Football preview: Wyalusing at Montgomery

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Jensen Drick and Montgomery are playing Wyalusing for a district title.

Wyalusing PPG–15.5, YPG–222.2, PPA–24.8, YPA–264.6

Wyalusing facts: The Rams won a 22-21 thriller at top-seeded Muncy last week, scoring the winning touchdown and 2-point conversion with 36 seconds remaining. Now Wyalusing is playing in its first district final since 2001 and can win its first championship since that year. Wyalusing has shown a flair for the dramatic, winning three games by six combined points against fellow Class A opponents. The Rams battled back to edge Montgomery, 36-35 in double overtime in a game six weeks ago and mounted a last-minute drive against Muncy to dethrone the defending district champions. Wyalusing also made a game-saving stop from the 5-yard line as Jon Morrison swatted away a potential Canton game-winning touchdown pass as his team won that Week 2 matchup, 25-21. Wyalusing played a tough schedule, especially down the stretch, ending its season with games against Athens, Wellsboro and Towanda teams that went a combined 26-7. Wyalusing played Towanda tough in the finale, losing 15-6. Wyalusing’s defense slowed down Towanda that night and made some big stops against Muncy. Mikey Wilcox is tough up front and the defense has forced 22 turnovers. Quarterbacks Calvin Burke and Shane Fuhrey have topped 1,000 yards combined and Fuhrey became the starter late in the season. The mobile sophomore threw for 112 yards against Muncy and found Will Martin for the game-winning 2-point conversion. Fuhrey also ran for 68 yards and a touchdown and totaled 117 yards with two touchdowns in the Week 6 win against Montgomery. Running back Creighton Edsell missed the first five weeks but scored three touchdowns in that Montgomery win and has given the offense a boost, running for 421 yards and eight touchdowns. Edsell ran well behind a surging offensive line last week, producing a career-high 135 yards and two touchdowns. Morrison is the team’s leading receiver and also is a strong defensive end.

Wyalusing player to watch–Will Martin: Martin came up big against Muncy, catching five passes and two 2-point passes, one that tied the game and another that won it. Martin has caught 22 passes, averaging 22.4 yards per catch and also is among the team leaders in interceptions.

Montgomery PPG–25.8, YPG–297.8, PPA–20.5, YPA–234.4

Montgomery facts: The Red Raiders are hosting a district championship for a first time and are trying to win their first district crown. Montgomery has created quite a turnaround, going from 0-10 two years ago, to 2-8 last year and now hosting a district final. The Raiders have won two straight and downed Bucktail, 47-6 in last week’s semifinals. Montgomery has made dramatic improvement on both sides of the ball and the defense held Bucktail scoreless until the fourth quarter. Kalen Guyer and Trevor Kennedy intercepted passes and Tyler Shadle added a sack while catching a 59-yard touchdown pass. Linebacker Rhyle Strausbaugh has enjoyed a strong season as have senior leaders Nick Pryor and Noah Eshenaur. Hudson Werner had three sacks in a Week 2 win against Cowanesque Valley and Jensen Drick has intercepted four passes. Drick is a versatile threat who also ran for a touchdown last week and returned a punt for a score. Running back Hunter Budman ran for 122 yards and a touchdown against Bucktail and is among the district leaders in rushing with 1,426 yards and 23 total touchdowns. Fullback Eithan Marino is a strong lead blocker who also runs well and had 138 yards against Canton. Quarterback Brayden Strouse threw for 141 yards and three touchdowns against Wyalusing six weeks ago and went over 1,000 yards in last week’s game, becoming the program’s first 1,000-yard passer since 2012. Drick, Kennedy and Budman caught touchdowns in that Wyalusing game, including two in the overtimes. The offensive line has played well throughout the season and was especially strong in the semifinal win. Brennan Bailey has returned from injury and bolstered an already quality line. Montgomery has won six games for the first time since 2000 and is playing in the district final for the first time since that season. The last time Montgomery won more than six games came in 1999 when it went 8-4.

Montgomery player to watch–Noah Eshenaur: The senior two-way lineman has been a huge part of this program’s resurgence. A physical player, Eshenaur has helped this team carve out a new identity and is a solid run stuffer who also can get after the passer. He also has helped the offense produce its most yards in a season since 2001.

Outlook: These teams are pretty similar and share similar mentalities. Neither team backs down and this game could be a lot like the first one. Expect a thriller and a fantastic atmosphere to be surrounding Red Raider Stadium.

Winner plays: The District 3 champion, either Fairfield or Steel-High at a District 4 site