Lancers dominate at home

JUDI PINKERTON/For The Sun-Gazette Cole Cavanaugh of Loyalsock stiff-arms Chris Day of Mifflinburg before being tackled by Garrett Becker Friday night.

Through two games, the Loyalsock Lancers have shown resiliency and the ability to score points, but had lacked consistency on defense. Friday night at Kenneth Robbins Stadium, the homestanding Lancers kept one foot on the gas and stomped the visiting Mifflinburg Wildcats with the other, 41-7.

“We knew they were a heavy pass team so our plan was to go with a lot of man coverage,” said Lancers’ senior cornerback Sam Newton. “We were playing straight up on the receivers and if they tried to bounce outside with the running game, our job was to force everything back inside.”

Before Loyalsock’s de­fense could even get onto the field, the offense, commanded by junior quarterback Connor Watkins, had already posted a touchdown. Following a quick 38-yard burst around the left end by Dalton Gough moved the ball into Wildcats territory, Watkins found Gerald Ross with a 42-yard TD strike with 11:23 to play in the opening quarter. The try for point was missed for a 6-0 lead.

Newton, who had two interceptions in the game, set up Sock’s second touchdown with a pick and return to the Mifflinburg 47-yard line. A couple of plays later Cole Cavanaugh worked his way into the end zone from eight yards out, giving the Lancers a 13-0 edge.

“We are focused on getting better with our defensive scheme and tighten down our tackling,” said Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet. “The adjustments are a credit to our defensive coaching staff and the work ethic of the kids after taking a punch to the chin in that first game of the season (43-41 loss to Mount Carmel).”

The Lancers expanded their lead to 20-0 after one quarter. Less than three minutes into the second quarter, another Watkins-to-Ross connection, this time from 21 yards out, pushed the lead to 27-0.

“It’s important for our defense to set the tone for our team because it gives the offense more confidence, and our guys get hyped up,” Newton said. “It’s great when both sides are working well and feeding off each other.”

By halftime, Sock had run out to a 41-0 lead, highlighted by Newton’s second interception, which resulted in his first career defensive TD; and the third scoring strike for the dynamic duo of Watkins and Ross.

Replaying that pick-six, Newton said, “I saw the ball went up, went back for it and tipped it to myself, then I just took off.” The senior cornerback added, “I saw a lane open up and tried to bust it down the sideline and just kept going to the end zone. After about 10 yards I knew I had (the score).”

With the game in hand, Loyalsock (2-1) controlled the game on the ground, and took advantage of the continuously running clock. A total of 11 players carried the ball, while the defense never allowed Mifflinburg (0-3) to gain any momentum despite surrendering a third-quarter touchdown.

All-State linebacker Hunter Webb returned to the Lancers’ lineup up following a one-game suspension and proved to be a steading force, but Sock’s offense suffered a blow when senior running back Eric Holz went down with a lower leg injury. He did not return to the game and his status for next week’s game with Central Columbia is uncertain.