Loyalsock vs. Scranton Prep football
Scranton Prep (12-0) vs. Loyalsock (8-4) at Williamsport, 7 p.m., today
Scranton Prep PPG–41.2, YPG–373.1, PPA–7.7
Scranton Prep facts: The Cavaliers captured their third straight district championship last week, battering Lake-Lehman, 54-7. Scranton Prep defeated Montoursville, 37-13 in the opening round last year before losing in the quarterfinals to Middletown. While Prep lost a solid core of starters from that team there really is no such thing as a rebuilding year at a private school and it just reloaded. The Cavaliers feature a stingy defense that shut out six opponents, including its first three this season. Prep allows a little more than a touchdown per game and 34 of the points scored against it came in a thrilling one-point Week 6 win against Valley View. The Cavaliers are big up front on both sides of the line and have nine players ranging between 245-275 pounds. The offensive line has been stout throughout the season and has paved the way for a strong running game that has produced 3,125 yards out of a variety of different formations. Matt Gilmartin is a versatile threat, running for a team-high 1,362 yards and 21 touchdowns while adding nine catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. Gilmartin is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and ran for 101 yards against Lake-Lehman while also catching a 40-yard touchdown. The senior was a backup last year, but became a starter late in the season, finishing with nearly 900 yards and running for 173 yards on 34 carries against Montoursville. Running back Ryan Cosgrove has added 417 yards and three touchdowns, while fullback Ivan Balavage has produced 274 yards and three touchdowns. As good as Prep’s running game is, it is not one-dimensional. Quarterback Leo O’Boyle has shined in his first year starting, completing 82 of 128 passes for 1,362 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also has run for 223 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Cree Coccodrilli has made the most of his 10 catches with seven going for touchdowns. Wide receiver Lucas Stage is second on the team in receptions, catching 14 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Lake-Lehman led Prep, 7-3, after the first quarter last week, but a fumble return for a touchdown started changing the game’s complexion and Prep scored 35 points in the middle quarters to blow it open.
Scranton Prep player to watch–Sam Dickson: The senior two-way starter returned that fumble for a touchdown against Lake-Lehman and anchors the secondary, intercepting six passes. Dickson also is the team’s most productive receiver, catching 21 passes for 285 yards and six touchdowns.
Loyalsock PPG–34.2, YPG–388.3, PPA–19.8, YPA–253
Loyalsock facts: The Lancers captured their first district championship since 2009 last week, routing top-seeded Danville, 35-6. Loyalsock played its most complete game this season as Jacob Waltz opened it with a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the defense swarmed. The Lancers held Danville to just 181 yards, including a season-low 122 rushing. Sam Newton intercepted three passes and is tied for the area-high with seven. Linebacker Hunter Webb made 11 tackles and broke the program single-season record with 162 tackles. The Connecticut-bound senior is averaging a district-best 14.7 tackles per game, has seven sacks, has added two interceptions and has made 22 tackles for loss. Carmen Barone, Geno Ginoble and Bam Bam Brima all have had strong seasons up front. Linebackers Dom Fischetti and Chase Waller have each had strong seasons and both have topped 80 tackles. Hunter Knott and Max Dugan anchor an offensive line that has jelled and been outstanding down the stretch this season. The line has helped Loyalsock feature one of the district’s most balanced offenses and has helped it score 70 points in two playoff games. Quarterback Connor Watkins is having the best season by a quarterback in Loyalsock history, throwing for a record 2,331 yards and 29 touchdowns while also running for 406 yards and 10 touchdowns. Running back Cole Cavanaugh went over 1,000 yards for a second straight season last week and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, catching five touchdowns, including the game-clincher against Danville. He also is a standout on defense and had a sack in last week’s championship win. Gerald Ross has shined in his first full season starting, catching 51 passes for 976 yards and a program-record 14 touchdowns. He caught a 52-yard touchdown against Danville and is part of a good core of receivers. Brock Hepler has caught 30 passes, going over 50 for his career while Newton, Waltz and Jaiden Cioffi have all made big plays at different times. Loyalsock kicker Quinn Deitrick has shined in his first year, going 10 for 10 on playoff extra-point attempts and he enters tonight’s game with 48 points. Loyalsock rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit in the semifinals against Lewisburg and has outscored its last two opponents, 63-6 over the previous six quarters.
Loyalsock player to watch–Geno Ginoble: A relentless worker and good senior leader who never missed an offseason weight-lifting session, Ginoble has been at the heart of Loyalsock’s defensive success. Ginoble averages 5.6 tackles per game and frees up teammates to make plays. He is strong, quick and agile and set the tone in a regular-season finale win at Montoursville. A good run stuffer who also can get after the passer, Ginoble is a big reason Loyalsock has surged when it matters most.
Outlook: This will be Loyalsock’s toughest test this season. Many statewide are picking Prep to win, but the entire Sun-Gazette sports staff picked Danville last week, so Loyalsock is comfortable in this underdog role. The Lancers have played their best football all season since halftime of the Lewisburg game. If they build off that six-quarter performance and can hold their own up front, this game could become mighty entertaining and interesting.
Winner plays: District 3 champion Middletown.
–by CHRIS MASSE