Green Dragons win from postseason

BLOOMSBURG — Rivalry games at the end of any football season are always exciting for players and fans alike, regardless of how either team’s season has gone to that point. With a playoff berth on the line that the winner will get with the loser going home, it’ll make it even more special.

That is what awaits Lewisburg and Mifflinburg next week after Lewisburg’s 17-0 win over Bloomsburg on Friday. Combined with Mifflinburg’s win over Milton, and the Green Dragons and Wildcats will not only play for the Little Brown Jug next Friday but also the final playoff spot in District 4 Class AAA.

“That sounds like fun, that’s like a movie, getting to play your rival for a chance to get into the playoffs. I don’t know how to script it any better,” said Lewisburg coach Michael Ferriero. “It’s win or go home, you don’t have to worry about any other games and we both control our destinies. We talked about this being our first playoff game because we knew if we lost we were out and the kids did their job.”

Lewisburg earned the chance to play for the postseason berth on the strength of its defense. The Green Dragons held Bloomsburg to just 88 yards in the shutout, including -15 on the ground. The Panthers had 13 negative rushing plays out of 30 rushing attempts.

“The kids were really excited for this game from the opening whistle and it was just a great all-around performance,” said Ferriero. “I said all week that they needed to be more aggressive and I think they came out and answered the call. The defense played lights out the entire game.”

Bloomsburg starting quarterback Nick Anderson, who completed four of his six passes for 58 yards, was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after a player fell on the back of his planted leg on a quarterback sneak midway through the second quarter. After he left, his replacement Nick Malatesta completed just three of 13 passes and also threw three interceptions and Bloomsburg managed just 58 yards the remainder of the game. For the game, the Panthers committed five turnovers, and all 17 of Lewisburg’s points came off turnovers.

“It was a tough night for the offense, we just didn’t execute,” said Bloomsburg coach Kevin Seabrook. “Defensively, we played our hearts out. They really put everything they had into it and I couldn’t ask for anything else defensively.”

The first Lewisburg points off the first Bloomsburg turnover of the game came midway through the first quarter. After the Green Dragons chewed up nearly half of the quarter on their opening drive before punting, Bloomsburg took possession on its own 24. On the Panthers’ third play of the their drive, Darius Green had the ball taken out of his hands by Jaylon Dodson, who ran it back 25 yards for a touchdown.

“That really lightened up their spirits, anytime anyone that big runs for a touchdown,” said Ferriero.

There were 11 combined punts in the game, 10 of which came between Lewisburg’s two touchdowns. Neither team got close to the end zone until Lewisburg added onto its lead late in the third quarter. The Panthers lost their second fumble of the game with 4:35 left in the third, which the Green Dragons recovered at the Bloomsburg 23.

Five plays later, Nicholas Shedleski found Dylan Farronato on a nice crossing pattern from nine yards out to make it 14-0. Farronato, who caught a pair of passes for 30 yards and a had a key 13-yard run late in the fourth quarter to pick up a first down while Lewisburg was trying to run out the clock, may have made his biggest contribution to the game as a punter, which gave Lewisburg a clear advantage in the battle for field position. He averaged 35.6 yards on six punts as Bloomsburg’s average starting field position following punts was its own 26-yard line.

Farronato also had one of Lewisburg’s three interceptions on the night, and it came in the end zone on Bloomsburg ensuing possession following his touchdown grab. From there, Lewisburg put together a near seven-minute drive that went 72 yards in 14 plays and was capped by Nate Liscum’s 26-yard field goal.

The Green Dragons managed 112 yards on the ground, including 59 by Aaron Veloz, all of which came in the second half. Trey Delbaugh had five early carries for 14 yards but left with an injury and later returned but only on defense.

“Veloz was in the doghouse earlier in the year due to some early-season fumbles but he really came out and ran hard like he was on a mission to prove that he should be out there again and that gave the offense a spark,” said Ferriero.