SELINSGROVE - Loyalsock made some highlight-reel plays in front of a live television audience Friday night. It was one of the simplest, though, that told the story.
Fullback Robbie Newton took an inside handoff, the line provided a nice push and Newton carried defenders for a few extra yards on a 13-yard third-quarter run. A week after absorbing a painful one-point loss at Towanda, Loyalsock attacked Lewisburg head on and re-established itself as a championship-caliber team.
Quarterback Kyle Datres totaled 218 yards and accounted for four offensive touchdowns while returning an interception 70 yards for a game-clinching score as Loyalsock overwhelmed Lewisburg, 34-7 at Susquehanna University. The Lancers (6-3, 3-1 HAC-II) made a big statement against a fellow playoff team and set up a winner-take-all showdown with Montoursville next week for the HAC-II championship.
"We had our backs to the wall and we could either go fight or flight and we really fought," tackle Jake Glavin said. "We really executed."
"This is the best we've prepared all year and that's what we needed," Datres said. "The defense stepped up. We made some adjustments and came ready to play and that's what won us the game."
Loyalsock handed Lewisburg (6-3, 3-2) its worst loss since beating it 41-6 in the 2009 district final. It also held Lewisburg to its lowest point total and dominated both lines of scrimmage.
It was a victory as complete as it was impressive. A 10-yard Nick Costagliola touchdown pass to Logan Aikey was the only scored the defense allowed and it forced two second-half turnovers that led to 13 points. The defense added three sacks and held Lewisburg to 56 yards rushing.
"The kids have a lot of character. They have come from some real hard situations," Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. "Most of these kids were playing two years ago when we went 1-9 and they have really worked their tails off to recreate that winning tradition. You have to believe in yourselves and that's the key to what is going on."
Loyalsock ravaged one of the area's best defenses, utilizing the triple option. Datres had Lewisburg tackling air throughout the first half, scoring twice while setting up the inside running for Newton who gained 86 tough yards.
Datres is an 1,100-yard passer but the Lancers did not have to throw much, relying more on a smash-mouth approach. Glavin, Kaden Stensland, Justin Wood, Steve Harrison and Daniel Harrison were outstanding up front and helped Loyalsock run for 294 yards while controlling the clock for much of the second half.
"Tonight just shows who they are and what they can do and what they hope to become," Van Fleet said.
"We had good surge and we just kept it coming," Glavin said. "It's demoralizing if you can just keep running the ball on a team and keep pounding it down their throats."
So too is it when Datres keeps making big plays. The junior quarterback ran for 104 first-half yards, threw for 66 more and led a 5-play, 61-yard scoring drive in the final minute. He capped it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Robbins that made it 20-7 at halftime.
Robbins intercepted a tipped Newton pass in the third quarter to thwart a Lewisburg drive and the Lancers put the game away in the fourth. Datres ended an eight-run, 61-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown set up by Saabir Gibson's tough run on third down a play earlier.
Datres clinched the win with his defense. After Lewisburg had crossed midfield, Datres perfectly read the play, jumped a route and zigged and zagged his way for a 70-yard return.
"I told my defense I haven't played to the best of my ability this year. I told them I wasn't going to let them down this week," Datres said. "I saw him break near the sticks and undercut him and it hit me right in the chest and I got some blockers down the field and was able to return it."
Lewisburg quarterback Nick Costagliola threw for a career-high 269 yards and Ben Frankel had six catches for 116 yards, but Loyalsock pressured Costagliola throughout and never let him get comfortable. Steve Harrison, Brennan Moodie and Bryce Losch all had sacks and Loyalsock forced Lewisburg into becoming one-dimensional.
Healthier and closer than it has been all year, Loyalsock showed how good it can be.
"I believe these kids are destined for great things. I believe that with 100 percent of my heart," Van Fleet said. "I said, 'I'm not asking for you to try harder, I'm just asking you to believe and tonight came a long way in uncovering that. This was a great win and we're hoping we can ride this further along."