AAA: Lewisburg at Montoursville football preview

Lewisburg facts: The Green Dragons are peaking at the perfect time and have won three of their last four. Each game has been a must-win so Lewisburg already has pretty much experienced the postseason in that regard. The Dragons dominated Mifflinburg in a winner-take-all game for the final playoff berth, 33-9 last week. The defense has been super the past two weeks and the starters have allowed just three points. Dylan Farronato put on a show against Mifflinburg, intercepting three passes and returning two for touchdowns. The sophomore, who is among the area’s leading receivers, also caught a touchdown. Lewisburg has been stuffing the run, allowing just 60 yards the past two games. Linebacker Trey Delbaugh is one of the district’s best and has more than 400 career tackles. He and Donte Malone each has three interceptions and Zach Herman is tough up front with three sacks. Lewisburg is the area’s most opportunistic defense, forcing 28 turnovers, including two in a 41-25 loss at Montoursville five weeks ago. Lewisburg trailed by only two in the fourth quarter in that game. Freshman quarterback Nick Shedleski has shown nice poise while topping 1,000 yards. The offensive line is coming along and a running game that had been dormant has sprang to life. Aaron Veloz ran for a career-high 107 yards and two touchdowns against Mifflinburg and Delbaugh had 116 yards against Montoursville. Lewisburg has made nine straight playoff appearances, but is seeking its first playoff win since 2011. The Dragons have lost two straight to Montoursville in the playoffs, including 10-7 last year.

Lewisburg player to watch–Hunter Murphy: The senior linebacker has been at the heart of Lewisburg’s defensive success, making nine tackles for loss. Murphy had a career-high 16 tackles against Jersey Shore and also has two sacks. Murphy also provides solid blocking as a tight end and has caught six passes.

Montoursville facts: The Warriors are seeking their third straight finals appearance and second championship in three seasons. Montoursville is playing in districts for a sixth straight season and has won at least one playoff game each year since 2012 when it won a 37-33 thriller at Lewisburg. Montoursville has walked a high-wire act all season, winning five games by five points or fewer. The Warriors looked like they might tie last week’s “Bridge Game,” at Loyalsock twice in the second half but a costly fumble and a series of drops doomed them in a 27-14 loss. Montoursville has had one of the most interesting 8-win seasons in area history, allowing more than 25 points per game and having a minus-7 turnover ratio. The Warriors have proven as resilient as talented and have wins against each of District 4 Class AAAA’s top three seeds. They also beat Selinsgrove for the first time since 2000, edging it 20-17 in Week 2. Quarterback Brycen Mussina leads the district with 26 touchdowns and is second in yards with 2,375. Wide receiver Tommy Shea is having one of the best seasons in area history, closing in on 1,200 yards. Tight end Mitchell Rothrock is a quality playmaker who can gain a lot of yards after the catch and Riley Conboy has been among the area’s leading receivers all season. The offensive line adjusted after a slow start last week and Nolan Ott took advantage, running for a season-high 113 yards and a touchdown. He and Torin Lewis both have run for more than 500 yards. Lewis is one of the area’s premier linebackers and had 11 tackles against Loyalsock. Bryce Ranck and Owen Hoffman are tough up front, combining for 12 1/2 sacks. Anthony Washington has played well at cornerback and set up a touchdown against Lewisburg with a long punt return.

Montoursville player to watch–Keegan Leahy: The junior linebacker is starting to flourish and played one of his best games against Loyalsock, making nine tackles. Leahy had seven solo tackles and forced a critical fumble two weeks earlier in a 3-point win at Hughesville.

Winner plays: No. 3 Danville or No. 2 Loyalsock

Outlook: The records are really deceiving in this one. Look at those and Montoursville appears a big favorite, but those five nailbiters could have gone either way and the record could look a lot different. They have not and that is a testament to Montoursville’s program but the bottom line is this should be an exciting and close game.

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