Danville ball control offense too much for Green Dragons

DANVILLE – It’s hard to make a second-half comeback on the road in a playoff atmosphere. It’s even harder when you only have the ball for three combined minutes in the game’s last two quarters.

That’s how Danville proved that sometimes a team’s best defense is a consistent offense, as the Ironmen ran over Lewisburg, 23-6, in the first round of the District 4 Class AA playoffs Friday.

After starting the game with three consecutive 4-and-out drives, the Ironmen looked a little stunned to find themselves down 6-0 when the first 12 minutes of Friday’s contest had expired.

One quarter was in the books, but Danville had yet to make its offensive presence known. Even worse, they had surrendered a big touchdown pass when Lewisburg’s Nick Costagliola connected with Benjamin Frankel on a 31-yard bomb just before the first quarter ended.

But true to their name, the Ironmen didn’t bend or break. They fought back.

As the second quarter started up, Danville didn’t have to wait long to find the spark it needed. Caleb Jones injected his team with the energy they had been seeking, when he made a spectacular interception and returned it 50 yards Danville’s first touchdown of the game.

That score combined with a pair of 30-yard field goals was enough to give the Ironmen a 13-6 edge when the teams entered their locker rooms at half time.

“Shayne Riley was kicking the ball beautiful tonight,” Danville head coach Jim Keiser said. “He made those field goals and gave us a little cushion, and gave us some confidence going into halftime.”

That newly-found confidence would come in handy when the Ironmen took to the field in the second half.

Looking like a new team, the Ironmen started the third quarter with a gritty 7-minute, 60-yard drive capped with yet another Riley field goal. More importantly, it kept Lewisburg’s offense on the sidelines.

“That is really our game plan, keeping them off the field,” Keiser said. “They have some dangerous kids, and they are all good football players, so we wanted to keep them off the field, and I thought we did a real good job of that.”

It was much of the same when the fourth quarter began, as Danville strung together another time-crunching drive that lasted for 10 of the game’s remaining 12 minutes. Only this time, the Ironmen finally punched the ball into the end zone, scoring their first and only offensive touchdown of the contest.

That came on a 1-yard blast up the middle from running back Sam Dressler, who played an inspired game for the Ironmen.

Dressler, who was seeing his first real action in four weeks after suffering a high-ankle sprain earlier in the season, was the epitome of toughness. He plowed his way through the Dragons defense, picking up nice chunks of yardage on nearly every carry. He ended the game with 165 yards on 29 carries, and was catalyst for Danville’s offensive attack.

“Running the ball is our game plan every week,” said Keiser. “So, getting Sam back really helped.”

“And we thought our lineman played really well, too,” he said. “Those guys have been playing together for three years now, and they did a nice job.”

Dressler’s big night earned him more than just a trip to another playoff game. It also helped to cement him as Danville’s all-time leading rusher, with more than 3,640 yards, breaking the record set by Carmen DeFrancesco.

“It feels great, I owe it all to my line,” Dressler said. “Those guys blocked for all of those yards and it wasn’t too hard, so I owe it all to them.”

As excited as he was about he his new place in Danville football history, Dressler seemed even more excited by the play of his team.

“It means everything to us,” he said. “We work really hard in practice, and we just had to get our focus together. We really came together as team and it was great to get this win.”