Montoursville quarterback Griffin Dunne rolled right and soon watched a Lewisburg defender block his path a few yards down field. Dunne chose not to run around him.
He rammed straight ahead.
Dunne ran the defender over, gained 35 yards and set up Montoursville's first touchdown Friday at Lewisburg. Down by 20 at that point, Montoursville rallied to win, 27-20. And that play served as the perfect symbol of what has made Montoursville so good six weeks into the season.
Cameron Ott, left, and Montoursville take their 6-0 record into Friday’s game vs. Danville.
The Warriors are talented but they are tough, too. Dunne is one of 22 Montoursville seniors and no matter the situation, those players know what needs to be done. Having talent is one thing, but lots of teams have that. What makes some championship teams is the leadership and the will to win. Montoursville has a lot of that.
"Griffin Dunne stepped it up big time. He said, 'we're not going to lose,'" Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "Kids like that are not going to give up so I have to hand it to our seniors. They did the leading (Friday)."
Montoursville improved to 6-0, took a big step toward winning its first HAC-II championship and set up a showdown with unbeaten Danville this Friday. The Warriors overcame six turnovers and that big deficit against a fellow district title contender last Friday and never buckled. That was especially true after Lewisburg scored 13 straight points in the first-half's final 13 seconds, including on a 34-yard fumble return as time expired.
As bad as that half ended, Keefer did not spend the break yelling at his players. He did not need to. They understood what needed to be done. Adjustments were made, but spirits remained high. Team leaders convinced everyone they would win.
"It was ourselves pumping us up because we've all been through it before," linebacker Logan Mekeag said. "Coach Keefer's motto is finish. That's what it is all about."
"When you have kids like Lucas Shaheen, Mike Signor, Conner Bassett and the list goes on, that is huge," Keefer said. "We have 22 seniors on this team and they believe. They're the ones that are going to dictate what kind of tempo we're going to have."
There were so many times Montoursville could have folded against Lewisburg. Even when things went well nothing came easy. On each of their scoring drives, the Warriors faced long third and fourth-down situations. Each time they converted with Dunne completing all three of his passes for 45 yards and two scores.
Football is the ultimate team sport and this was a team win. The offensive and defensive lines dominated the line of scrimmage and the defense allowed just 25 second-half yards. Dunne, Cameron Ott (216 total yards, 2 interceptions, 3 touchdowns), and Alec Rothrock ran hard and Wyatt Entz and Alex Erb made big catches.
When things appeared to be the worst, Montoursville responded by playing its best.
"We work hard in the offseason, from January all the way to the two-a-days in August and it shows we definitely have heart," two-way starting lineman Mike Signor said. "We just fight till the end and we got the victory. It shows how much heart and determination we have. Most of all it shows all the hard work we put in is paying off. This is when it matters."
Montoursville is in the midst of a six-game stretch against tough teams with winning records. Friday it hosts defending District 4 champion Danville. It likely will be a close and hard-fought game. Whatever happens, do not expect Montoursville to back down.
The Warriors like the challenges. They like to fight and battle. These are the teams and games they enjoy the most. No matter what, they do not stop believing.
"They're not going to back down from anything. They're going to take the challenge and go with it," Keefer said. "My message after the game was you're going to run into a situation in your life where you're going to want to fold, you're going to want to quit and you can't. You have to keep plugging away. You have to keep battling and that's what football is all about, that's what life is all about. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. If you quit, it's over.
"If you don't and you believe, anything can happen."
STREAK BUSTERS: Montgomery snapped a 20-game losing streak that dated back to Week 6 of 2010 when it upset Bucktail, 12-8. The Red Raiders also won on the road for the first time since beating Cowanesque Valley in Week 9 of 2009. Montgomery has only 19 players, fewer than any other District 4 team, but has been one of the hardest working the last two years and that paid big dividends in Bucktail.
Montgomery snapped Bucktail's two-game winning streak and beat a team that hammered it 48-8 last year. The Raiders played excellent defense against an opponent that scored 53 points in its previous two games, made big stops and effectively ran the ball. Austin Armolt ran for a career-high 84 yards while Kobe Gallentine and Tyler Betz combined for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Gallentine's bruising 30-yard run was the game winner with two minutes remaining.
When a team wins all the time it is easy to show up each day at practice and move forward. It is a lot harder when one has lost a lot and faces such long odds most weeks. Give credit to Montgomery for sticking with things the last two seasons. The work ethic and determination they have shown will help carry them on and off the field.
EXTRA POINTS: Canton is turning its season around and won its second straight, defeating Sayre, 16-6. The Warriors (2-4) won with offense last week and defense against Sayre. Trevor Route recorded a safety, Mark Grzella had three sacks and Chase Pepper added an interception. Pepper also drove a 45-yard first-quarter punt that was a huge play since it set up Trevor Route's safety ... North Penn routed Cowanesque Valley, 48-24 as Luke Kelly blocked two punts and Jordan Williams returned an interception for a touchdown. Bryce Zaparzynski topped 100 yards rushing and receiving, scored four touchdowns and has 1,057 total yards. Bo Burleigh threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns as North Penn (4-2) stayed in the hunt for a District 4 Class AA playoff berth ... CV's Brandon Whitesell ran for a career-high 214 yards in that game and is fourth in the area with 799 yards ... Williamsport sophomore quarterback Christian Diggs might have provided a look into the future at Coughlin, throwing for two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 39-19 loss. Diggs had a terrific offseason and completed 4 of 7 passes for 70 yards ... Hughesville running back Nick Yeager ran for 119 yards and two scores against South Williamsport. Yeager topped 100 yards for the second time and has run for 529 yards ... Muncy wide receiver Maurice Brown caught his sixth touchdown pass this season in a 27-8 loss at Bloomsburg ... Former Montgomery receiver Corey Kriner caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in Milton's 49-13 pasting of Shamokin Saturday. Quarterback Brady Chappell has thrown eight touchdown passes the last three weeks as Milton (4-2) has vaulted to the top of the District 4 Class AAA playoff points standings.
Dr. Masse's area top five
1. Montoursville (6-0): Montoursville has used the next man approach well and the offensive line has proven it, excelling despite losing standout Cody Chilcot to injury. Signor, Ben Cerney, Tommy Williams, Lucas Shaheen, Conner Bassett and tight end Derrick Evans have been outstanding and helped Montoursville run for 303 yards against Lewisburg. The defensive line has been outstanding as well with Signor recording seven sacks and Williams, Shaheen, Cerney, Vincent Philips and J.J. Schriner making big plays.
2. Wellsboro (6-0): The Green Hornets ended 12 years of frustration against Athens, pounding it 52-14 while mercy ruling its fifth opponent. The starting defense again did not allow any points, something it has done five times. Linebacker Brian Doty had a sack and an interception and is part of a unit that is allowing just 125 yards per game. Offensive linemen Doty, Blake Gamble, Nick Levondoski, Kyler Widows and Owen Covert have helped spark an explosive offense and Brandon Owlett (21 catches, 645 yards) caught his program-record 10th touchdown pass and has caught at least one in every game. Quarterback Mike Pietropola (1,487 yards, 22 touchdowns) set the program record with 405 yards and five touchdowns as Wellsboro built a 42-0 halftime lead.
3. South Williamsport (5-1): The Mounties defeated Hughesville, 38-20, winning there for the first time since 2004. The offensive line was a big reason why, paving the way for a 452-yard rushing performance. The line has thrived, even after standout Sam Buck was lost for the season, helping South run for 1,929 yards. The Mounties have topped 400 yards rushing in a game three times. South plays four straight NTL Small-School games to end its regular season. The Mounties are hoping to repeat as league champions, something that has not happened there since the late 1990s. They are 15-3 the last two years.
4. Loyalsock (4-2): The Lancer defense might give up some yards, but it is making big stops and plays at huge moments. A week after the defense made a game-saving fourth-down stop against Shikellamy, Omar Little intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a scoring drive and Mickey Haller returned a fumble for a touchdown as Loyalsock routed Troy, 40-21. The Lancers scored 35 straight points after trailing in the second quarter against a fellow playoff contender and forced four turnovers. The offensive line is jelling and helped Kyle Datres and Robbie Klein both top 100 yards rushing. Loyalsock has won three straight games and controls its own District 4 Class AA playoff destiny. In three of their four wins, the Lancers have scored either a defensive or special teams touchdown.
5. Lewisburg (4-2): The Green Dragons still control their own district playoff destiny and remain dangerous. Drew Newcomb intercepted his district-high seventh pass against Montoursville and linebacker Kyle Palmer was outstanding, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Ben Frankel is a solid defensive back and also is developing into a strong receiver. He caught a 65-yard touchdown pass against Montoursville and has 187 yards the last two weeks. Defensive lineman Austin Steen is tough up the middle and is strong enough that many teams try running away from him.
Players of the week
Dominick Bragalone, South; Jermaine Brooks, Wellsboro: Bragalone wins the award for a third time after shattering the Lycoming County record and the South single-game rushing record (for a third time in five weeks) against Hughesville. Bragalone ran for 421 yards and five touchdowns, topping 300 yards for a third time in five weeks. He has run for 1,583 yards and 23 touchdowns while averaging 11.9 yards per carry.
Brooks was a force against Athens, topping both 100 rushing and receiving yards while scoring five touchdowns. Each of Brooks's touchdowns covered 20 or more yards and he turned all three of his catches into 127 yards and three touchdowns. He has 629 total yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Game of the week
Danville at Montoursville: Regular season games do not get much bigger or better than Friday's at Memorial Stadium. The winner takes the inside track toward capturing the district's top seed and establishes itself as the district's team to beat. These rivals have played some great games over the years and this could be one of the best.