Torin Lewis has become an important part of both of Montoursville’s units

KAREN VIBERT KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette
Torin Lewis starts at running back and linebacker for District 4 Class AAA champion Montoursville.

KAREN VIBERT KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Torin Lewis starts at running back and linebacker for District 4 Class AAA champion Montoursville.

By CHRIS MASSE

cmasse@sungazette.com

When all-state linebacker Logan McKeag tore his ACL early last season, Montoursville needed a big lift. Torin Lewis entered the starting lineup and provided it.

When running backs Oleg Bonner and Nolan Ott were injured within this season’s first three weeks, Montoursville needed an immediate running threat. Lewis provided it. When the defense needed a big performance Friday against Danville in the District 4 Class AAA championship, Lewis provided it.

Whatever Montoursville needs, wherever it needs him, Lewis delivers. He might be overlooked at times on a team with some prolific, record-setting players, but you better believe Lewis is one of the most valuable Warriors. And Montoursville certainly would not be district champions again without him.

“Torin is a beast, He came out as a running back and hasn’t turned back since,” two-way starting lineman Owen Hoffman said. “He’s a huge attribute to our team.”

Lewis showcased what has made him so good in Montoursville’s biggest game to date against Danville. The senior two-way starter ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns while again making a lot of tackles as Montoursville thumped Danville, 28-10 and won its second district championship in three years. Up next for Lewis and Montoursville (10-2) is a state playoff game Friday against District 2 champion Scranton Prep.

“I know his shiftiness and what he can do offensively and we have to get him carries no matter what,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “But defensively, when he’s filling and popping gaps and holes, that makes everyone else around him so much better.”

Lewis has made Montoursville a better team all season whether running over defenders, blocking well or anchoring a surging defense. He came up huge when McKeag went down last year and helped Montoursville reach another district final. That was just the start and Lewis has saved his best performance for his final scholastic season.

The team’s leading tackler and tone-setter, Lewis averages nine tackles per game. He is strong against the run or pass, recording five sacks and topping 10 tackles four times. Lewis, who has played inside and outside, recently was named a first team HAC-II linebacker. Still, his performance had slipped some late in the regular season. He was playing OK, but not at the level Montoursville had grown accustomed to seeing.

All it took was a little talk and Lewis was flying all over again, making big stops and helping shut down offenses. He was especially strong against Danville as Montoursville stifled a potent running game that featured two 1,000-yard rushers. Against Lewis and the Montoursville defense, Danville managed just 117 yards on 39 carries.

“We kind of challenged Torin (last) week. He has been phenomenal on defense, but in Week 9 and 10 he didn’t play his best football. We need the Torin Lewis from the first six or seven games, and if we get that, we’re going to be OK,” Keefer said. “Torin really is the heartbeat of the defense.”

He sure is a big part of the offense, too. Oleg Bonner opened the season as the team’s starting running back, but suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. Ott moved in and played well before a Week 3 injury sidelined him for 2 1/2 games. It was time to call on Lewis again who moved from fullback and made an immediate impact.

Montoursville features a super passing game and quarterback Brycen Mussina has set district career records for yards and touchdowns. But without a running game to keep defenses honest things, might be different. Lewis kept that running game going strong, running for 99 yards in a little more than a half against Danville after replacing Ott. He then topped 120 yards in consecutive wins against Class AAAA champion Jersey Shore and Lewisburg as Montoursville won close games. His 137 yards against Jersey Shore is the most gained against the area’s top-ranked run defense.

“When Oleg went out early we had to do something,” Hoffman said. “Torin stepped up big time and did his job.”

“He definitely has been making plays,” Mussina said. “Early in the season he was hot and teams started adjusting to him because they knew he was a good player. He’s been stepping up here at the end. He had an awesome game (against Danville) and had a couple huge runs toward the end of the game to kind of seal it.”

Lewis rarely ever leaves the field, playing offense, defense and special teams. Still, he never seems to wear down and has done some of his best running late in games. Lewis, who has a team-high 705 yards and eight touchdowns, helped seal the district final the same way he did a 36-33 win at Jersey Shore when he made some hard-nosed runs on Montoursville’s last, clock-killing drive.

That really is who Lewis is. Put him seemingly anywhere on the field in any situation and watch Lewis shine.

“No matter how much you pass, have to be able to run some. Being that I’m not really a running quarterback, he did an awesome job of filling in when those guys went down,” Mussina said. “We needed someone to fill in for those guys and he did an awesome job with that.”

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