Blocking big reason for big season for Millionaires

Williamsport, with Jonah Niklaus, Elliott Walker, Tyler Anderson, and Chance Bower, host Delaware Valley Friday night for the District 2-4 AAAAAA championship.

Treyson Potts took the handoff, looked downfield and saw… well, nothing. OK, technically Potts saw green turf and the approaching end zone. But no Hazleton defenders blocked his path.

The Williamsport offensive line made sure of that.

The line produced a gaping hole that Potts exploded through as he scored untouched on a 44-yard touchdown run Friday against Hazleton. It was one of many big plays Williamsport made Friday as it scored at will and steamrolled Hazleton, 48-14 in the District 2 6A semifinals. The Millionaires earned the program’s 700th all-time win and won the program’s first playoff game since 1997.

And it all started up front.

As dynamic as Williamsport’s playmakers are, the Millionaires would not be so dangerous if Tyler Anderson, Chance Bower, Eli Clary, Kurt Danneker and Tucker Kreisher were not effectively paving the way up front.

“Over the years we were a work in progress but this year I feel like we don’t get talked about much,” Clary said. “And we feel like we have the best line in the district and one of the best in the state and we want to make our presence known.”

Williamsport (10-1) will try doing that this Friday when it hosts Delaware Valley for the district championship. It is a rematch of a titanic Week 7 game that the Warriors won, 49-42, handing Williamsport its only loss.

Even in that game, the line played well, paving the way for 528 yards. Players like Potts and quarterback Isaiah Hankins are having all-state caliber seasons. They and others like Elliott Walker, Dante Wright, Marty Clark and Jalen Jackson, to name a few, deserved recognition but the life of a linemen often includes anonymity.

But watch this line play. Those who know football know these players stand out.

“Hazleton did a lot with their d-line and we prepared for it and stuck to our rules and they did their job,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “They are doing a good job. When we work together this is the end result.”

The line has progressively done that all season. Combine the line playing well with all those weapons flourishing and Williamsport has become one of the state’s premier offenses. The Millionaires average 516 yards and 49 points per game. They were so explosive against Hazleton that they scored 34 first-half points and produced 348 yards on just 16 plays in 4 minutes, 22 seconds.

The Millionaires are big and athletic, combining quickness and size. Just as important, they are experienced and feed off each other. Four starters are back from last year and Kreisher has flourished as a first-time starter. Danneker is receiving significant Division I interest and Anderson is a 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior who has come back strong from a preseason health scare. Clary is a quality player and leader and Bower has come on strong. They might not receive the headlines, but these linemen are the engine powering this dynamo of an offense.

And now the goal is clear. The line must keep moving forward.

“Like Kurt always says we’re a team within a team,” Clary said. “As long as we block we know they (their playmakers) are going to score because they’re fast and can do so many things. As long as we do our jobs we can do well. It feels pretty good, but we have another game next week and we have to get ready for Delaware Valley.”

COMEBACK KID: When Todd Sanford tore his ACL and partially tore his MCL and meniscus scoring a touchdown against Shikellamy in Week 7 there appeared no way he would play another high school down. Some, like Wellsboro’s Brandon Lamphier last year, have played on a torn ACL, but Sanford nearly blew out his entire knee so playing again was out of the question.

Sanford thought otherwise. Somehow he worked his way back on the field Friday against Athens, catching three passes and leaving his mark on program history as Jersey Shore easily won its Class AAAA semifinal, 31-7. Sanford broke Chris Dauber’s single-season and career reception records in the process and helped the Bulldogs reach their fourth straight district championship.

“I just taped it up and put a brace on it so I could play,” Sanford said. “To play again was indescribably fun and it made me appreciate how great the game of football is.”

Sanford was having one of the best seasons in Pennsylvania when he was injured against Shikellamy. In just 6 1/2 weeks, he had a state-best 56 catches for 763 yards and nine touchdowns. Everything changed as he stretched and worked his way into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown in what became a dramatic 19-13 Jersey Shore win that ignited a five-game winning streak.

The diagnosis was worse than the senior two-way starter feared and brought his huge season to a screeching halt. Instead of giving up, Sanford worked hard, returned and experienced the thrill of playing under the Thompson Street Stadium lights again. His status for Friday’s championship against Selinsgrove is in question, but Sanford at least, created one more lasting memory. The sure-handed receiver now has 99 career catches (ninth among area receivers in the 2000s) for 1,465 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“The last few weeks have been really tough, but I’ve been able to step back a bit and see more that life isn’t all about football and I had to accept that God has a plan and I can trust in that,” Sanford said. “It was one of the best feelings in the world to be able to be on the field with my teammates. I really got to appreciate it a lot more.”

REACHING ONE SUMMIT: Montoursville quarterback Brycen Mussina threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns Friday against Lewisburg as the Warriors routed Lewisburg, 34-0 in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals. Mussina tied Wellsboro graduate Mike Pietropola for the District 4 career touchdown pass record and now has 68 touchdowns. Mussina also has the second most yards in District 4 history with 6,682 and is 89 yards from breaking Bloomsburg graduate Blake Rankin’s career yardage record.

Mussina, who did not start playing quarterback until junior high, has thrown for 2,582 yards and 29 touchdowns this season and owns virtually every Montoursville passing record there is.

EXTRA POINTS: Hughesville quarterback Landon Henry shined in his final scholastic game, throwing for 159 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-26 loss to undefeated Wellsboro. Henry threw for as many touchdowns against Wellsboro as its starting defense had allowed all season and became just the area’s seventh quarterback to reach 50 career touchdown passes. Henry finished his career with a school record 3,889 yards and 52 touchdowns, throwing just 12 interceptions in 413 attempts and also going over 1,000 rushing yards …  North Penn-Mansfield quarterback Brock Burleigh joined Henry in that 50-touchdown pass club, throwing for 178 yards and his 50th career touchdown in a heartbreaking 34-28 overtime quarterfinal loss to Line Mountain. Burleigh also broke older brother Bo’s program yardage record, finishing with 4,256 yards and 50 touchdowns. Teammate Joel Whitteker broke the program reception record with an eight-catch, 139-yard, touchdown performance. Whitteker, an all-state caliber safety, had 99 catches for 1,832 yards and 23 touchdowns … Loyalsock running back Cole Cavanaugh ran for 84 yards in Friday’s Class AAA semifinal loss to Danville, becoming the area’s third running back this season to top 1,000 yards. Cavanaugh, a first-time starter, ran for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns.

Dr. Masse’s top five in high school football

1. Williamsport (10-1): One look at Williamsport players’ faces following the first Delaware Valley game showed how painful that loss was. Losing hurts, but how one responds to it reveals a lot. In a strange way, that loss might have helped Williamsport more than winning would have. The Delaware Valley game showed Williamsport, as good as they were then, they had to become much better. The Millionaires have grown since that game and mercy ruled an improving Hazleton team just three minutes into the third quarter as the starting offense scored on all six series. It was a fun atmopshere and one that was hard to imagine would surround this program after it won five games in three years from 2012-14. Williamsport sure has come a long way.

“From struggling at 2-8 (in 2014) to 6-5 and making playoffs last year to this year and making all kinds of history and making playoffs nothing feels better than this,” Clary said. “It just keeps motivating us.”

2. Wellsboro (11-0): The Green Hornets continue raising the program’s bar and are 11-0 for the first time ever after downing Hughesville, 49-26 in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals. The defense allowed 26 points after surrendering just 33 in 10 regular-season games but still slowed down a potent offense. And Wellsboro’s offense which has flown under the radar, showed how good it is, piling up 472 yards. Wellsboro overcame a deficit for the first time this season and its offensive line has been tremendous. That unit helped Wellsboro run for 341 yards. Senior Dupree Hosey is having an excellent final season and ran for a career-high 170 yards, breaking off two long touchdown runs. Brandon Lamphier has turned nearly half his catches into touchdowns and is averaging 20.2 yards per catch a year after tearing his ACL. Wellsboro hosts South Williamsport in what should be one of the hardest hitting semifinals in recent memory. There were will be some real sore players Saturday morning.

3. South Williamsport (10-1): The Mounties made another strong statement in a season filled with them, blanking Mount Carmel 40-0 in Friday’s quarterfinals. South has won nine straight games and reached 10 wins for the fourth time in five years. The defense stifled what had been a high-powered offense as defensive lineman Ben Johnson played another strong game and blocked a punt that Chevy Bolay recovered for a touchdown that imposed the mercy rule. Johnson also is part of a terrific offensive line that paved the way for 311 yards. Gideon Green ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns while the passing game continued progressing. A.J. Flick threw for 108 yards and a touchdown and also caught a touchdown from Aaron Guerrisky who topped 80 yards for a second straight week and added an interception. The Mounties are trying to reach a district final for the fourth time since 2012 and are 50-11 during that time.

4. Montoursville (9-2): The regular season featured so many close games, but Montoursville put together its most dominant performance at a great time Friday and overpowered Lewisburg from the start. It was an eye-opening performance against a surging Green Dragons team that had scored 25 points against Montoursville in Week 6. The defense was relentless, allowing just 138 yards and sacking the quarterback seven times. Bryce Ranck and Owen Hoffman are having big seasons and combined for 4 1/2 sacks and Hoffman now has 10 1/2 in his first year starting. Tight end Mitchell Rothrock is becoming quite a weapon and caught two touchdowns, giving him 10 this year. Tommy Shea recorded another 100-yard game and has more yards this season (1,254) than any area receiver in the 2000s. Montoursville hosts Danville Friday and is playing in its third straight district final. The Ironmen are peaking, having routed Loyalsock 34-7 in the semifinals. Buckle up for this one.

5. Jersey Shore (8-3): The Bulldogs are headed to their fourth straight District 4 championship after easily beating Athens, a team that had won four straight. Jersey Shore has won five straight games and its defense did not allow a point again an explosive Athens offense featuring a 1,500-yard passer, 800-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher. The Bulldogs allowed only 114 yards and three first downs while forcing four turnovers. Hunter Frantz returned an interception for a touchdown and also caught his ninth touchdown pass. The Bulldogs lost most of their starters from last year’s nine-win team but are back in the district final, a testament to the coaching staff, the players and how far this program has come over the last four seasons. Now, Jersey Shore gets another shot at Selinsgrove as these rivals meet for the fourth straight year in the district final.

Players of the week

Coleman Good, Muncy and Quinn Henry, Wellsboro: Good is playing strong on both sides of the ball and played one of his best games in his biggest game to date last Friday. The sophomore quarterback ran for a career-high 141 yards and a touchdown while also throwing for 71 yards and a score as Muncy downed Wyalusing, 27-18 in the District 4 Class A semifinals. Good also had a big game at safety and clinched the win with a late interception as Muncy won its first playoff game since 2002.

Henry has saved some of his best performances for the postseason the past two seasons. The junior quarterback dazzled Hughesville, running for 121 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 131 yards and two scores. Henry is closing in on a second straight 1,000-1,000-yard passing/rushing season and also intercepted a pass while making eight tackles.

Game of the week

Delaware Valley at Williamsport: Players and fans have been anticipating this rematch since both powerhouses met in a riveting game 4 1/2 weeks ago. Both teams feature fantastic offenses and solid defenses as well. They are a combined 19-3 and both have the potential to keep going strong in states. Williamsport has not won a district championship since 1995 and will have to play an outstanding game if hopes to end that drought Friday. It should be an awesome environment and an even better game.