Lancers drop thriller at Danville

DANVILLE – The scoreboard at Ironmen Stadium was teasing Danville head coach Jim Keiser.

In brightly lit numbers, he could see his Ironmen had a two-point lead after a scintillating 40-yard touchdown run from Sam Dressler. Then there were the luminous numbers atop the scoreboard, sucking every last bit of good feeling from his being.

Three minutes and 26 seconds stared him in the face waiting to be counted off.

“Anytime you have Kyle Datres on the other side of the field, there’s too much time on the clock,” Keiser said.

Datres nearly proved him right. The junior quarterback – with help of a roughing the passer penalty – moved Loyalsock into field goal range in the final minute of the game. But junior kicker Austin Champion’s 31-yard field goal attempt fell short with 26 seconds to go giving Danville a 23-21 win over Loyalsock on Friday night.

Keiser stood on the sideline as Danville quarterback Weston Baylor took one final knee to run that remaining tantalizing time off the clock and felt a surge of relief rush over him. The eighth-ranked Class AA football team in the state escaped with a win on a night which saw two likely playoff foes answer blow for blow for 32 minutes.

“Honestly, I feel lucky,” Keiser said. “That’s a heck of a football team and they played a heck of a football game and we didn’t play very disciplined. If we don’t wake up, we’re going to get knocked off down the road. Every week is a battle in this league.”

Danville won Friday’s battle the way it has ascended the ranks of football in Class AA in Pennsylvania, riding the shoulders of fullback Dressler and halfback Isaiah Croll. But it wasn’t just that the two combined for 237 of Danville’s 266 yards which was so lethal. It was how they did it.

Both had to make moves and stiff-arms before reaching the holes created by their offensive line because of Loyalsock’s constant pressure in the backfield. Lancers senior defensive tackle Steve Harrison likely spent more time in the Ironmen’s backfield than he did on his own side of the football last night.

Despite the initial pressure, Loyalsock didn’t make the first hit the last hit of the play. The power of Croll and Dressler allowed them to run through arm tackles. The shiftiness of both allowed them to make one cut and get vertical.

Dressler finished with 142 yards and two touchdowns. Croll had 95 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m not going to discount their backs because they’re hard to take down,” Loyalsock head coach Justin Van Fleet said. “You come off a block from one of their linemen, you get spun around, then you have a 185-pound kid who’s got an attitude, that’s a hard back to grab ahold of. Those backs are real good backs. We’re in the backfield, but they changed the dynamic of it.”

Danville had to fight back from a deficit three times. Neither time did it stray from its Wing-T gameplan. Quarterback Weston Baylor threw just six passes. It allowed the Ironmen to control the clock, and with it, keep Datres off the field.

On Danville’s four scoring drives last night it ran a total of 32 plays. Thirty of plays were running plays.

A 16-play drive to open the game ended with a Shayne Riley 24-yard field goal. An 11-play drive in the second quarter ended with a Dressler 1-yard touchdown run. Croll ended a third-quarter drive in one play with a 25-yard touchdown run, and Dressler gave the lead for good in the fourth quarter by capping a four-play drive with a 40-yard scoring run.

“They do a great job,” Keiser said. “We’re fortunate that we’ve had those two kids for four years. They carry it 20 to 30 times a game and sometimes you’ll make a mistake. But I think those are two very good backs who we’re lucky to have.”

Just as dangerous was Datres. It’s nothing new. Regardless of what sport the junior plays, he’s often the focal point.

The point guard on the basketball team, and the ace pitcher of the Lancers’ state championship baseball team, he’s also the triggerman in Loyalsock’s new pistol offense. The offense rests on his shoulders, and his coaches and teammates wouldn’t want it any other way.

Opposing coaches might, though.

Datres ran for 106 yards last night, threw for 118 more and had a hand in all three Lancer touchdowns. His fourth-down pass to Phil Krizan in the second quarter capped a 77-yard scoring drive. His fourth-down quarterback sneak in the second quarter closed a 71-yard scoring drive. And his Superman dive from the 4-yard line to the pylon gave Loyalsock a fourth-quarter, 21-17 lead.

“(The offense) is all in Kyle’s hands. It’s all up to him now,” said Krizan, who had six catches for 99 yards. “We scored 21 points against a really good defense. At times, I thought we were unstoppable.”

“I think he’s the most dangerous player in the state of Pennsylvania,” Van Fleet said. “He’s a field general. I’m blessed to have him.”

“We thought we had guys there at times, and he’s like a magician back there,” Keiser said. “He reminds of Blake Rankin. Blake was a bear for us and we could never get to him. Kyle’s the same way. You can see why he does so well. He has the speed, the moves, he’s got it all.”

It’s why when Keiser stared at the scoreboard with more than 3 minutes to go, he had an uneasy feeling. It’s not one that’s likely to be gone soon.

Loyalsock, despite the loss, made quite the statement Friday night that it’s capable with playing with the best District 4 has to offer. It was something the Lancers had already believed internally, but had set out to prove to those outside the program.

“To know we came this close to beating the eighth-best team in the state, it shows how much heart we have and how good we can be,” Krizan said. “This proves to everyone that we’re a heck of a football team.”