Lancers to host a game in playoffs

By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

SUNBURY — Connor Watkins smiled and looked down at the ground. He was searching for the words to describe how good his Loyalsock teammate Marcus Williams is. He never found any.

“I’m not quite sure how to even describe it,” Wat­kins said following Loyal­sock’s dominant 35-15 win over Shikellamy on Friday night.

Williams scored three more touchdowns Friday night — two rushing and one receiving — as he totaled more than 220 yards of offense. He helped the Lancers turn what should have been one of the toughest games on its schedule into another lopsided win.

Loyalsock clinched a home game in the opening week of the playoffs with its 20-point win last night. And it also set up what should be an incredible matchup next week against cross-creek rival Montoursville.

“This is a highly difficult offense to play against because a lot of people get the ball in their hands,” Loyalsock head coach Justin Van Fleet said of Shikellamy. “Coach (Todd) Tilford is an incredible coach, and to win against them is huge.”

Even when Loyalsock was just trying to run out the first-half clock with a couple running plays, Williams turned it into a big play. The senior jack of all trades took a simple toss left with under 25 seconds to go in the first half. The play didn’t particularly set itself up as a scoring opportunity, not 74 yards from the end zone.

But then Williams shook out of one tackle and bounced off another defender and got a seal to the sideline. Suddenly, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound spark plug was in a foot race he wasn’t going to lose. Just to be sure, tight end Alec Little ran a little interference on one chasing defender.

Williams eased off the gas as he crossed the goal line. Only 10 seconds were left on the clock and all of a sudden, the Lancers once again had a two-touchdown lead and were poised to receive the second-half kickoff.

With one jolt of a run, Williams erased the work Shikellamy had done over the previous 5 minutes of game time when it traversed 52 yards in 12 plays to get its first score and cut the Loyalsock deficit in half. The Lancers led 21-8 at halftime. And because of Williams’ run, they were no longer staring in the face of a dogfight of a game, and were instead threatening to run away with a win for the third consecutive week.

“He’s pretty freakin’ amazing,” Watkins said. “When we made that call, I said we have a 75 percent chance of scoring here. I feel like with most of our guys, but especially with Marcus. When Marcus gets it, you just don’t know what he’s going to do. It’s amazing.”

The Lancers could have put the game on ice on its first possession of the second half, but a fumble set Shikellamy up with the ball at the Loyalsock 19-yard line. But there, a Lancers first-team defense which allowed just seven points in the previous two weeks stiffened.

Two running plays netted zero yards. Linebacker Hunter Webb batted down his second of three passes in the game on third down. And Nahiem Davis crushed Shikellamy quarterback Tate Krankoskie with a sack on fourth down, turning the ball over on downs.

That’s the kind of game the Loyalsock de­fense played for much of Friday night’s game. It wasn’t until the Lancers were ahead 28-8 late in the third quarter that the Braves finally put together a sustained drive. And by then, the 17-play drive Shikellamy used to score its second touchdown, used up more than 6 minutes of game clock.

Coming off a 200-yard effort a week ago, Shikellamy fullback Gabe Tilford was held to just 42 rushing yards on 14 carries through the first three quarters. He added 44 more in the fourth quarter, mostly on the Braves’ final touchdown drive, to finish with 86 yards on 21 carries.

And Loyalsock played that strong defensive game – allowing just 3.8 yards per carry and 4.1 yards per play – without all-state candidate Crae McCracken. The defensive tackle injured his shoulder on a first-half tackle and played only offense in the second half. But in his sted, sophomore Carmen Barone played one of the best games of his career, causing havoc in the Shikellamy backfield, and generally being a nuisance for the Braves.

That domination up front allowed the Lancers’ ridiculously quick linebacking corps to make tackles all over the field. At times, Webb, an all-state candidate himself, played the role of Tilford’s shadow and held the fullback without a catch.

“We kept it together as best we could when Crae got hurt,” Barone said. “We kept our heads up and dominated as best we could. We told each other to just watch the ball, and we stayed as disciplined as we could. We just dominated.”

“Carmen Barone is really coming along as a sophomore,” Van Fleet said. “He’s a bear of a kid and he’s almost as strong as Crae already. He’s huge. He’s a wonderful kid who works his tail off. Having him there and the huge rotation of defensive linemen allows us to stay fresh.”

And when Shikellamy did score on that clock-eating drive bridging the third and fourth quarters, Williams killed the momentum the Braves gained. Jaiden Cioffi jumped on the onside kick, and Williams needed just one play to add to Loyalsock’s lead, racing 51 yards up the middle untouched for his third touchdown of the night.

Williams has scored 20 touchdowns this year, 13 of them have been from 30 yards or farther. He was a key cog in an offense last night which rushed for 300 yards and saw Watkins complete 8 of 10 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Watkins, a sophomore, also ran for 52 yards and a pair of scores.

The Lancers have scored 139 points in the three games they’ve played since they were held to just seven points in a loss to South Williamsport in Week 6.

“I think we’re all starting to understand where we need to be and when we need to be there,” Watkins said. “It’s all starting to click. It looks beautiful.”

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