Raiders reach D4 title game in Class A

MONTGOMERY — After he had talked to his team in the postgame huddle, Montgomery coach Paul Bozella was on the sideline just enjoying the moment of having won a playoff game.

That’s when two of Montgomery’s players gave Bozella the celebratory bath with the water cooler. With the temperatures in the low 50s, having the water on him probably didn’t feel the greatest. But then again, having just earned a spot in the District 4 Class A championship game probably made it feel a lot better.

Just a year after winning two games, the Red Raiders are district championship-bound thanks to a 47-6 victory over Bucktail on Friday night at Montgomery and will host the final against Wyalusing, which defeated Muncy.

“It’s a great accomplishment. It means a lot to our program,” Montgomery quarterback Brayden Strouse said. “Now we’re competing for one of highest levels Montgomery’s ever competed for.”

It was a 33-point spurt in the second and third quarters that helped the Red Raiders pull away from Bucktail, specifically two big plays in the second quarter.

Holding just a 13-0 lead late in the second quarter, Montgomery lined up on its own 41 and Brayden Strouse executed a perfect fake handoff that Bucktail bit on. Strouse then saw Tyler Shadle going down the sideline without any defenders on him and hit him in stride for a 59-yard touchdown reception to put the Red Raiders ahead, 20-0.

The very next Bucktail possession, the Bucks didn’t get a great punt off and Jensen Drick ran the return back 43 yards.

In a quick series under two minutes, the Red Raiders shifted things for good in their favor.

“I think that was big­gest turning point of the game, 13-0 is still a really close game and 21 gives us a bigger gap and makes it more comfortable going into the half,” Strouse said.

“We really did honestly believe it or not have a really good defensive plan put together. This is first time we’ve run a 4-4 since last year and we knew it was something Montgomery didn’t see. We were really hoping to keep No. 36 (Hunter Budman) under control, which we did for better part of the first half,” Bucktail coach Bruce Ransom said. “Couple swing passes here and there, little missed reads with our edge players and it really did turn the difference.”

The Red Raiders ended with a 357-166 yard advantage over the Bucks, and held Bucktail to just 57 yards in the first two quarters while taking a 27-0 lead into halftime.

Strouse hit a milestone in the win, throwing for his 1,000th yard as he ended with 184 passing yards in the win.

“Brayden as a quarterback has matured so much over the last year. Last year he was tenative, he’d get a little bit more nervous at line of scrimmage. Now he’s complete leader for our team,” Bozella said.

Budman was huge on the ground for the Red Raiders, rushing for 122 yards on just 12 carries, averaging 10.1 yards per carry.

The Bucks ended with 137 rushing yards in the loss.

The Red Raiders led 40-0 before Bucktail avoided the shutout early in the fourth quarter. The Bucks used that drive to go nine plays and score when Gage Sutliff punched in a one-yard run to make it a 40-6 deficit after a two-point conversion failed.

Montgomery and Buck­tail kept it close in the first quarter as Mont­gomery held just a 7-0 lead after Strouse ran it in from four yards out with 3:30 to play in the first.

Bucktail had 15 players suited up on Friday night and both Sutliff and Tanner Riggle played well running the ball, both rushing for 65 yards. Riggle was attempting to get his 1,000th rushing yard late in the fourth quarter as he entered Friday’s game needing just 97 to hit the milestone.

“Everything was kind of designed because they did kind of spread us out last week with their speed. We designed traps inside tackle. At times we were able to get good yards with that with Sutliff and Riggle,” Ransom said. “True difference was we couldn’t compliment that with any pass game tonight. Richard (Perry) is a very small quarterback, so you see why we have to roll him out a lot and he just couldn’t get the looks down field and that kind of hurt our offense keeping things going. That was difference. But again, Montgomery did exactly what they did last week, they were consistent, moving sticks then they would bust a big play and they have some nice team speed over there, which is big.”

Montgomery had three red zone trips and converted all three for touchdowns against Bucktail.

While the Bucks did lose by 41 on Friday, Bucktail made a remarkable run this season, winning four games with a roster of only 15 kids.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the 15 kids we have here. The kids, our program, the school and the community, take a look. That’s what high school football is right there,” Ransom said as he looked at the players posing for photographs. “Truth be told, not taking anything away from Montgomery, they got a real nice story going here because they struggled for awhile. Now they’re playing in a district championship game and the truth is I’m very happy for them as well.”

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