Mount Carmel nose guard Vinny Candelora burst through the line and before Montoursville quarterback Aaron Cole could hand off the ball, Candelora already was in the backfield. He took the handoff instead.
Candelora made a sensational play, basically intercepting the handoff and sprinting 30 yards for a game-clinching touchdown that epitomized Friday's 48-20 District 4 Class AA semifinal win at Memorial Stadium. Montoursville made mistakes. Mount Carmel made great plays. And now the Tornadoes head to Danville next week with a chance to defend their district crown.
Luke Klingerman ran for 283 yards and two touchdowns and Eric Joraskie played a dominant game as Mount Carmel forced five turnovers, lost none and exacted revenge after losing on this same field seven weeks earlier.
Mount Carmel’s Luke Klingerman gets past Montoursville’s Clay Stoner for a touchdown during their District 4 Class AA?semifinal Friday at Montoursville.
"That might have been the most ridiculous play I've ever seen and I told Vinny that maybe 10 times," Joraskie said. "That was crazy. That was an awesome play on his part."
"I'm not taking anything away from Mount Carmel because it's a great team, but Montoursville beat Montoursville tonight," Warrior coach J.C. Keefer said. "I felt like we were able to keep up with them and then see what happens, but when you turn the ball over five times against a team like that, it's not going to happen."
Montoursville (8-4) won a shootout against Mount Carmel 41-37 back in October but it had no turnovers in that game while Mount Carmel had three. Last night, the Warriors lost four fumbles while Rob Varano added an interception. A 65-yard Clay Stoner touchdown run also was called back in the second quarter, erasing what could have been a 20-12 lead.
Despite all that, Montoursville cut a 13-point deficit to 26-20 with 8:44 remaining when Aaron Cole found Matt Krezmer with an 11-yard touchdown pass. The Warriors erased a 12-point Lewisburg lead in the final six minutes of the quarterfinals but Mount Carmel (8-4) immediately snuffed out this comeback attempt. Klingerman ran three straight times for 80 yards, capping the drive with a 53-yard run. Candelora made his highlight-reel play a series later and just like that, Montoursville's terrific season was over.
"They are a really good team but I don't feel like they're better than us," said Montoursville safety Alex Erb, who played a great game and made 13 tackles. "I don't feel like they have better technique than we do. We just made more mistakes than they did and you can't do that against a team like them."
The defending district champions are playing their best football at the perfect time. Mount Carmel has won three straight, is as healthy as it has been all year and outscored Montoursville 48-14 over the final three quarters after blanking HAC-II champion Central Columbia last week.
Following a remarkable Varano interception, Mount Carmel went 69 yards and went ahead to stay late in the second quarter when Zach Wasilewski found Tyler Kwiatkowski for a 7-yard touchdown. Klingerman's 26-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter made it 26-13.
Klingerman was outstanding as was his offensive line which opened huge holes all night. Even when the blocking broke down, Klingerman broke tackles and displayed great shiftiness. The senior might want to play all his games at Memorial Stadium because in two games there this season, he ran for 645 yards and five touchdowns. His 362-yard performance in the first game and his performance last night are two of the tradition-laden program's three best rushing games ever.
"He's an absolutely incredible running back. We can give him the ball every play and it's a guaranteed gain," Joraskie said. "We keep pounding the rock with him and blocking the best we can and the offensive line took over the game."
Joraskie was a beast on both sides. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound fullback/defensive tackle, scored Mount Carmel's first two touchdowns on a 1-yard run and a 29-yard pass. The Northwestern-bound senior was even better defensively, making 10 tackles and repeatedly blowing up plays even when Montoursville ran away from him.
Still, the Warriors moved the ball well, gaining 303 yards. Montoursville scored on its first two series, after fumbling the opening kickoff and losing possession. Montoursville produced scoring drives of 14 and seven plays that covered 148 yards with Cameron Ott and Stoner capping both with a 3-yard and 19-yard run, respectively.
Stoner looked like he was going to make it 3 for 3 the next drive but the holding penalty started changing the game's complexion. Varano ended that drive with his leaping, acrobatic interception. The senior cornerbacck jumped high on what looked like it might be a touchdown pass to Garrett Evans, corralled the ball with one hand and held onto it while hitting the ground hard near the sideline.
"The coaches stressed before the game that a lot of times in life you don't get a second chance," Joraskie said. "We got our second chance tonight and we took advantage of it."
Stoner was outstanding in his final scholastic game, running for 130 yards while breaking several tackles on nearly every carry. Krezmer added 61 rushing yards while Ott totaled 62 yards and made four catches. And despite all that had gone wrong through three quarters, Montoursville never quit and appeared capable of getting the win after cutting it to six points in the fourth.
That determination and toughness is what Montoursville will remember more about this stellar season, that included its most wins since 2008, than the way it ended.
"I can't say enough about our senior leaders and everything that they have done for the underclassmen and the entire team," Erb said. "We wouldn't be here without them and hopefully we can build off what they have done as leaders because it was a really good season."