HUGHESVILLE - The fumble itself wasn't so bad. A momentum killer for sure, but nothing there wasn't time to overcome.
The subsequent 60-yard run from Logan Aikey? Yeah, that hurt pretty good. And when it was followed with a 7-yard touchdown run from Kyle Palmer? Well, that was pretty much the last blow Hughesville could take.
Lewisburg played a brilliant second half Friday night, both offensively and defensively in a 42-7 win over the Spartans. The Green Dragons got back on the winning side following a loss to Mount Carmel a week ago and Hughesville fell to 0-3.
Lewisburg took any semblance of momentum away from Hughesville when it recovered a fumble on the opening drive of the third quarter. The Spartans were marching toward a score which would have potentially made it a seven-point game. Hughesville had run 10 plays prior to the fumble on the half-opening drive, moving 62 yards to the Lewisburg 16-yard line.
On the 12th play, the same sweep play the Spartans had been gouging the Green Dragons with for the better part of the night, Nick Yeager lost the handle on the football. It was the third fumble of the drive for Hughesville, but the first it couldn't recover.
It took just four plays for Lewisburg to deliver a dagger of a touchdown. Hughesville never threatened again.
"It was a little scary because they could have cut it to one score and they were doing a nice job of running the ball," Lewisburg head coach Jeremy Winn said. "It was a nice job at the start of the half to bend a little bit but not break, get a turnover and then go down and score."
Quickly last night's game turned from a nip-and-tuck affair to a rout. Just about 9 minutes of game clock following Palmer's touchdown Lewisburg had invoked the mercy rule with a 35-point lead.
It's a story of inconsistency which has become all too familiar in the first three weeks of the season for the Spartans and head coach Andy Brown. A week ago Hughesville was tied 14-14 with Bloomsburg entering the fourth quarter before the Panthers scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes. Two weeks ago the Spartans gave up a touchdown in the fourth quarter in a one-point loss to Central Columbia.
"Consistency is the biggest thing. You see flashes of it. You see we can play with a lot of teams," Brown said. "But we're not consistent enough to finish drives. We're not consistent enough with the turnovers."
But it wasn't just the third-quarter fumble which caused problems for the Spartans. There was a second-quarter holding penalty which took a 10-yard touchdown run off the board.
Hughesville ended that drive without scoring, throwing a meaningless fourth-down interception on fourth-and-21.
And it seemed like every time Hughesville was making a mistake, Lewisburg was there to capitalize. Especially once it found its bread and butter on the ground.
Lewisburg had taken to the air for much of the first half. Nick Costagliola threw 19 first-half passes but he completed just eight thanks to five dropped passes from his receivers. Despite the struggles, Lewisburg scored 21 first-half points thanks to touchdown catches of 8 and 20 yards for Thomas Brouse and Andrew Newcomb and a 12-yard scoring run from Logan Aikey.
But it was in the second half where the Green Dragons did their damage on the ground. It started when Aikey broke through to the second level on a dive play and outran the Hughesville secondary for 60 yards to the Spartans' 10-yard line. Two running plays later Lewisburg scored to make the score 28-7.
Aikey ran for 110 of his 178 yards in the second half as Lewisburg put up better than 150 rushing yards in the final two quarters. And because of the improved running game, Costagliola attempted just one pass in the second half.
"Our line really started to put it together," said Aikey, who had just five carries for 12 yards coming into last night's game. "We found what worked and kept running it. We did a heck of a job."
"I think we came out with a different attitude," Winn said. "When you're running the Wing-T, you have to be able to nail down the running game. Hopefully tonight we found something we can build off of."