Depleted Montoursville loses to Troy

Griffin Dunne faced two options last February. He could have surgery for a torn labrum and miss the 2013 football season. Or, he could endure the pain and try soldiering on against long odds. It was a no-brainer.

Dunne only threw once a week in practice but played all 12 games and played them well. The senior epitomized a 22-player senior class that let no injury, no circumstance deter it from pursuing glory. The injuries continued piling up and Montoursvlle kept soldiering on.

But the march finally ended Friday at Memorial Stadium.

Jed Wright ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for another as Troy used big plays and timely defensive stops to defeat top-seeded Montoursville, 34-14 in the District 4 Class AA semifinals. Troy (10-2) advanced to the district championship against Danville and became the first NTL team to reach that game since Towanda in 2007. Montoursville finished 10-2, its best record since 2008 despite losing so many key players to injury, including their two leading rushers, their leading receiver and three of their leading tacklers.

“Alex Erb had to have surgery after last week’s game and he played in the second half. He would give up his leg to play football with these guys and that’s the type of kid were dealing with here and I’m just so proud of them,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “The 22 seniors we have have set the tone for this program.”

“There are 22 seniors on this team who showed all us underclassmen everything,” sophomore running back Keith Batkowski said after running for 173 yards. “Without those seniors all year, this year would have been nothing. We got here because of them. All of this is because of them.”

Montoursville would have hand its hands full against a strong Troy team had it been full strength. All the injuries finally caught up to it. The Warriors were playing without Cameron Ott and Alec Rothrock, who had more than 2,000 rushing yards, Erb who is one of the district’s best safeties and Montoursville’s leading receiver. Standout linemen Cody Chilcot missed five games and starting fullback Ethan Jones, also a quality linebacker, was lost for the game on the second play last night.

Against a team with an explosive quarterback, terrific offensive line and stingy defense, it proved too much to overcome. Troy ran for 293 yards, built a 24-7 halftime lead and clinched the win on Wright’s 16-yard score with four minutes remaining.

“I’m not going to use it as an excuse. They played a great game,” Keefer said. “We play with who we have. We felt good about who we had, they just beat us tonight.”

“We tried to get those guys another game but we really could have used them. We tried to do it for them it just didn’t happen,” Batkowski said. “Those injuries really affect us but we had so many guys that stepped up. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

They tried doing it again and when Batkowski broke off a 54-yard run on the game’s third play, it looked like Montoursville might take an early lead. Troy, though, stiffened and made a huge stop on 4th-and-1 from the 6-yard line. One play later, Wright exploded through a big hole in the middle and ran for a 94-yard touchdown run. Together, those two plays might have been the plays of the game.

Wright returned a punt 27 yards to set up a field goal on Troy’s next possession before his beautiful last-second option pitch to Ross Sherman produced a 50-yard touchdown on the second-quarter’s first play. After Dunne scored on a video-game like 24-yard touchdown run, though, Montoursville looked like it would trail by only 10 at halftime and gain some much-needed momentum.

Instead Wright again revealed his big-play ability. Troy drove 63 yards in the final 52 seconds with Weaver breaking off a 39-yard run before hitting Ryan Reeves for a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 at halftime.

Wright’s touchdown looked like it might be a dagger, but the resilient Warriors made one last stand. They controlled the third quarter and drove 84 yards on 12 plays and pulled within 24-14 late in the third quarter on Matt Shea’s 1-yard touchdown run. Montoursville forced a three-and-out on Troy’s ensuing possession and took over near midfield but went three-and-out itself.

Troy produced 10 points on its next two possessions and the defense really stiffened to put the game away and keep one of the best seasons in program history going strong. The Trojans produced seven sacks and Caelen Taylor had three of them.

Batkowski shined in his first varsity start, breaking off some big runs and gaining 173 yards on 18 carries. He is only 141 yards but ran like a 200-pounder and carried defenders for an extra five yards on one carry. That run epitomized this Montoursville team.

“The seniors were so great,” Batkowski said. “Everything that I did was for them.”

“Our seniors have shown the younger guys how the game is played the right way, how to act in school and in the community and how to work in the weight room,” Keefer said. “They taught them how to be all those things and more.”