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Eyer’s presence felt as freshman

A freshman catching 13 passes easily can be considered an excellent start. When that same player produces eight touchdowns on those 13 catches, that becomes downright remarkable.

Welcome to Ross Eyer’s life. The Muncy freshman has made one of the more impressive debuts in recent area history and he immediately left his mark on the Old Shoe Game last Friday. Eyer caught his eighth touchdown, a 67-yard beauty, which opened the scoring, altered the game’s complexion, and helped Muncy defeat rival Montgomery, 27-7. The 6-foot-2 freshman has caught four passes in his last three games and all have been touchdowns.

The only District 4 receiver who has caught more touchdowns than Eyer is Ohio State-bound Julian Fleming. That is some impressive company and drives home the weapon that Eyer rapidly has become.

“It’s unbelievable,” Eyer said. “To be a freshman and have the opportunity to do stuff like this, it’s something that not everybody gets to do. I’m very grateful for it.”

“When he gets a big pass it’s really exciting and it helps get us going,” running back Ethan Gush said after running for 155 yards and three touchdowns. “I live near him and grew up with him and I knew he would be a good player for us.”

It is not just that Eyer is making these plays and scoring all these touchdowns. It is how he is making them. Steve Prince had Eyer covered as well as a receiver can be covered last Friday, but Eyer still high-pointed the ball, secured the catch while being hit, and spun away, running the final 30 yards untouched. A week earlier, Eyer made two similar touchdown catches against Canton, including a 34-yarder on which he was double covered.

Eyer made two similar touchdown grabs against South Williamsport in Week 4 when he totaled a career-high 96 yards. A standout basketball player, Eyer is skilled at perfectly timing his leaps and making difficult catches look easy. Not that anything this season has come easy. Eyer is still learning a new system and still learning how to adjust from playing junior high football to going against players who are three years older than he is. Still, he is a quick study.

“It’s tough learning a whole new offense and to be a freshman and to have to know everything at the same time as all the seniors who have been doing it for four years,” Eyer said. “It’s really hard to get used to, but it just works. The way coach does it, it makes it easier for everyone to understand and I am really excited for the future.”

So are his coaches and teammates. Eyer has only scratched the surface of what he might do as he gains more experience, but he already is changing opponents’ strategies. After Eyer caught the 67-yard touchdown, Montgomery began double-teaming him. Montgomery held him without a catch over the last three quarters, but that created opportunities for other receivers, and tight end Nate Palmatier caught a career-high four passes for 68 yards. It also loosened up Montgomery’s run defense and Muncy gouged the Raiders for 256 rushing yards.

“We talk about it all the time. If they’re going to single cover Ross Eyer we’re going to take shots. They started doubling in the second half and we just started pounding the rock,” Muncy coach Sean Tetreault said. “Any time you have a freshman that alters the game plan of an Old Shoe Rivalry game we know we have a very special player. We have to find a little more ways to get him involved even if he’s getting double covered, but if they put two guys on him we should be able to run the ball all night long.”

As good as Eyer has been somebody has to give him a shot at making those touchdown catches. That is where his cousin Branson Eyer comes in. Ross and Branson are neighbors and have played three sports together most of their lives. That bond has shown on the field with Branson consistently putting the ball in places where Ross can go up and make plays. On nearly every one of those eight touchdowns, Branson has done just that.

Had he not missed one start, Branson would be on pace for a 1,000-yard season. He threw for 135 yards against Montgomery, the second time in three games he has topped 130. Eyer to Eyer is rapidly becoming a dynamic passing combination and the best might still be coming.

“They know where each other are going to be before we do sometimes. It’s great to see those two having that great connection,” Tetreault said. “When you have two freshmen making big plays that’s always great to have in your back pocket.”

“I honestly feel like the next few years are going to be really great. We’re building up,” Ross said. “We have so many freshmen this year and it’s just going to keep getting better and better. As we all get older we’ll get more skilled and it’s going to be real fun in the future for us.”

It’s pretty fun now, too.

BIG RETURN

It was not a coincidence that Muncy played one of its best offensive games with two-way lineman Dakota Haueisen returning. Haueisen, an all-state tackle last year, had missed the three previous games with an injury, but showed no rust and was a powerful presence on both sides of the ball. He combined with Mason Hillman, Travis Fogleman, Cael Hembury and Isaac Harris to help Muncy run at will throughout the second half against a defense which allowed 17 points in its previous two games.

Haueisen was equally impressive defensively. The three-year starter helped stuff the run and was key in Muncy allowing less than 2 yards per carry. He clogged lanes, freed up linebackers to make plays and added a sack. The skill players often receive the most glory, but without Haueisen, Muncy would not have won league and district championships the last two years. Having him back provides quite an asset as the postseason approaches.

“That helped a lot,” Gush said. “He’s great and he’s great to run behind. We trust him and I love running with him in front of me.”

EXTRA POINTS

Warrior Run had been searching for a signature win and earned it when it pounded Bloomsburg, 42-14, and beat the Panthers for the first time since 2006. The starting defense stymied a potent offense, surrendering one touchdown and 170 yards. The offensive line owned things up front for a second straight week, Riley Daubert caught five passes for 145 yards and Warrior Run (4-3) moved within two victories of clinching its first winning season since 2006 … Brett Harvey made 11 tackles and Kohen Lehman returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown as North Penn-Mansfield routed Philipsburg-Osceola, 31-7, and won its third straight. Bryan Bogaczyk ran for 92 yards and intercepted a pass while Colton Litzelman found Brandon Thompson for a 38-yard touchdown … Loyalsock is surging defensively and blanked Mifflinburg, 35-0, allowing a season-low 66 yards. Aiden Gair collected his sixth sack in four weeks and Dane Armson each intercepted passes. Quarterback Chase Cavanaugh hit Rees Watkins with a 94-yard touchdown and Watkins topped 100 yards receiving for a fourth time … South Williamsport showed how dangerous it can be in the Class A field, pushing AAA title contender Central Columbia hard in a 17-7 loss. The game was tied at halftime and the Mounties played strong defense against a team which had scored 41 points a week earlier against Danville … Cowanesque Valley continues making strides and won its second game, defeating Bucktail, 35-6. Freshman Elliott Good ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns, Kole Hurler caught seven passes and Magnus Swimley made four tackles for loss. Bucktail running back Gage Sutliff continued to shine in that game, running for 218 yards and a touchdown. Sutliff has topped 100 yards in five straight games and is third among area rushers with 965 yards.

Dr. Masse’s Top 5 Football teams

1. Montoursville (7-0)

They toil in anonymity, but Montoursville offensive linemen Will Carson, Jacob Stoner, Travis Johnson, Michael Dincher and Joel Feleppa have been five of the team’s most valuable players this season. They proved again Friday as Montoursville scored 43 first-half points and routed Danville, 46-14 while clinching a share of a second straight HAC-II championship. The Warriors scored on their first five series and the line has been pivotal in them averaging a whopping 10.9 yards per carry this season. Conversely, the defensive line has been stout and bottled up a high-powered Danville offense. The starters have surrendered two touchdowns over the last 19 quarters and the defense is allowing 127 yards per game. Montoursville will try winning its first outright league championship of the 2000s Friday when it plays at Mifflinburg.

2. Canton (7-0)

It had struggled in two previous games, but the Canton defense dominated last Friday and paved the way for an impressive 30-6 win against fellow District 4 Class A title contender Sayre. The Warriors held an explosive offense to a season-low 101 yards as Carson Stiner made nine tackles and Ben Knapp added two sacks. That stingy performance helped Canton take control of the race for homefield advantage in districts. Quarterback Uriah Bailie totaled four touchdowns and went over 1,000 yards rushing. He is 28 yards from also going over 1,000 passing yards. Knapp caught his seventh touchdown, Stiner ran for 98 yards and Joel Schoonover caught a touchdown.

3. Jersey Shore (4-3)

Although two-time defending Class AA state champion Southern Columbia defeated it, 56-14, Jersey Shore became the first team that scored a first-half touchdown and produced multiple scores against the Tiger machine this season. Tanner Lorson threw for a career-high 322 yards and two touchdowns and Anthony Shaffer had a career-night, catching eight passes and two scores. Cayden Hess also caught eight passes and Stanton Westlin had five catches for 124 yards. The Bulldogs feature one of District 4’s deepest receiving groups and all four of those receivers have 20 or more catches this season.

4. Wellsboro (6-1)

A decade ago, Wellsboro was struggling as much as any District 4 program, but winning is now the norm and it clinched a seventh straight winning season with a 47-7 romp at Milton. The Green Hornets opened a 40-0 halftime lead as sophomore quarterback Isaac Keane continued progressing, throwing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Logan Henry caught a touchdown and collected his fifth sack in three games as the defense surrendered just 83 yards and forced four turnovers. Aidan Hauser ran for 118 yards and four touchdowns, becoming just the eighth player in area history to surpass 4,000 career yards. Wellsboro has won four straight and is working toward earning a District 4 Class AA quarterfinal home game.

5. Lewisburg (5-2)

Quarterback Nick Shedleski threw for 218 yards in Saturday’s 49-30 win at Shikellamy, becoming only the second player in area history to go over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. The senior joined Loyalsock graduate Pat Carey and has thrown for 1,041 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions in 114 attempts. Lewisburg has won four straight and can win a share of the HAC-I championship if they defeat Jersey Shore on Friday. If the Bulldogs win, they earn a share of their second straight league title and will have a shot at winning it outright in their season finale. Lewisburg has put itself in this position despite having only five seniors and losing all-state running back Max Moyers to a season-ending injury.

Players of the Week

Denver Beachel, Warrior Run and Seth Huyler, Cowanesque Valley

Beachel was a workhorse against Bloomsburg, carrying 33 times for a career-high 159 yards and five touchdowns. Beachel helps in all facts and became the first Defender to score five touchdowns in a game since Austin Oberdorf in 2010. Huyler is the most productive quarterback in CV history and totaled 319 yards, along with three touchdowns. Huyler threw for 232 yards and ran for a team-high 87, going over 1,000 total yards despite missing nearly two full games. He is closing in on a second consecutive 1,000-yard passing season and has thrown just one interception in 151 attempts.

Game of the Week

Canton at Wellsboro

Friday’s key NTL-I clash should be one of District 4’s most exciting games, featuring teams who are a combined 13-1 and who have won 12 straight games between them. Wellsboro is hoping to earn a share of its third league title in four years and must beat Canton to have a shot at making it happen. Both teams feature explosive offensive playmakers and stingy defenses. Canton rallied in the fourth quarter for a 26-16 win a year ago and it would be surprising if this game again was not determined until deep into the fourth quarter.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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