Saabir Gibson found his motivation every time he looked toward the bleachers Friday night.
Gibson's mother Alecia was there watching her son play in person for the first time this season. And Gibson gave her a night to remember.
Gibson set up two first-half touchdowns with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. He also ran for a score, shined at linebacker and gained 42 yards while helping Loyalsock defeat Hughesville, 28-7 at Kenneth Robbins Stadium.
Saabir Gibson of Loyalsock (8) runs away from Hughesville’s Jacob Stutzman Friday at Loyalsock.
"It was a good game and I credit a lot to my mom," Gibson said. "This was her first game coming down to see me and I had to put on a show for her."
Gibson's fumble recovery set up his 2-yard first-quarter touchdown run and his blocked punt a quarter later set up Loyalsock's third score as the Lancers took a 21-0 lead. His numbers do not jump out in the box score, but Gibson was the game's most valuable player Friday night.
Making his first start at linebacker, Gibson helped Loyalsock play one of its best defensive games. He made two tackles for losses and Loyalsock did not allow a point on six different Hughesville drives inside the 40-yard line.
"Saabir gives us a lot of motor and he always seems to make a play. Saabir is a highly intelligent individual who just focuses on what his job is," Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. "He makes a play and then he just goes back to work. He's a real good kid and he's a testament to what we're trying to do as a program."
Loyalsock (5-2) won its fourth straight as its offensive line dominated and Robbie Klein ran for a career-high 141 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Kyle Van Fleet accounted for 180 yards and two touchdowns and his joystick-like 35-yard touchdown pass to Omar Little, in which he avoided a sack four times, started the scoring.
Gibson's fumble recovery set up his touchdown a series later and he made another big play midway through the second quarter. He blew through the middle of the line and blocked a punt near midfield before Mickey Haller scooped it up and ran 20 yards to the 22-yard line. Datres then ran for a 5-yard touchdown and Loyalsock had a 21-point lead that was never seriously threatened.
"I was going in and I'm used to the NFL rules where it's roughing the kicker if you run into him so I jumped and hit it with my head and Mickey picked it up and returned it," Gibson said. "We're starting to get used to winning and now we just have to keep pushing and keep trying to get better."
The offensive line did plenty of pushing, consistently driving Hughesville off the line. Loyalsock runners often were five or 10 yards downfield before getting hit. Brothers Steve and Dan Harrison, Jake Glavin, Kaden Stensland and Justin Wood have jelled over the last four weeks and again helped the Loyalsock offense thrive.
The Lancers controlled the clock throughout the second half and used a 14-play drive that took ate up half the third quarter to go ahead, 28-0. Klein capped that run with an 18-yard score on a draw, not getting hit until he was inside the 10 and then bulling his way into the end zone from there.
"We only run a few main plays but we try and work those to perfection and just keep going and going and going until we have them perfect," said Steve Harrison, a 300-pound force at tackle. "I played defensive line all of last year and it's so frustrating when a team is running and running and getting first downs whenever they need them. You know you have to get that stop and it's so demoralizing as a team when you can't get that stop so it feels good when you wear on them like that."
Hughesville dropped to 0-7 but did not roll over. The Spartans consistently moved the ball, but Loyalsock kept making plays to thwart those drives. The biggest and most controversial stop came after Trey Smith returned an interception 79 yards to the 1-yard line in the first-half's closing seconds. On the ensuing play Logan Henry (127 yards) rolled right and outside the tackle box but was called for intentional grounding. That pushed the ball back to the 17-yard line and three straight incompletions followed.
A Datres break-up on fourth down stopped a third-quarter drive at Loyalsock's 32-yard line and Klein's touchdown clinched the win.
"I credit that to Mickey (Haller) and Bryce (Losch) our defensive captains," Gibson said. "They get us real hyped on third and fourth down and we just take over."
"You have to give a lot of credit to Coach Van Fleet," Harrison said. "He doesn't stop until it's perfect in practice. If it's not perfect we keep working on it."
Hughesville scored a fourth-quarter touchdown when Clint Snyder capped a 14-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown. Henry completed two fourth-down passes on the drive and Jon Warg caught one of those passes while finishing with a career-high 81 yards.