Robbie Klein got past the line of scrimmage, eluded one tackler and glanced to his left, where he saw nothing but green turf. He was gone as soon as he started accelerating toward the pylon.
On a night where Loyalsock's running game was grinding, taking 3 and 4-yard chunks at a time, the senior running back had finally broken a big one. Klein's 30-yard scoring run with 5:42 left in Friday's game against Mount Carmel gave the Lancers their first, and only, lead of the night. It was an important lead to have as Loyalsock defeated the Red Tornadoes for the second consecutive season, this time 34-27.
After never having scored more than seven points in four all-time meetings against Mount Carmel prior to last season, Loyalsock has scored at least 32 points in each of the last two meetings, both resulting in wins. And last night's win came at a crucial time as Loyalsock was hitting a crossroad of its season with a 1-2 record and coming off an upset loss to Central Columbia a week ago.
Phil Krizan of Loyalsock catches a touchdown pass over Mount Carmel’s Trayvon White Friday night at Loyalsock. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"We were all (ticked) off. We all had a chip on our shoulder," Klein said of the Central Columbia loss. "We worked hard this week and got back to winning."
Klein was a big part of Loyalsock getting back to winning as he rushed for a career-high 130 yards and scored his second touchdown of the season. It was Klein's second 100-yard rushing effort of the season, and first since the Lancers beat North Penn the opening week of the season.
"They line was great. They were working hard all week and were unbelievable," Klein said. "I couldn't have done it without the line."
That's two 100-yard rushing games for a first-time varsity football player in his first four career games. Klein was talked into coming out to the team by head coach Justin Van Fleet during the offseason.
Klein, who played youth football growing up, gave it up in middle school as he battled some injuries and wanted to focus on baseball. It's a plan that worked out pretty well since he helped take Loyalsock to its second ever baseball state title in the spring.
But now that he's out for the football team, he's given the Lancers a big body in the backfield who can grind out the tough yards between the tackles. It's given defenses cause for concern because they have to keep honest to the inside running game while also respecting the running ability of quarterback Kyle Datres to the outside.
And on a night like last night, it all opened the passing game to the tune of 154 yards and two scoring passes from Datres to Phil Krizan (7 catches, 128 yards).
"When you have someone who can run like that, it makes coaching football a lot easier," Van Fleet said. "When you're able to establish the run game, it sets everything else up. He's a heck of a football player and a heck of a young man. He's a tough-nosed kid who is highly intelligent and believes in the team concept. I'll take as many of those as I can get."
Klein's touchdown run last night was the first time a Loyalsock score didn't come immediately following a Mount Carmel score. It also capped a 99-yard scoring drive which was started because of a recovered fumble on the Lancers' own 1-yard line.
Loyalsock nearly never escaped the shadow of its own goal post, facing third-and-9 at the 2-yard line, Datres found Krizan for a 22-yard gain to keep the drive alive. A 25-yard run by Datres got the Lancers across midfield when a 15-yard penalty was tacked on to the end of the run. Klein, who had just two of his 26 carries go for 10 yards or more last night, broke his touchdown run three plays later.
"I ran up the right side and there was a cutback lane and I saw the opening," Klein said. "I saw the open grass and that was it. You can't expect a play like that, it just happens when it happens."
Mount Carmel had taken its fourth seven-point lead of the night with 10:47 to go in the fourth quarter when Blake Panko (14 carries, 115 yards) capped an eight-play drive with a 1-yard scoring run. Loyalsock, who had missed an extra point earlier, blocked Dominic Farranato's kick to keep Mount Carmel's lead at 27-20.
Loyalsock had its biggest answer of the night when junior Fletcher Quigley returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. He caught the kick of the left hash and followed a wall of blockers all the way to the right sideline.
He used his speed to get to the corner and got a great block at about the 40-yard line on the kicker to spring him to the end zone. Austin Champion kicked his third of four PATs to tie the game at 27-27.
"Fletcher is a kid that I love to death," Van Fleet said. "He played soccer freshman year and I begged the kid to come out and give it a shot. He came out last year and was a heck of a player. He ended up re-injuring an ankle he had broken the previous year and he could never get his feet under him. He finally has his feet under him and he's worked incredibly hard."