Football preview: Bloomsburg at Loyalsock
Bloomsburg facts: South Williamsport snapped Bloomsburg’s four-game winning streak, beating it 56-28. Still, Bloomsburg remains a dangerous team that is fighting for a Class AA playoff spot and nearly defeated Class AAA-leading Danville in the season opener. Bloomsburg’s defense has allowed just 35 points in four wins and has forced 15 turnovers. Linebacker Mitch Reed is having a big season, averaging 11.9 tackles per game while adding three sacks and an interception. Five players have intercepted two passes and Jacob Mattive returned one for a touchdown in a 73-22 win at Milton. Bloomsburg also features some of the district’s best special teams. The Panthers have returned five kicks and punts for touchdowns. Osiris Hemphill has returned two punts for scores and Hunter Coulter has both a punt and kick return touchdown. Coulter is one of the district’s fastest players and sparks the offense as well, running for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns. Coulter averages 10.9 yards per carry and has big-play potential nearly any time he touches the ball. Joe Zola is a hard-nosed runner who has 271 yards and also has five sacks. Quarterback Nick Anderson is a four-year starter who has recovered from a torn ACL and thrown five touchdowns over the final three weeks. Eric Foust is his favorite receiver and is a three-year starter who has 78 career receptions.
Bloomsburg player to watch–Evan Bond: The two-way starting lineman is tough on both sides of the ball and is second on the team with four sacks. Bond has a team-high seven tackles for loss and has four sacks in Bloomsburg’s four wins.
Loyalsock facts: The Lancers are seeking their first win against a team with a winning record and trying to show why they could be dangerous come playoff time. This is the start of a tough three-game stretch with Shikellamy and rival Montoursville coming up the next two weeks. Loyalsock is second in the District 4 Class AAA standings and a win tonight would go a long way toward helping it secure a first-round home playoff game. Loyalsock bounced back from a 28-point loss to South Williamsport in a big way last week, routing Warrior Run, 48-14. The defense which struggled so much against South was dominant, allowing just one offensive touchdown and 165 yards. The defense really has played just two bad games this year and in the other five has allowed just four offensive touchdowns. All-state linebacker Hunter Webb has 93 tackles and is averaging a district-best 15.5 per game. The Connecticut-bound senior was everywhere last week, making 15 tackles, seven for loss, adding four sacks and running for 149 yards and three touchdowns on four carries. Fellow linebacker Dom Fischetti is having a strong season as well, averaging 9.7 tackles per game and he ran for a 71-yard score against Warrior Run. Defensive linemen Geno Ginoble, Brandon Bauman and Carmen Barone all are averaging four or more tackles per game and Bam Bam Brima had a sack and two tackles for loss last week. Ian Wimer had two sacks in the team’s first four games. Quarterback Connor Watkins has topped 1,000 yards for a third straight year and is second among area passers in quarterback rating. Gerald Ross has caught six touchdowns and Brock Hepler and Jaiden Cioffi have combined for 31 catches. Loyalsock ran for 366 yards in last year’s 54-22 win at Bloomsburg.
Loyalsock player to watch–Cole Cavanaugh: Cavanaugh has run for 630 yards and also is dangerous out of the backfield, catching a 65-yard touchdown against South. He topped 1,000 yards last season and has topped 100 yards three times this season. Cavanaugh also is an excellent safety who averages seven tackles per game and had 12 against undefeated Central Columbia.
Outlook: This is a big game for both teams. Bloomsburg needs it for playoff purposes and Loyalsock needs it to build momentum. Loyalsock has more weapons offensively, so it is the pick here in a game that could be close most of the way.
–by CHRIS MASSE