Barone’s line play a reason Loyalsock in state tourney

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Carmen Barone has been a force on the line this season for Loyalsock.

If District 4 held a weight-lifting competition, Carmen Barone might just win it.

The Loyalsock defensive tackle looks like a piece of iron. He literally never missed a weight-lifting session over the offseason and now is as strong as they come.

He also hits like a piece of iron. To be more precise, Barone helped hit the iron right out of Danville’s Ironmen last Friday. Barone was a force in the middle of Loyal­sock’s defensive and offensive lines. He made seven tackles, six solos and freed up others to make plays as Loyalsock dominated and defeated top-seeded Danville, 35-6 while capturing the District 4 Class AAA championship.

“Carmen is a monster, especially in the weight room. He’s probably the strongest kid I’ve ever met,” Loyalsock cornerback Sam Newton said. “He had a really good game (Friday).”

“He gave it all he had,” Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said. “And right now, he’s physically incredible.”

Barone has bench pressed 475 pounds and squats over 600 pounds. Good luck finding any fat on his chiseled 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame either.

Still, Barone is not just some genetic cyborg. Football is littered through the years with strong men who might be able to drag a truck, but could not keep their right foot ahead of their left. Think Tony Mandarich. Barone is one part Mr. Olympia, one part J.J. Watt. The kid can play.

“I’m not joking when I’m telling you he could make a play in the backfield every single down,” quarterback Connor Watkins said. “He’s athletic, he’s fast and he’s stronger than an ox. That kid, he’s ridiculous.”

Barone owned the line against Danville’s stout offensive front. The junior defensive tackle helped stuff the run and pressure the passer and had two tackles for loss. For a defensive lineman the seven tackles and six solos are especially impressive numbers and it was a near repeat performance of the semifinals when Barone had seven tackles with two for loss.

The numbers are nice, but Barone’s presence goes beyond those. His ability to tie up linemen helps players free up the defensive ends and the linebackers. The defense shut down Danville all night and it all started up front with Barone setting the tone.

“We couldn’t do it without the other guys next to me,” Barone said. “We worked together as a team and we did well.”

Barone put together a breakthrough season last year and helped Loyalsock win eight games. He is even better this season, a necessity after Loyalsock lost standout linemen like Penn State freshman Crae McCracken and Nahiem Davis. The same goes on offense where Barone has been at the heart of a surging offensive line that has played some of its best football the past three weeks.

Barone is part of a line that has helped Loyalsock average near 400 yards per game. Watkins has topped 2,000 yards passing, Cole Cavanaugh 1,000 yards rushing and Gerald Ross is 24 yards from 1,000 receiving yards. The skill players have excelled, but again, everything starts up front. Loyalsock’s strong man might fly under the radar but his talent is becoming as strong as he is.

“He’s an individual who’s worked incredibly hard. A couple years ago we lost an awful lot of offensive linemen and it was going to take a Herculean effort to replace those guys, and losing Crae took a Herculean effort to replace all he provided,” Van Fleet said. “Those guys rose to the task. Carmen Barone is a manifestation of all that hard work.”

FOUR-QUARTER STRONG: Loyalsock went 6-4 during the regular season and three of those losses came by 11 combined points. The Lancers were a play or two from winning all those games, but it was one thing here, one thing there. They never could seem to put everything together at the same time for 48 minutes.

Even in a 35-24 district semifinal win against Lewisburg, the Lancers trailed 24-7 at halftime. They dominated the second half, scoring 28 third-quarter points and that led to the team’s best week of practice all season. Near perfect practice made for a near perfect performance as Loyalsock put it all together, shined for all four quarters and pounded the district’s top-seeded team.

This was a game Loyalsock waited all year to play after Danville beat it 34-7 in last year’s semifinals. When the second chance arrived, Loyalsock delivered its four-quarter performance and now it is hoping that is just the start.

“It’s so awesome to see our team peaking at the right time of my senior year. Add in the weather factor, and it was certainly, a game I’ll never forget,” Newton said. “If we play like this every game, we can make a statement. This was the best I’ve ever seen our team play.”

“We came out ready to play and sometimes we have trouble doing that and we come out slow,” Watkins said. “But we knew what was on the line and we came out ready.”

SLIGHT DETOUR: Montgomery put together its best season since 2000 and made one of the best small-school turnarounds in recent memory. The Red Raiders, who just snapped an 18-game losing streak at midseason last year, made a four-win improvement, won their first playoff game in 17 years and hosted a district championship for the first time. Yes, Wyalusing defeated Montgomery, 28-6 in that game, but this certainly does not look like a one-year wonder.

While some outstanding seniors who made this turnaround possible graduate, Montgomery returns many starters and is bolstered by good numbers at the junior high level. Just as important, Montgomery knows it can win now. The Raiders won a semifinal game, experienced the championship atmosphere and know what it takes. They have not climbed the ladder completely yet, but the Raiders sure are moving a lot higher.

“We took a step in the right direction and we have a lot of good, young players coming back. We have a lot of kids coming up and with work in the offseason we’ll be right back here next year competing again,” quarterback Brayden Strouse said after throwing for 151 yards and a touchdown. This experience is really going to help us moving forward and knowing what to expect when we get back here.”

Strouse finished his season with 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns, the best season by a Montgomery quarterback since 2001. Running back Hunter Budman ran for more yards than any Raider in the 2000s (1,490 yards), caught a team-high 26 passes and scored 23 touchdowns, another 21st-century high. Both are back next season along with several more talented players.

Montgomery had not even reached five wins since 2001, but this team went above .500 four different times and lost two other games by just nine combined points, including one in double overtime. The Raiders no longer are hoping to win, but expecting to do and that is a crucial development in this turnaround. It is a big reason, Montgomery is excited to get back to work.

More than being an ending, Friday might have just provided a beginning. If Montgomery does reach greater heights in the coming years, the current seniors still will have a big part. They are the ones who started everything.

“We challenged them at halftime not to back down and we didn’t back down,” Bozella said. “We played our hearts out tonight and I’m happy for the seniors who paved the way.”

CALLING ALL STARS: The Sun-Gazette will release its annual area All-Star Team, along with Player and Coach of the Year honors, on or around Christmas. The area includes 17 teams from all six classifications so the staff writers have some tough decisions to make.

Look at two skill positions, for example. One quarterback is selected and two have set program records, going over 2,300 yards each and combining for 59 touchdown passes. Another quarterback totaled 2,527 yards and 40 touchdowns. Three running backs are selected and six topped 1,000. Nearly every other position is crowded as well, meaning the second team All-Stars will make quite a powerful team by themselves. It also means the area could make a nice impact once again at the all-state level.

Those who did not post their stats on are encouraged to send stats for players they feel should be nominated to

Dr. Masse’s Ridiculously Premature and Meaningless Preseason 2018 Top Five: 1. Williamsport (7-4); 2. Loyalsock (8-4); 3. Jersey Shore (7-4); 4. Lewisburg (4-7); 5. Montoursville (2-8).