Kyle Palmer stormed in from the left side, engulfing Griffin Dunne before he took his third step back before sacking him. Simultaneously, Palmer's teammates literally jumped for joy as green-clad fans who filled the visiting bleachers let out loud yells that mixed both joy and relief.
On one of District 4's most hallowed fields, Lewisburg had made it biggest statement yet in 2012.
Some of the names have changed and the coaching staff is new. But Lewisburg is still a dominant District 4 Class AA team.
Nick Costigliola of Lewisburg (12) celebrates his touchdown Friday night at Montoursville.
Quarterback Nick Costigliola played a brilliant game, Brandon Smith scored twice and the defense was nasty in the second half as Lewisburg fought back from 16-point halftime deficit and edged Montoursville, 27-22. Lewisburg (5-1, 3-1 HAC-II) trailed 16-0 late in the first half, but scored 27 points between during a 6 minute, 12-second stretch that bridged the second and third quarters and stunned Montoursville (4-2, 2-2) a week after the Warriors defeated Mount Carmel.
"It was a great team effort. Everybody made a play tonight," Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. "We battled. A lot of teams could have folded down 16-0 and our kids just kept fighting."
"Our attitude was really we shouldn't be here, we are better than this, we can do it," said senior two-way lineman Kyle Santorine, who was outstanding on both sides. "We just needed to focus on our plays, focus on the little things and get it done."
Costigliola led a last-minute 10-play, 68-yard drive and capped it with a 13-yard touchdown with six seconds remaining in the half. It was just the boost Lewisburg needed entering halftime and it touched off a 27-point explosion.
Just two plays into the second half, Costigliola hit Drew Newcomb with an inside slant and the sophomore sprinted 76 yards for a touchdown that made it a three-point game. Following a Montoursville three-and-out, Costigliola (14 of 25, 186 yards, 55 rushing yards) broke off a 40-yard run and set up Smith with the first of his two touchdown runs, this from two yards out.
For Montoursville, the worst was yet to come. Andrew Nash intercepted a pass two plays later and returned it to the Warrior 13-yard line. Smith ran up the middle on the ensuing play, scoring again and making it 27-16. After struggling for most of the first half, Lewisburg scored 21 straight third-quarter points in just 4:44.
"Everyone was pumped up coming into the second half and making all those big plays," said Costigliola, who completed 10 of 14 passes during the 27-point rally. "We were all fired up and ready to play and do our job and get things done."
"It's my fault. It's my job to get these guys up every single week," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "When you're playing good teams every week you cannot play without the intensity and attitude that you need. We had it last week against Mount Carmel and this week I didn't do my job to get these kids mentally prepared where they needed to be to prepare to the end. I'll take responsibility for that and it won't happen again."
Clay Stoner recovered a Lewisburg fumble later in the third quarter at the Dragon 26-yard line and then caught a 25-yard pass, setting up Griffin Dunne and Matt Krezmer for a 2-yard touchdown connection that made it 27-22. Montoursville had three chances to try and go ahead, but Lewisburg snuffed out every chance and shut down a running game that early on looked like it might run all over it.
After Devin Marriott's 33-yard field goal put Montoursville up 16-0 late in the second quarter, the Dragons allowed only 23 more rushing yards. The defensive line took over while linebackers and defensive backs swarmed ball-carriers. Safety Ty Turner was outstanding, making seven tackles, breaking up a pass and deflecting a pass at the line. Smith constantly hounded Dunne and Michael Berger made eight tackles.
Lewisburg forced a four-and-out on Montoursville's last possession as Luke Smith dropped Cameron Ott three yards short of a first down on a slant on second down before Ben Frankel broke up a potential first-down pass to Alex Erb. Palmer then put an exclamation on the comeback, dropping Dunne when he came charging in untouched.
"That was the most amazing feeling that I've had all season," Castigliola said. "That was a great win."
"Coming back from down 16 puts this win at the top of the ones we've had so far," Santorine said. "It's tons of fun being out there with your brothers and kicking some butt."
Dunne threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. He hit Cameron Karschner with a second-quarter touchdown that made it 13-0 after he capped short first-quarter drive with a 6-yard run. Stoner played a terrific game defensively, seeing extended playing time for the first time this season. He made nine tackles while Garrett Evans had two sacks and a forced fumble.
"We're far from done with this," Keefer said. "We have a long way to go. We have to go back, fix our mistakes and get back after it against Danville."