The bodies in white uniforms and red helmets were strewn about the 15 yards leading into the end zone Mount Carmel was trying so desperately to reach. Nobody was moving, not unless they absolutely had to.
Montoursville players dodged, hurdled and ran around their opponents on their way to creating a giant huddle of mass hysteria. Maybe the celebration was more out of relief than anything. Heck, after a 41-37 win over Mount Carmel, even the scoreboard at Memorial Stadium took a deep sigh of relief.
The two teams combined for more than 900 yards of offense Friday night, but it was a singular defensive play with no time left on the clock that sealed Montoursville's first win over the Red Tornadoes since a 2007 District 4 playoff game. Alex Erb hit Mount Carmel tight end Tyler Kwiatkowski just hard enough on the final play of the game to keep him from adjusting to his own tipped pass at the goal line and make what would have been the game-winning catch.
Cameron Ott, top right, celebrates a touchdown early in the third quarter to give Montoursville a 21-14 lead over Mount Carmel Friday night.
Instead, the Warriors celebrated their biggest win of the season, a signature win that firmly entrenches Montoursville as one of the favorites to battle for a District 4 Class AA championship. Mount Carmel, meanwhile, was left to ponder how it has lost three consecutive games, two to other District 4 Class AA title contenders, all while staring at a showdown with undefeated Central Columbia next week.
"We just gotta get our defense better. That's my job. I've got to do a better job of coaching that defense," Mount Carmel head coach Carm DeFrancesco said. "We have to come up with a different scheme. We have to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that will stop someone. Then maybe we can win a game."
The Red Tornadoes clearly had the offensive presence to win last night as tailback Luke Klingerman rushed for a school-record 362 yards on 33 carries, including five touchdowns. He broke Jon Veach's single-game record of 296 yards against Lakeland in a 2000 PIAA playoff game.
It was a tough performance to overshadow, but Montoursville did it more than just admirably last night. Griffin Dunne, forced into full-time duty at quarterback when Aaron Cole left with an injury early in the second quarter, rushed for a career-high 216 yards and three touchdowns. And on top of it, he added a 59-yard touchdown pass to Cam Ott in the third quarter. He accounted for 317 of the Warriors 442 yards of offense.
Clay Stoner finished with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Mount Carmel.
"It's a stepping stone for us because (Mount Carmel) is a next-level team as far as I'm concerned," Montoursville head coach J.C. Keefer said. "It's a big win for our guys to start believing in themselves. And when you're up and down the field like this, a defensive stand is a great way to cap off what was happening."
Montoursville pulled off the win by exposing a Mount Carmel defense that has done anything but live up to its Red Death mantra in the last three week. Montoursville had scoring plays of 27 yards, 65 yards and 70 yards last night, the latter two coming on zone-read runs from Dunne.
Mount Carmel has given up nine scoring plays of 24 yards or more in the last three. It also surrendered a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown to Loyalsock last week. The Red Tornadoes are 0-3 in the last three weeks, losing to Southern Columbia, Loyalsock and now Montoursville.
"It's a scheme breakdown," DeFrancesco said of Dunne's two long scoring runs. "It's something I have to fix."
"I think we used (Loyalsock's gameplan a week ago) as our example and then we went out and did the same thing," Dunne said. "Our line was on a roll and getting everybody they're supposed to get, and the running backs were running hard. Everything was just going good."
The Warriors survived the Red Tornadoes' offensive onslaught early in the game as Mount Carmel held the football for more than 8 minutes of the first quarter, taking a 7-0 lead on a Klingerman 25-yard touchdown run. The Red Tornadoes went up 14-0 on a 1-yard run from Klingerman just 4 minutes into the second quarter.
Montoursville's offense settled in from there, moving 65 yards in two plays, thanks in part to the roughing the passer call that knocked Cole from the game, to get on the board. Dunne, who Keefer doesn't consider a back-up quarterback but more of a change-of-pace quarterback, helped the Warriors capitalize on the second of two Mount Carmel fumbles in the second quarter, dashing 10 yards to tie the score at the half.
The Warriors never really found an answer to Klingerman, who had 12 carries of 10 yards or more last night. They only slowed him down when they forced him to fumble twice, the second time coming with Montoursville leading by four in the fourth quarter and the Red Tornadoes marching for a go-ahead score.
But when Dunne hit Cam Ott on a post pattern for a 59-yard touchdown pass to start the third quarter, they forced the Red Tornadoes to play catch-up most of the second half. And any score Mount Carmel came up with, Montoursville answered.
There was Dunne's 70-yard touchdown run that came just 22 seconds after Klingerman's 39-yard scoring jaunt. And there was Dunne's 65-yard run that came just after Klingerman's 7-yard run gave Mount Carmel a 37-34 lead in the fourth quarter.
"I kind of knew going into the game I was going to play a lot at QB and we had a gameplan and executed it well," Dunne said.
"He's a different package quarterback," Keefer said. "Aaron has been solid and is our guy that runs what we've been doing so far, and we're going to need to get him back to do what we want to do with our offense. But Griffin's the change-up, and because Aaron was hurt, it's what we had to stick with. He did everything we asked of him. I'm so proud of him."