Nearly everyone knew who Muncy was going to. Canton's coaches knew it, its players knew it. Heck, just about all the fans at Scott McLean Field knew it.
But nobody could do anything about it. Maurice Brown simply could not be stopped.
Brown's stats, five catches for 69 yards, in Muncy's 28-10 win over Canton last Friday are not eye-popping. It is how he earned those numbers that is impressive. That tells the story of a player who could enjoy a breakout season.
Maurice Brown caught 5 passes for 69 yards in Muncy’s win over Canton to start the season.
The junior wide receiver caught four straight passes from backup quarterback Eli Warnick on third-and-long situations during a go-ahead touchdown drive Friday. Brown went across the middle, leaped high and beat tight coverage on different catches as Muncy mounted a 16-play, 69-yard drive that changed the game's complexion after Canton dominated early. He accounted for 43 yards on the drive and capped it by catching a jump-ball for an 8-yard touchdown.
"In practice I tell them if you put it on the top shelf I'll get it, if you put it on the bottom shelf I'll get it," Brown said. "Last year I was a sophomore and it was my first year starting. Now it's a whole different experience."
That is good news for Muncy and potentially bad news for its opponents. Brown was flourishing as he gained more experience last year and caught 22 passes for 412 yards before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 8. The 6-foot-1 speedster showed flashes of brilliance and entered the offseason determined to make those a constant.
Mifflin County at Williamsport, 7
Loyalsock at Danville, 7
Canton at South Williamsport, 7
Jersey Shore at Shamokin 7
Muncy at Cowanesque Valley, 7
Bloomsburg at Hughesville, 7
Central Col. at Montoursville, 7
Lewisburg at Mount Carmel, 7
Montgomery at Southern Col, 7
Athens at North Penn, 7
Central Mtn. at State College, 7
Milton at Warrior Run, 7
Wellsboro at Troy, 7
Pius X at Bucktail, 1:30
Brown went to various camps, including the prestigious Manning Camp that Eli and Peyton Manning hold each summer, and was one of the team's hardest workers in the weight room. That offseason effort paid big dividends in the first half against Canton. Brown set up the team's next touchdown on its ensuing drive, going up high and catching a 31-yard pass inside the 10-yard line. Muncy scored two plays later and Brown truly looked unstoppable, catching every pass thrown his way as Muncy seized control.
"He went up and got some balls I don't think Jerry Rice would have gone up and gotten," said quarterback Anthony Barberio who returned from a first-quarter ankle injury to hit Brown with that 31-yard completion. "I worked with him so much and he's such a nice kid. I would do anything for the kid and he showed me tonight he would do anything for me. It shows how much dedication he has to the team that he has worked so hard."
In addition to making some fantastic catches, Brown also was running crisp routes while showing an explosive burst. It is only one game but he looks like he has the total package. Muncy wore down Canton with its running game after taking that 14-3 lead and did not look Brown's way again. Still, 5 for 5 on targets speaks for itself.
Muncy has a long tradition of play-making receivers. It looks like Brown can carry that on the next two years.
"He's an elite player," Warnick said. "He worked really hard in the offseason. He's going to do really well this year."
PAYING THE PRICE: Muncy assistant coach Dale Michael made 30 the magic offseason number. That was how many times he wanted Muncy players to lift from June to August. By the time preseason practice started in mid-August nearly everyone met that goal.
Some went well beyond it, reaching 80 and 90 sessions. A team with big expectations knows hard work is the best way to meet them. The work paid off against Canton as Muncy dominated the final three quarters and wore down a determined team on both sides of the ball.
"We have a lot of guys that can play," Warnick said. "We have a lot of leaders on this team."
STARTING OVER: It was not that Williamsport snapped a 12-game losing streak that dated back to 2011 Friday night. It was how the Millionaires did it that stood out.
Williamsport overcame an 11-point halftime deficit and mounted a last-minute game-winning drive as it edged Central Mountain, 24-21 in Mill Hall. A year after going 0-10, the Millionaires never flinched after their first-half struggles. Finding a way to win while overcoming adversity is just the kind of win Williamsport needed as it tries turning things around. Teams learn more about themselves when times are tough than when everything is easy and Williamsport learned a lot Friday as Dale Berkheimer capped the comeback with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Isaac Foust played a great game, running for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. It was a big-time performance on a hot, humid night. The defense came up big in the second half too, allowing only a touchdown while giving the team a chance to make its comeback.
Second-year coach Kevin Choate is a fighter, coaching through a battle with cancer last year.
It looks like he has a team that might be built in his image too.
EXTRA POINTS: Hughesville running back Nick Yeager shined in his first varsity start. The hard-nosed junior ran for 190 yards and added 79 yards receiving in a heart-breaking 13-12 loss to Central Columbia. It was the best individual performance by a Hughesville running back since 2011 ... Wellsboro showed why it could be a NTL Big School title contender, pounding Wyalusing, 49-8. The Green Hornets opened a 35-0 halftime lead and quarterback Mike Pietropola was brilliant, throwing three touchdowns to three different receivers while also running for a score. Wellsboro could be a player in the District 4 Class A race and this Friday's game against Troy should be a dandy ... Jersey Shore looks like a team on the rise despite losing 35-18 at Troy. The Bulldogs have plenty of offensive weapons and received a lift from hard-running Jordan Tawney, who gained a career-high 108 yards and scored twice. Utoah Agae-Naipo added 94 yards ... Cowanesque Valley recorded its first shutout since reinstating its program in 2004, blanking Montgomery, 29-0. Running back Brandon Whitesell ran for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns.
DR. MASSE'S WEEKLY TOP FIVE
1. Montoursville (1-0): The Warriors wasted little time revealing their strengths, overwhelming Warrior Run, 42-6. Montoursville built a 42-0 halftime lead, Cameron Ott ran for 213 yards in the first half and the starting defense did not allow a point. It was a good opening act for a team that features 23 teams and that has championship aspirations. Senior linebacker Ethan Jones returned after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 4 last year that cut short a promising year. He played well and scored the team's first touchdown. The young players also made an impact with freshman quarterback Brycen Mussina throwing a touchdown pass on his first varsity snap and sophomore Keith Batkowski running for a touchdown.
2. Loyalsock (1-0): It must be nice to have the ability to not throw a pass the entire preseason and then complete 22 of 32 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown the way Kyle Datres did in Friday's 42-20 win over North Penn. Talk about talent. Loyalsock's offense excelled in all facets, compiling an area-high 537 yards. Robbie Klein ran for 107 yards, Robbie Newton rushed for two scores and Phil Krizan caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. The defense also shined with the starters not allowing a point. Fletcher Quigley played an outstanding game, intercepting two passes while Mickey Haller had a team-high eight tackles.
3. South Williamsport (1-0): There are a lot of new faces, but the result Friday was the same-South recording another big win. The Mounties defeated fellow playoff contender Bloomsburg, 27-26 in the district's best opening-night game. Rocco Bausinger dropped Ricky Klingerman six inches short of the goal line on an attempted game-winning 2-point try and was one of four Mounties who intercepted last year's district leader in yards and touchdowns. South has three wins over Bloomsburg in its last 13 games dating back to last year. The Panthers are 8-1 against teams not named South during that time. The offensive line excelled despite losing some outstanding starters from last year and fullback John Peters provided some inside running muscle, gaining 84 yards on 14 carries.
4. Lewisburg (1-0): The bad news for the Green Dragons was they turned the ball over six times against Towanda. The good news was it still rallied for a thrilling 25-20 win as Drew Newcomb scored a last-minute touchdown following Dante Taylor's dramatic 78-yard kickoff return put the ball at the Towanda 2-yard line. Despite all the mistakes, Lewisburg twice overcame deficits in the fourth quarter and won its season opener for a sixth straight year. The win shows Lewisburg can overcome adversity but if it does not clean up those mistakes, it could be a long night at Mount Carmel Friday. Newcomb looks like a nice two-way threat and quarterback Nick Costigliola threw for 207 yards and a touchdown.
5. Muncy (1-0): Spencer Cotner is one of Muncy's senior leaders and was outstanding against Canton. He provided some muscle on the defensive line and helped stifle the running game while also playing two positions on the offensive line. Cotner moved to center when Nick Roberts was injured and Muncy did not miss a beat, scoring 28 points over the final three quarters.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Dominick Bragalone, South Williamsport: Bragalone edges out Foust after running for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns. Bragalone has torched Bloomsburg the last two seasons, averaging 8.3 yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns. He will try building on that stellar performance against a tough Canton run defense Friday.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Loyalsock at Danville: This is a rematch of last year's District 4 Class AA quarterfinal that Danville won en route to capturing the championship. Both teams have title aspirations this season and this is a big early-season test for both teams. Loyalsock has a shot to make a major statement against a team coming off an impressive 41-0 blanking of Milton.