for a third straight year.
“He brings a lot to the table. With his size and strength he can match up with their kids that have size and strength,” Hughesville coach Rick Reichner said. “The young kids are playing well but Matt is a senior who physically and maturity-wise can match up with kids up front and hold his ground.”
Costentine’s run-stuffing ability is one reason Hughesville has allowed just 142 rushing yards the last three weeks. The Spartans need to continue that strong run defense against Loyalsock, which leads the area in total offense.
How Cosentine plays at right tackle also could have a big impact on tonight’s outcome. Hughesville is at its best when running the ball and chewing up the clock. Cosentine and his fellow linemen have gotten a good push the last three weeks and not surprisingly they won all three times.
“He has been a leader,” Reichner said. “He worked hard in the offseason and he works hard in practice and that carries over to the game. The young kids see that and it makes them play better and his play speaks for itself.”
Chad Dixon, Warrior Run
A torn ACL robbed Dixon of his junior season, but he has come back strong as a senior and has helped Warrior Run make history by reaching districts two years in a row for the first time. An explosive receiver who won the District 4 200-meter championship last spring, Dixon brings a big-play threat to Warrior Run’s passing game that it lacked a year ago.
It took a few weeks for Dixon to settle in, but the results have been obvious. In Warrior Run’s last five games, he has caught 17 passes for 346 yards and six touchdowns. He is averaging 18.8 yards per catch and caught three touchdown passes last week against Central Columbia.
“If it’s 1-on-1 coverage, no matter who’s covering him, he can make plays,” Warrior Run coach Scott Shaffer said. “With guys like Steve Martin and Jed Hertzler there’s a lot of good players to cover and then that opens the running game for Quaid (Richart) so he gives us another weapon.”
Still, Dixon might be more valuable against Towanda because of what he does on the other side of the ball. An effective cornerback, Dixon will be responsible for covering Towanda’s explosive receiver R.J. Baker who has turned 30 catches into 829 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Dixon showed what he can do against a premier playmaker when he held Montoursville’s Keenan Michael without a catch four weeks ago and the Defenders are hoping for another quality effort tonight.
Ryan Jones, South Williamsport
A senior guard and defensive end, Jones has been an unsung hero during South’s late-season surge. Jones is one of the team’s leading tacklers and can stuff the run while also rushing the passer. The senior has recovered two fumbles and helped South hold opponents to just 22 points in its four wins.
Jones is an effective guard who helps South punish teams with the run. He has been vital in helping Wade Morehart and Patton Bartholomew each top 1,000 yards. Against the district’s top-rated defense, South will need Jones and the offensive line to control the line of scrimmage as it hopes to keep a dangerous offense off the field and wear down a team that has just 24 players.
Joe Loffredo, Jersey Shore
Watch Jersey Shore compete and it’s hard to miss Loffredo who energizes the Bulldogs with his spirited play. Loffredo has been a valuable fullback and linebacker and is a big reason Jersey Shore has gone from 2-9 to district title contender.
One of the team’s leading tacklers, Loffredo is effective as a blitzer, but also can drop back into pass coverage. The Bulldogs defense has let just three teams score more than 20 points.
Offensively, Loffredo does a little bit of everything for Jersey Shore. In addition to rushing for 370 yards and four touchdowns, he also has blocked well and caught 13 passes.
“He makes our offense work by running up the middle and allowing us to work the corners with (Jarron) Smithall,” Jersey Shore coach Steve Eck said. “His blocking has really been solid and what’s real nice about him is we can run him out of the backfield and he can catch the ball.”
Jersey Shore will be looking for Loffredo to continue playing well Saturday against a CMVT squad that has shutout four opponents. The Bulldogs are hosting a playoff game for the first time in 10 years and Loffredo is one of several seniors who has spread football fever throughout Jersey Shore.
“The whole group of seniors have been good leaders and Joe has done a great job for us,” Eck said. “It’s been our goal all year to get to this point and he’s been a great leader for us.”
Jason Marshalek, Montoursville
A dedicated offseason program and an outstanding work ethic has helped Marshalek develop into one of Montoursville’s most valuable players. A 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior, Marshalek provides outstanding blocking at tight end along with some strength on Montoursville’s defensive line.
Montoursville features one of the district’s top running games with Mike Steele and Josh Cillo both gaining more than 800 yards. Marshalek has been instrumental to that running success and also gives quarterback Chad Jacobson time to pass. The Warriors are averaging 327 yards per game and scored 21 fourth-quarter points last week.
“He is an extremely hard worker,” Montoursville coach Jim Bergen said. “He went to Babe Mayer’s speed camp over the summer and was in the weight room a lot. He’s really made himself into a good football player.”
That has been evident on defense as well. A smart defensive tackle, Marshalek plays the run well and has helped Montoursville hold its last three opponents to just 18 points. Montoursville is hoping Marshalek continues his week-by-week improvement against a Mount Carmel squad that features one of the district’s best offenses. If Marshalek and his linemen can control the line of scrimmage the Warriors have a good chance to be successful.
“Jason is a quiet kid and hardly says a word, but he lets what he does on the field do the talking for him,” Bergen said. “He’s a quiet leader and a good, solid kid.”
Wes Smith, Muncy
The leader of Muncy’s stingy defense, Smith has developed into one of the area’s best linebackers. Watch Muncy play and one almost always sees Smith around the football. The senior inside linebacker consistently approaches or exceeds 10 tackles a game and has factored largely in Muncy holding eight teams to fewer than 20 points.
Muncy will be looking for Smith, a fast and active linebacker, to continue his strong play in the Eastern Conference playoffs against Mahanoy Area. The Golden Bears displayed some firepower during a recent three-game stretch so Smith’s ability to play the run and pass could go a long way in determining whether Muncy lives to see another week.
Jamie Van Fleet, Loyalsock
One of the district’s best all-around players, Van Fleet is an emotional sparkplug who has helped Loyalsock enjoy its best regular season since 2001. A four-year starter at linebacker, Van Fleet is an athletic, hard-hitting defender who is excellent against the run and can defend the pass as he showed last week when he knocked down a throw in the end zone.
Van Fleet leads Loyalsock in tackles and essentially is the defense’s quarterback. A smart player on and off the field, Van Fleet understands the game well and has helped Loyalsock make a big defensive turnaround after last year’s 6-5 finish.
“He understands what everyone else is supposed to be doing,” Loyalsock coach Dick Delaney said. “(Assistant coach) Alex Jackson does a great job with the defense and has given them the liberty to make calls on their own and Jamie is a guy we look to to make those calls.”
Van Fleet is as versatile offensively as he is talented defensively. Loyalsock has used Van Fleet in the slot, at fullback and as a tight end. A good blocker, Van Fleet also has run for 240 yards while catching eight passes.
One of several seniors who spent their offseasons working to make 2007 a memorable season, Van Fleet will be trying to help Loyalsock win its first playoff game this decade. He ran for 77 yards and had 10 tackles in a 25-0 Week 4 win over Hughesville and a repeat performance could give the Lancers a big boost against the surging Spartans.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR/Sun-Gazette
Ryan Jones’ play on both sides of the line will be critical to South’s chances in the Eastern Conference playoffs.