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Muncy holds off South Williamsport in a close contest

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Muncy’s Branson Eyer rushes past South Williamsport’s Landon Lorson on Friday night. Muncy won, 31-20.

MUNCY–They hear the message every day and Friday night they lived it.

The game’s outcome placed upon their collective shoulders, Muncy’s offensive line welcomed the challenge. Ty Nixon, Branson Eyer and Austin Johnson helped carry the Indians to victory on a game-clinching scoring drive, but that powerful line paved the way to victory.

Linemen Isaac Harris, Xander Brown, Gavin Hillman, Adam Rosario, Ken Hampe and tight end Bailey Hadzinikolov provided punishing blocking on a 9-run, 78-yard scoring drive as Muncy sealed a hard-fought 31-20 win against rival South Williamsport at Stanley Schuyler Stadium. It was the perfect response after South made it a four-point game with 4 minutes, six seconds remaining and helped Muncy (6-1) win its sixth straight game while remaining undefeated in the NTL-II.

“Our coaches tell us every day, after every practice and before every game, that the game is determined by us,” Harris said. “We as the linemen both offensively and defensively, run the game. It’s our decision whether we win or lose.”

That experienced, big and hard-working line chose victory.

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Muncy's Ross Eyer reels in a catch against South Williamsport on Friday night.

A unit which works in the shadows but that has been so critical to the three-time defending District 4 Class A champions’ success, shined again Friday. That group paved the way for 333 yards rushing as Eyer (151) and Nixon (105) each went over 100 yards and Johnson added 77. Together, they helped the Indians hold off South’s valiant second-half comeback and win this heavyweight battle.

After Landon Lorson’s second touchdown pulled South within 24-20, Muncy took over at its own 22-yard line. South still had two timeouts, so the game’s outcome hung over the field like the fog which started rolling in at nearly the same time. This is the kind of situation this group embraces and it was at its best, providing all the runners good holes. Nixon’s 43-yard run all but sealed it and his 4-yard touchdown run with 16.6 seconds remaining officially gave Muncy its second straight home victory against the Mounties (4-3).

“My coach says we’re all in the trenches and we don’t get enough credit for it, but the line is how we win. We have to keep pushing and keep putting our feet in the dirt and good things will happen,” Hillman said. “That’s what makes us a dangerous team. We keep putting our feet in the dirt and keep pushing. That’s how we get all those yards.”

“Those guys are experienced, have been here and know our system,” Muncy coach Sean Tetreault said. “They get hungry sometimes and you just have to keep feeding them.”

Muncy has eaten well all year and leads all area teams in rushing, going over 2,000 yards last night. But the Indians also made critical plays in the air and Eyer’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Chase Crawley gave it a 14-6 second-quarter lead. Eyer produced three touchdowns and his 53-yard scoring run gave Muncy a 21-6 halftime lead.

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Muncy’s Branson Eyer avoids a South Williamsport defender during Friday night’s game at South Williamsport.

Instead of wilting, however, South came thundering back. Lane Lusk ran for 222 yards and Clayton Swarthout’s interception on the third-quarter’s first play ignited a comeback. Swarthout returned that pick 25 yards to the 15-yard line and Lorson scored four plays later, making it 21-13. A Loudon Boring field goal stretched Muncy’s lead to 24-13 early in the fourth quarter before it appeared Caden Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.

Harris returned the kickoff straight up the middle of the field, but a flag was thrown for a South player coming off the sideline and celebrating a few yards into the field despite being nowhere near the play. Instead of a touchdown, South took over at midfield. Still, the Mounties kept moving foward with Jake Casella’s hard-earned 13-yard catch fueling a scoring drive that Lorson capped with his 1-yard run.

“I really liked how they came out in the second half. They could have come out totally flat and packed it in and they did a great job fighting back,” South coach Chris Eiswerth said. “As much as it hurts I said I’m so proud of them because the test of a man is how he responds when things aren’t going his way, and they fought back great.”

South linemen Austin Bowersox, Chris Confer, Owen Bird, Evan Tortellet, Ryan Casella and Lucas Long showcased their power as well and Lusk again was like a bowling ball, gaining extra yards after contact while topping 200 yards for the second time in three weeks. Lusk became the 10th straight Mountie to go over 1,000 yards in a season and his 3-yard second-quarter touchdown pulled South within 7-6.

At that point, South had held the ball for all but 92 seconds of a game that was a little more than two minutes into the second quarter. Eyer, however, broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run on Muncy’s second possession to open the scoring. Muncy’s three first-half touchdowns all came on big plays or 24 or more yards, while South had trouble finishing some promising drives.

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette South Williamsport’s Lane Lusk dives forward for a touchdown against Muncy during Friday night’s game at South Williamsport.

After Muncy went ahead 14-6, Lusk ripped off a 56-yard run before Ross Eyer saved a touchdown and brought him down at the 14. Muncy’s defense held and the Indians scored on the ensuing possession, changing the game’s complexion. Muncy also held on South’s first drive after the Mounties opened the game by taking nearly six minutes off the clock but stalled at the 40-yard line.

“The game really came down to three or four big plays,” Eiswerth said. “You talk about how three or four plays can make the difference in a game and that’s really what happened but our kids fought really hard. Hat’s off to Muncy. They are a great team.”

Branson Eyer, Nixon and Johnson form a three-headed monster in the backfield and are over 500 yards this season. Muncy used that balance to suck South’s defense in on its second series with Eyer faking a handoff to Johnson before exploding through a big hole on the right side and going untouched for a 73-yard touchdown. He ran a similar play on the other side with a near identical outcome late in the first half, sweeping left and going unscathed on his 53-yard score which made it 21-6.

Johnson was like a pin ball, consistently bouncing off defenders and gaining 49 first-half yards. He and Eyer running well opened up things for Nixon who gained 102 of his 105 yards in the second half, including 89 in the fourth quarter. And out in front of every quality run was a hustling Muncy linemen clearing the way.

“Our mindset was, ‘We want it more, so keep pushing and keep driving. This is our game,” said Harris, who also shined defensively and made 12 tackles. “That is all we said in the fourth quarter. We were just going at it over and over again. We had to keep that mentality to win it.”

“It’s pretty good because our running backs are pretty fresh and they all run well, but if the line doesn’t do anything they can’t get anywhere,” Hillman said. “I think we played more consistent than we did last week. We just have to keep it up and keep playing consistent.”

Muncy threw just six times, but all three completions were big ones. Ross Eyer made a spectacular leaping 35-yard catch on a 3rd-and-13, igniting Muncy’s second scoring drive, going up high and hauling it in despite being blanketed with perfect coverage. Crawley ended that drive in exciting fashion, cutting across the middle of he end zone and making a beautiful sliding catch as Eyer absorbed a hit but still found him for the 24-yard touchdown. The Eyer cousins also connected for a 13-yard 3rd-and-8 play, fueling a long drive which resulted in Boring’s 22-yard fourth-quarter field goal.

All those plays were crucial ones against a hard-charging South defense. Connor Apker was a constant disruptor up front, especially early, and had four quarterback hurries to go along with a tackle for loss and eight tackles. Jake Casella also was strong up front and Bowersox, Lusk and Swarthout were among the team’s leading tacklers.

Lusk ran for 181 first-half yards, but Muncy played much better run defense in the second half. Brown and Matt McCauley were especially strong up front and both made some outstanding plays near or behind the line. Linebackers Nixon, Bailey Hadzinikolov, Eli Weikle and Jason Shuda also were all over the field. All the Indians pulled together at the most opportune times to help Muncy win this physical, well-played and highly-entertaining high school game.

“McCauley, Bailey, Jason Shuda, Ty Nixon at linebacker, running the ball so much and playing linebacker, Bailey at tight end an turning around and playing defense … all those guys go unsung on the defense, but it’s a team philosophy,” Tetreault said. “We’re a team defense. It’s all for one and it’s great to see the whole team get success.”

Muncy 31, South Williamsport 20

S. Williamsport 0 6 7 7–20

Muncy 7 14 0 10–31

First Quarter

M–Branson Eyer 73 run (Loudon Boring kick), 2:52

Second Quarter

S–Lane Lusk 3 run (kick blocked), 9:58

M–Chase Crawley 24 pass from Eyer (Boring kick), 6:33

M–Eyer 53 run (Boring kick), 1:26

Third Quarter

S–Landon Lorson 1 run (Kayvon Shams kick), 9:58

Fourth Quarter

M–Boring 21-yard field goal, 8:55

S–Lorson 1 run (Shams kick), 4:06

M–Ty NIxon 4 run (Boring kick), :16.6

TEAM STATISTICS S M

First Downs 15 17

Rushes-yards 44-258 39-333

Passing yards 26 72

Total yards 284 405

Comp-Att-Int 2-6-0 3-6-1

Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1

Penalties-yards 3-31 5-35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: South, Lane Lusk 30-222, TD; Landon Lorson 7-21, 2 TDs; Clayton Swarthout 3-14; Grant Bachman 4-1. Muncy, Branson Eyer 8-151, 2 TDs, Ty Nixon 13-105, TD; Austin Johnson 18-77.

PASSING: South, Lorson 2-6-0, 26 yards. Muncy, Eyer 3-6-1, 72 yards, TD.

RECEIVING: South, Jake Casella 1-13; Grant Bachman 1-13. Muncy, Ross Eyer 2-48; Chase Crawley 1-24, TD.

INTERCEPTIONS: South, Swarthout.

RECORDS: Muncy 6-1. South 4-3.

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