Lancers fall after rally in season opener

JUDI PINKERTON/For The Sun-Gazette Sam Newton of Loyalsock fights off Shawn Shepstock of Mount Carmel to catch a pass from Connor Watkins, for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Friday at Loyalsock.

After an ejection and penalty on Loyalsock, Mount Carmel coach John Darrah assumed he’d just take the penalty on the ensuing kickoff, but when he found out he couldn’t, he had to decide whether or not a two-point conversion was worth going for.

After leading by 21 points early in the game convincingly, Loyalsock had battled back and made it a game, twice tying it in the third quarter.

As Mount Carmel lined up to go for the two-point conversion, everyone inside of Kenneth M. Robbins Stadium knew it was going to be a run. The fans knew it, coaches knew it and the 22 players on the field knew it. But sometimes, you can’t stop what you know is coming.

Mount Carmel’s John Ayres got the direct snap and went right up the middle and punched it in for the conversion to put the Red Tornadoes ahead by eight and from there, Loyalsock never tied it up again.

The Lancers scored twice more, but trailed by two points each time after a missed two-point conversion run as Mount Carmel held on for a season-opening 43-41 win over Loyalsock on the road.

“I’m really confident John will get that run for a yard, he’ll get a yard, but one of those things,” Darrah said. “We got it, it was great. If we didn’t get it, everyone would have thought I was an idiot. Just went for it, trusted my gut and luckily it worked out.”

After that touchdown and two-point conversion, the Lancers took the ensuing possession and scored in seven plays. But after an incredible 36-yard touchdown pass to Sam Newton in the back of the end zone as he went up and managed to keep possession for the score on a 4th-and-15, Mount Carmel’s defense didn’t allow Loyalsock to convert the try and kept a two-point lead.

“We’re playing catch and go there and rally back from 21 to get in that catch-and-go manner and once that occurred, obviously we’re a score away and that made it so that we had to go for two. Have to go for it and give it a go because didn’t look like we really have a chance to get it back,” Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. “That would have tied it up and evened us up and had an opportunity to do something with it. Obviously did not occur and later on, we got into a scramble. Certainly strategy wise it made us have to try and get it because our drives were moving and they were holding ball for tremendous amount of time. Certainly a strategy shift in terms of what we had to do.”

Loyalsock kept the game interesting until the end. After Mount Carmel’s Shane Weidner scored on a 15-yard run with 1:17 to play to make it a 43-34 game, Loyalsock needed just 40 seconds to score when Gerald Ross had an NFL-like reception in the back of the end zone, getting both feet down. But the Lancers simply ran out of time trying to attempt a comeback, failing to get an onside kick and try to go ahead.

Mount Carmel had success in the first quarter running the ball and using their offensive line to move Loyalsock around. But after a 21-0 lead, Loyalsock battled back and didn’t fold to the early deficit.

The Lancers scored 21-unanswered points through the second and third quarters to tie it up, then went back and then answered a Mount Carmel score with one of the Lancers own to make it a 28-28 game.

Connor Watkins played exceptional at quarterback, constantly facing a Mount Carmel pass rush, but finding ways to move around, step up into the pocket and find receivers. Loyalsock had six receivers with at least one reception, and four made highlight-like receptions for touchdowns. Hunter Webb went up with one-on-one coverage and came down with a ball to score on a 55-yard reception and Jaiden Cioffi got off from a defender to catch a pass as he fell to his back in the corner of the end zone.

Watkins ended going 10 for 13 for 264 passing yards and four touchdowns while also running for 84 yards on 14 carries and scoring a rushing touchdown.

“We certainly put ball in air more than we have in past and I give tremendous credit to their team. They’re a tough inside-run ball club. We’re pounding in there, but we had to spread it out a bit and try to get them into different situations,” Van Fleet said. “Our receivers stepped up to the plate, Connor stepped up to the plate stepping into a the pocket. They’re a very good pass rushing team as well. Got the job done offensively to be able to make this game what it was.

“Like I said, down 21 you can name I don’t know how many teams that don’t have character and integrity to bounce back and fight, not to turn on each other, not to blame each other, not to complain, not to defend actions, but to correct mistakes, take opportunity to take coaching and move forward.”

Mount Carmel’s Ayres was tough for Loyalsock to contain, as he ended his night with 26 carries for 142 yards. Quarterback Tom Reisinger also had success on the ground, twice punching in a score while also throwing for 94 yards and a touchdown pass on a screen.