Harrison makes transition to offensive line

Confusion dominated Steve Harrison’s mind as he walked toward the line of scrimmage against Mount Carmel. Once center Kaden Stenslund snapped the ball the confusion only grew.

Moving from the defensive to offensive line was not easy, but these days Harrison is thinking and seeing clear. The 300-pound guard is becoming quite a force, too, helping Loyalsock win every game since the move. During that time, the Lancers (5-2) have gone from being a struggling team to becoming a District 4 Class AA title contender.

“He has turned into a tremendous football player for us,” Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. “When he wants to physically impose himself on the game he can.”

Especially now that he knows what he’s doing.

Harrison never played offense prior to this season so he had to learn quick. The senior also had to adjust while Loyalsock entered a difficult stretch of games against Mount Carmel, Shikellamy and Troy.

It was demanding, but Harrison started excelling and so did the Loyalsock offense. The Lancers have averaged 34 points and 357 yards during a four-game winning streak and Harrison now feels comfortable. So does the backfield playing behind him.

“It was difficult because as soon as a play was called I was looking at our center saying, ‘Are we running left or right? Who am I picking up? What am I doing?'” Harrison said. “Now it’s, they call a play and I’m on that line and ready to go. My other linemen have been a huge help and they have done an amazing job.”

Harrison looks like a player who could excel at the collegiate level next fall. It has been a rapid rise for someone who did not play high school football until last year. He is big, strong and quick but Harrison first had to learn the basic fundamentals before becoming a defensive catalyst.

And Van Fleet had to remind his big man that it was unnecessary to unveil his whole athletic arsenal on every play.

“Last year he was just trying to figure out how to do it. He was just trying to learn what a three-point stance was,” Van Fleet said. “We had to keep telling him it’s not a good idea to try and jump over the line every play at 300 pounds. Just stop them from moving, that’s what we want. He took that year of development and has become an outstanding player.”

These days Harrison is the one moving people. Friday he was blowing defensive linemen off the ball as Loyalsock gained 378 yards and clinched the win with a 14-play, 6-minute touchdown drive. The adjustment was difficult but Harrison is a quick learner.

Now that he knows what he is doing, Harrison’s fun might be just beginning.

“I feel like I’m taking care of my job because we run a play in practice until it’s perfection. We work really hard at it,” Harrison said. “Everyone is doing an amazing job and I give them a lot of credit. It’s gotten to the point where we are perfect at what we do.”

PULLING TOGETHER: Four weeks ago, North Penn imploded in a 33-0 loss at Towanda. A team that starts mostly underclassmen came apart instead of rallying around each other.

The next week in practice, coach Tom Dickinson drove home how that was the last thing North Penn could do. If the season was going to be a success, players would have to start trusting one another and start handling adversity better.

They have not lost since.

North Penn routed Wyalusing, 34-17 last Friday, winning its third straight game while improving to 5-2. The young Panthers already have eclipsed last year’s win total and look like a team that could make a surprising District 4 Class AA playoff appearance. It seems like they had to fall apart before they could come together.

“Coach was breaking everything down on that and since then we’ve completely bonded as a team,” two-way starter Noah Corwin said after the streak started with a 32-6 win over Hughesville. “We’re just one big family and we can all trust each other.”

That Hughesville win represented the season’s turning point. North Penn failed to score on three first-half drives inside the 20-yard line, trailed 6-0 and had gone nearly six quarters without scoring when it took over deep in its own territory late in the second quarter. It was another test and this time North Penn passed. The Panthers mounted a go-ahead drive, scored in the final seconds and have not stopped scoring since.

North Penn has scored 114 points during its three-game winning streak. Quarterback Bo Burleigh threw for 314 yards and five touchdowns against Wyalusing while receivers Devin Remley and Dayton Wood had big games. Corwin was a defensive force, making a career-high 26 tackles, including 20 solos.

After experiencing some of its worst times against Towanda, North Penn is now having the best of times.

“We got in practice (after Towanda) and coach shook it up,” Burleigh said. “After coming off a loss like that it’s hard to believe at first. But once you start believing, it’s easier to finish.”

NEVER SAY NEVER: Milton made a big statement Friday, overcoming a 21-point second-quarter deficit and rallying past defending District 4 Class AAA champion Selinsgrove, 33-28. Going back to last year’s district final, Selinsgrove had scored 52 straight points against Milton, but the Black Panthers did not care.

This is a new year and Milton did not let history repeat itself. The Panthers scored the next 27 points and Josh Brown’s fourth-quarter touchdown put them ahead to stay. Two-way standout lineman Travis Krall clinched the win when he recovered a fumble as Milton recorded its biggest win in recent memory. The Panthers (5-2) have won four straight and now have the inside track toward the district’s top seed in Class AAA and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Milton features one of the district’s most explosive offenses and topped 30 points for a sixth straight week. Running back Jayson English totaled 227 yards and caught 10 passes while Brown scored four touchdowns.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: This reporter made a mistake in Saturday’s Hughesville-Loyalsock game story when I wrote that intentional grounding should not have been called when quarterback Logan Henry rolled outside the tackle box and threw the ball away from the Loyalsock 1-yard line, resulting in an intentional grounding call that helped stall the drive. However, there is no tackle box in high school, like there is in the NFL.

Therefore since the ball was thrown away and out of bounds to avoid a sack the correct call was made. I apologize for getting the call wrong.

EXTRA POINTS: Canton (3-4) has turned its season around and won its third straight last Friday, pounding defending NTL Big School champion Athens, 34-10. Quarterback John Bowman ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns while Mason Moore intercepted a pass as Canton beat Athens for the first time this century … Muncy built momentum for a big showdown at South Williamsport in two nights by pounding CMVT, 48-14. The Indians (5-2) ran the ball as well as they have all year and Junior Ramos scored three times. Muncy is fourth in the District 4 Class A points standings and can take control of the NTL Small School Division if it wins Friday … Utoah Agae-Naipo ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Jersey Shore’s 29-19 loss at Shikellamy. The standout senior running back has topped 100 yards three times and has a shot to become the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher of the 21st century.