Opening burst enough for Dragons
LEWISBURG — Lewisburg was outscored for the final 46 1/2 minutes of Friday night’s season opener against Hughesville at Christy Mathewson Stadium. But it was the first 90 seconds of the football game which lifted the Green Dragons to a win.
Lewisburg made three big plays for scores and Marc Persing picked up his first career win in a 19-15 victory over Hughesville.
In a head-scratching kind of game, both defenses pitched shutouts in the second half, allowing a combined 77 yards of offense. It was the polar opposite of the first half which saw touchdowns of 78, 34, 84, 26 and 38 yards.
“It was a weird game,” Hughesville head coach Dan Tucker said. “We gave up too many big plays and that’s the story of the game.”
The Green Dragons had taken a 13-0 lead seemingly before the resonance from the national anthem had dissipated over Bucknell’s campus. Freshman running back Max Moyers made his first career carry count, going off-tackle for a 78-yard touchdown run before any of the players had even broken a sweat 19 seconds into the game.
He showed a burst through a gap in the line followed by the kind of are-you-kidding-me speed which made any defenders pursuit a fruitless endeavor. It was Moyers’ ‘Hello, world’ moment which nobody wearing a Lewisburg logo on their shirt was surprised to see.
“That’s just a preview of Max’s career,” Lewisburg’s Dylan Farronato said. “That kid is a freak.”
“He is currently a game-changer and he’s going to continue to be a game-changer for us,” Persing said. “His first play is a 78-yard run? I don’t know if we had 78 the rest of the game. But it’s all fixable.”
Well, no. Lewisburg didn’t have 78 rushing yards to match Moyers’ run to start the game. So that’s where Farronato’s first big play of the night came into play.
Just three plays from scrimmage following Moyers’ run, Farronato baited Hughesville first-year starting quarterback Ori Shaner into a throw he knew he could jump. Farronato was some 25 yards from the end zone when he raised his hand and a singular finger into the air, knowing he was about to score a touchdown.
He jumped the route he knew he could and went 34 yards untouched for a 13-0 Lewisburg lead just 1:32 into the game.
“He’s a first-year starting quarterback you can bait him a little easier than someone like (Logan) Leiby at Selinsgrove,” Farronato said. “I just sat back making it look like he was open and I jumped the route. It’s basic stuff.”
It’s hard to imagine a better scenario Lewisburg could have drawn up to open the season, especially under a first-time head coach. But the credit needs to go to Hughesville for preventing the game from being a runaway.
After Moyers’ long run to open the game, the Spartans’ defense allowed just 44 yards on Lewisburg’s final 29 carries. The longest gain of the second half for Lewisburg was a 15-yard roughing the punter penalty which essentially ended the game.
And then there was the bounceback play of Shaner to respond positively after the interception. The senior kept plays alive with his feet when they broke down. He carried 20 times, running with no regard for his body so long as it meant picking up an extra yard.
The Spartans breathed a sigh of relief late in the first quarter when on third-and-14 Shaner scrambled to his right and threw deep down field. The ball was tipped by a Lewisburg defensive back and landed in the hands of Hughesville’s Devon Bushor who had nothing but the manicured bushes spelling ‘Bucknell’ in front of him.
It was the kind of play you can’t draw up and can only shrug your shoulders about afterward. But it was a reset button of sorts for the Spartans who seemed to shake some early nerves by getting on the scoreboard.
Hughesville took the lead on its next drive, capping a 12-play, 70-yard effort when Gavin Steele battled through a hand fight with Moyers to haul in a 26-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion pass from Shaner to Patrick Rogers gave the Spartans a 15-13 lead.
“Ori had to step away from some pressure, elude people and step up in the pocket to do that,” Tucker said. “The ball didn’t even come out well, but Gavin made a great play on it. Ori’s feet are pretty good and he’s keeping plays alive for us.”
“We still felt like we were in control of the whole game. We still felt like we dominated even after that,” Farronato said. “That was complete luckiness getting a tipped pass. And nine out of 10 times that kid’s not catching the pass because Max was right there in his face. But they made the plays, and they were good plays by them.”
Farronato allowed his defense to close out the game when he pulled out one more big play to put Lewisburg back on top. He got great inside position on a post pattern just 4 minutes after Steele’s TD to haul in a 38-yard touchdown reception of his own. The junior caught four Nick Shedleski passes for 83 yards last night. But that final one, the touchdown grab, it was enough to lift the Green Dragons to a win.
“He’s a three-year starter and a first-team all-state candidate, and he’s probably a small school Division I recruit when it’s all said and done,” Persing said. “He’s a special player and a special talent and we need him to do things like that every week whether it’s interceptions, a quick pass he takes for 15 yards, or returning punts and kicks. He’s our Swiss Army Knife.”