AAA: Danville at Loyalsock football preview

Danville facts: The Ironmen have overcome some key midseason injuries that played a prominent role in a midseason three-game losing streak and are looking a lot more like the No. 3 Class AAA team in the state they were early this season. Take away an injury to running back Trent Hilkert and Danville likely is 8-2. Hilkert and Gannon Feldman are both 1,000-yard rushers and ignite a potent offense. Three players topped 100 yards in last week’s 63-6 win over Warrior Run and Danville has outscored its last two opponents, 101-13. Hilkert missed close games against Mount Carmel and Lewisburg decided by 10 combined points but still has run for 1,129 yards and 15 touchdowns, going over 1,000 for a second straight year. Feldman played quarterback the past two seasons, but has made a smooth transition and ran for a career-high 200 yards against Warrior Run. Quarterback Peyton Riley is a dangerous athlete and ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns eight weeks ago against Montoursville. He also threw three touchdown passes two weeks ago at Shamokin in a 38-7 win. Shane Kozick and Peyton Persing both have had some big receiving games and Kozick caught eight passes against Southern Columbia. The defense has forced 21 turnovers and allowed just eight rushing yards last week. Linebackers Ken Cooper and Jared Mowery combine for nearly 10 tackles per game and Preston Fausnaught is touch up front, making 14 tackles for loss. Danville opened the season 2-0 and is the only team to beat South Williamsport, doing so in Week 2.

Danville player to watch–Derien Yeager: The junior nose guard is tough up front on both sides of the ball and has 14 tackles for loss. Yeager also has two sacks and forced a fumble.

Loyalsock facts: The Lancers are seeking their first district championship since 2007 and their second finals appearance in two years. Loyalsock has won four straight and defeated rival Montoursville, 27-14 in the annual “Bridge Game,” last week. The Lancers held Montoursville to its fewest points this season and the starters have allowed two touchdowns or fewer in each game during the winning streak. Alec Little and Nahiem Davis have come on strong, combining for 10 sacks. Linebackers Alden Mileto, Hunter Webb and Dom Fischetti were all over the field last week, combining for 35 tackles. Webb leads District 4 in tackles and Mileto is not far behind after last week’s 16-tackle performance. Two-way starting lineman Crae McCracken could be an all-state candidate on both sides of the ball and gives Loyalsock good inside muscle. Safety Derek Gee has a team-high four interceptions and versatile Marcus Williams has three. A year after tearing his ACL, Williams has caught 10 touchdowns and run for 10 more. He is among the area’s top 15 in catches and rushing yards. Sophomore Connor Watkins has progressed nicely in his second year starting and has become a dual threat who ran for 69 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago at Shikellamy. Brock Hepler caught a clutch 17-yard pass on a third-and-long on a game-clinching scoring drive last week and Gerald Ross made a spectacular 31-yard catch. The offensive line has come together throughout the season, helping Loyalsock finish second in the area in yards during the regular season. Cole Cavanaugh runs hard behind that line and needs just six yards to reach 1,000 in his first season starting. Cavanaugh ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns against Montoursville.

Loyalsock player to watch–Carmen Barone: The sophomore defensive lineman has come on strong the last two weeks and was a force against Shikellamy. Barone also helped set an early tone against Montoursville, sacking the quarterback to end the Warriors’ first series.

Winner plays: No. 4 Lewisburg or No. 1 Montoursville

Outlook: This looks like a heavyweight battle between two serious championship contenders. These teams are about as evenly matched as two can be so look for whoever wins the battle up front to reach the championship.