Loyalsock at Montoursville
Last meeting: Montoursville won, 41-6, in Week 5.
Background: These cross-creek rivals are meeting in the playoffs for the third time and in the championship for a second time. Loyalsock edged Montoursville, 21-14 in a 2007 Class AA semifinal and Montoursville captured the 2014 AA championship when it held off a late rally and defeated Loyalsock, 21-19. Either Montoursville or Loyalsock has won the Class AAA title since the classifications moved from four to six in 2016. These programs also have combined to win eight district championships since 2005. Montoursville holds a 12-8 advantage in the series that was resumed in 2002. Loyalsock had won two straight in the series before last year when Montoursville defeated it 24-7 at Memorial Stadium. Since 2012, Montoursville and Loyalsock have endured just one losing season each.
Loyalsock Road to Final: Beat No. 7 Mifflinburg, 38-0, and No. 3 Central Columbia, 21-13.
Loyalsock PPG–28.2, YPG–316; PPA–17.4, YPA–221.1
Loyalsock facts: This young team experienced some growing pains around midseason, but has progressed light years from where it was the first time it played Montoursville. Loyalsock has won six straight games and its defense has been outstanding, allowing just 9.2 points per game during that span. Loyalsock bottled up Central Columbia a week ago, leading by 14 late in the game. Outside linebacker Aiden Gair has put together a fantastic senior campaign, averaging 8.7 tackles per game and collecting a district-high 13 1/2 sacks. Fellow linebackers Simone Mileto and Joeb Schurer each went over 100 tackles for the season last week and Malaki Parlante has been a force up front. Parlante has 9 1/5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and has created opportunities for other defenders to make plays. Aeden Holler and Korie Mayer provide production up front and have combined for 17 tackles for loss. Eli Gair has intercepted three passes in his last five games and Schurer and Rees Watkins have intercepted passes this postseason. The offensive line has grown the way the defense has and paved the way for an offense that has been outstanding on the ground the last six weeks. Freshman running back Davion Hill has topped 100 yards in four straight games and quarterback Chase Cavanaugh has been outstanding on read-option plays. Cavanaugh ran for 102 yards against Central and has totaled 2,415 yards this season. Watkins did not play football before this season, but the senior went over 1,000 yards last week, catching six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. He is among the district leaders in all major categories and has 53 catches. Loyalsock finished second in the HAC-II, one game behind Montoursville. The two shared that crown with Danville a year ago. Kicker Brady Dowell is having a strong season and has kicked five field goals.
Loyalsock player to watch–Dane Armson: The senior safety was one of the bright spots in the first Montoursville game and set up Loyalsock’s touchdown that night with an interception which he nearly returned for a touchdown. He also made eight tackles that night. Armson is tied for the team-high in interceptions (3) and also is good against the run, averaging 5.2 tackles per game.
Montoursville Road to Final: Beat No. 8 Shamokin, 42-0, and No. 4 Warrior Run, 54-12.
Montoursville PPG–41.3, YPG–356.2; PPA–8.6, YPA–163
Montoursville facts: The Warriors are seeking their second straight district championship and their fourth since 2014. Montoursville also has played in five of the last six district finals and is trying to become the program’s first repeat champion since 2005-06. The Warriors have made quick work of Shamokin and Warrior Run in their first two playoff games, shutting both out in the first half and scoring 62 points. The defense has recorded five shutouts and held opponents scoreless for 10 straight quarters before Warrior Run scored a third-quarter touchdown last week. All-state defensive end Cameron Wood moved inside at times against Warrior Run and caused havoc, recording three sacks and disrupting the passing game. He, Will Carson, Zach Schmalhofer, Ryan Keen, Travis Johnson and Jacob Stoner all have played well up front this season as have linebackers Dylan Bennett, Logan Balouris and CJ Signor. The secondary also has been a strength with Dillon Young and Dylan Moll each intercepting three passes. Jacob Reeder is a good cornerback and intercepted a pass in the Week 5 win at Loyalsock. The offensive line was outstanding against Warrior Run, paving the way for 300 rushing yards. Rocco Pulizzi and Logan Ott both went over 100 yards and Pulizzi became a 1,000-yard rusher in his sophomore season. Ott scored three touchdowns and Hunter Shearer threw for two scores. Shearer joined Brycen Mussina as the only quarterbacks to go over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons in the Shamokin win. Jaxon Dalena caught and ran for a touchdown and became the program’s all-time leader in touchdown catches (19) last week. Kickers Ian Plankenhorn and Colin Gorini have been special teams weapons who have connected on 65 extra points. Plankehorn has a district-high eight field goals and drilled a 47-yarder against Loyalsock. Gorini also averages 38.9 yards per punt.
Montoursville player to watch–Dylan Moll: Speaking of special teams, Moll is another weapon there and has returned both a kickoff and punt for scores. He has scored touchdowns five different ways and returned an interception for a touchdown against Warrior Run. He also had an interception in the Loyalsock win and played a large role in slowing its passing game that night.
Winner plays: District 2’s champion, either Wyoming Area or Scranton Prep
Outlook: Throw out the first game because it no longer matters. This is a different Loyalsock team than eight weeks ago and it is much improved. However, Montoursville also has made strides so this should be a fantastic battle. This will be a physical contest and points could be at a premium. Ultimately, the difference will be up front. Win that battle and one will win the championship.
–By CHRIS MASSE