LEWISBURG - Montoursville linebacker Logan Mekeag did not notice the many turf cinders dotting his face following Friday's game. Even if he did, he likely would not have cared.
That really is Montoursville football in 2013. The Warriors might get banged up, they might get covered in dirt or blood, they might make mistakes, but they never lose their focus. They never stop fighting. And this year, they have not stopped winning.
Griffin Dunne threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, Cameron Ott scored three touchdowns in three ways and the defense dominated the second half as Montoursville overcame a 20-point halftime deficit Friday at Christy Mathewson Stadium and edged Lewisburg, 27-20. The Warriors scored 27 straight second-half points, took the lead early in the fourth quarter and allowed only one second-half first down while improving to 6-0.
Derrick Evans of Montoursville tackles Dante Taylor of Lewisburg Friday night at Bucknell.
Montoursville also proved it as tough as it is talented, winning despite trailing by 20 and turning the ball over six times.
"Every game no matter what it is, no matter who it is we just have to keep pushing through," Mekeag said. "We knew from our past games that we could get it done."
"We're going to have games like this down the road playing tough teams, but we just have to keep fighting," two-way starter Mike Signor said. "It shows that even with adversity we can persevere through anything. Whether it be turnovers or mistakes, as long as we keep fighting and doing what we do we've got them."
Montoursville overcame a double-digit second-half deficit at Lewisburg (4-2) for the second time in eight games after rallying from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit in last year's District 4 Class AA quarterfinal. But when the Green Dragons scored two touchdowns in the first half's final 13 seconds, including a 34-yard fumble return with no time remaining, it seemed Montoursville might have dug itself too deep a hole.
Unfazed, the team remained upbeat at halftime and opened the second half with a quick 55-yard scoring drive that Ott (183 yards rushing) capped with a 1-yard score. One play and 13 seconds later, Ott was in the end zone again, returning an interception 32 yards for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 20-14. Less than four minutes into the third quarter everything had changed.
"I stressed that we could not press. You can't score 21 points on one play. That's all I said at halftime to try and calm us down," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "You have to go out there and chip away. You don't have to take the lead, but once you change the momentum you're OK. You have to get the momentum changed and get things going your way and I think that's what happened."
The Montoursville defense was relentless and allowed minus-4 third-quarter yards while the offense kept moving. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Warriors had a 2nd-and-goal at the 2-yard line. A penalty led to a 3rd-and-goal from the 12. It was another obstacle to overcome and Montoursville hurdled it again as Dunne hit Wyatt Entz with a 12-yard touchdown pass that, combined with Jim McMahon's extra point, gave the Warriors their first lead, 21-20.
Offensive linemen Signor, Ben Cerney, Tommy Williams, Lucas Shaheen and Conner Bassett dominated the second half, consistently getting a great push off the line and opening holes for Ott, Alec Rothrock (69 yards) and Dunne (51 yards) who combined for 303 rushing yards. And while those three consistently broke tackles and extended plays, it again was the passing game that extened the lead. On 4th-and-9, Dunne (3 for 3, 45 yards, 2 touchdowns on 3rd and 4th-and-longs) rolled right and hit Ott who went head over heels into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown that put Montoursville up 27-20 with 5:30 remaining.
"Our backs are great. As long as we get them that little hole and execute our blocks they will find positive yardage," said Signor, a center and defensive lineman who recorded his seventh sack. "That first touchdown got the momentum shifted in our direction and from that point on we just played great offense, played great defense and it was lights out from there."
Lewisburg had two chances to tie in the final 5:21 after Ben Frankel returned a kickoff to the Montoursville 45-yard line and after Austin Steen recovered a fumble at the 44-yard line. Montoursville forced a four-and-out on the first series as Mekeag made a great open field tackle on Logan Aikey.
A series later, Nick Costigliola hit Aikey with a 16-yard completion and moved the ball to the Montoursville 40. Lewisburg, though, gained only three more yards. Shaheen made a nice stop on first down and the next three passes were incomplete, linebacker Ethan Jones ending it by knocking down a fourth-down pass.
"It's all on you there," Mekeag said. "We were all pumped up. We weren't going to let them get anywhere. We knew we had to stop them there."
Lewisburg scored 20 second-quarter points as Costigliola (181 yards) found Frankel and Luke Smith for 65 and 26-yard touchdown passes, respectively. When Kyle Palmer delivered a jarring hit on a last-second kickoff and Pyers returned it 34 yards for a touchdown Lewisburg landed a huge upper cut.
It answered by delivering the knockout blow.
"You learn lessons through sports," Keefer said. "The lesson tonight was you never give up, you never stop battling and somewhere at the end of the road something good is going to happen."