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Montoursville wins title over Loyalsock

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montoursville’s Jaxon Dalena reaches for a bobbled pass after Loyalsock’s Eli Gair broke up the pass in the end zone in the second quarter Friday at Montoursville during the District 4 Class AAA championship game.

As the final seconds ticked away, Montoursville lineman Travis Johnson sprinted toward midfield. It appeared he would jump high into the air or embrace a happy teammate as Montoursville secured another major victory.

But as soon as Johnson reached the 50-yard line, he promptly turned right, walked toward the opponent and started shaking hands. His teammates followed that lead. There was no jumping, no screaming, no Gatorade baths. It almost was like this winning district championship thing is becoming the norm. And, honestly, it is.

Hunter Shearer threw for 241 yards and four touchdowns, Jaxon Dalena and Dillon Young both went over 100 yards receiving and the defense dominated as Montoursville routed rival Loyalsock, 42-14, Friday at Memorial Stadium and captured a second straight District 4 Class AAA championship. The Warriors (12-1) built a 28-point halftime lead against a team that had won six straight games and left no doubt that they are the district’s best Class AAA team. Again.

Still, Montoursville acted like it was just another game because it is hoping this latest championship is not an end point, but rather a launching pad.

“Playing here and knowing it was the last game I was ever going to play here, I really wanted this one, but we’ve been focused all year on this next game,” Johnson said after helping Montoursville gain 375 yards. “That’s what we want to do and our goal all year was to get to this point and then try and win a state playoff game after that.”

“This was the first step. It’s been a long process since we stood on that field in Dunmore last year (following a state quarterfinal loss). It feels good, but it feels different,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “We’ve had a little different mentality this year all season about that and about what our goals actually are. We had more of a business-like attitude tonight. The other district championships we’ve won since I’ve here have been awesome and we were partying and we were so happy. We’re still happy, but it’s a little different atmosphere here and we’re going back to work (Saturday) morning.”

Montoursville has done impressive work all year and ran roughshod through District 4 Class AAA. The Warriors outscored three district playoff opponents, 148-26, mercy-ruling each one. That dominant run earned it a state quarterfinal showdown against District 2 champion Wyoming Area next weekend at a District 4 site.

What looked like could be a potential classic entering last night became more of a coronation. Montoursville had beaten Loyalsock, 41-6, in Week 5, but the Lancers entered the final riding a six-game winning streak. Much was written and said about how improved Loyalsock was since that game eight weeks ago. That simply fueled Montoursville’s collective fire and the Warriors basically put the game away by halftime, building a 35-7 advantage.

“This was our first step toward our main goal and it’s always good to beat your rival,” Shearer said after reaching 50 career touchdown passes. “Everyone was saying they got better since Week 5 and we certainly got better, too, and it showed. We came out and took it to them.”

“All week we’ve heard about how much better Loyalsock has gotten and no one ever said anything about us and look what happened,” Johnson said. “That’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out, step on their throats and keep grinding.”

Logan Ott scored twice and intercepted two passes and set the game’s tone just two plays in. When the ball bounced off a Loyalsock receiver’s chest, Ott pounced, and picked it off at the Loyalsock 30-yard line. Just two plays later he scored on a 9-yard run. Young (8 catches, 106 yards) set up the next touchdown a series later, returning a punt 32 yards and setting up Montoursville at the Loyalsock 16. This drive took just three plays and Shearer found Young for a 9-yard score.

Montoursville needed just seven plays on its first three scoring drives and Shearer dropped a dime to Dalena (6 catches, 123) yards early in the second quarter who turned it into a 37-yard touchdown that made it 21-0. Shearer put the ball where only Dalena could catch it and the senior skillfully high-pointed it before spinning away and going untouched toward the end zone. Those two connected on an 87-yard touchdown a series later, but the score was negated by a holding penalty and Aiden Gair recovered a fumble in the end zone a play later as Loyalsock pulled within 21-7.

Instead of that play providing a turning point, it simply was a blip on the radar. Montoursville went 74 yards on seven plays following that touchdown and Shearer found Cameron Wood wide open for a 29-yard touchdown. Late in the first half, Loyalsock held Montoursville to a field goal try, but jumped off sides and allowed a first down. Given a second chance, Shearer threaded the needle and found Young for a 14-yard touchdown, making it 35-7.

“It was overall a great team win. We did a lot of preparation for this game,” Young said. “We watched more film than we have all year for this game. We knew we had to work hard for this win and that’s what we did.”

“There’s just so many guys you can go to,” Shearer said. “You can’t key on one guy on this team. It’s the best thing you can ask for.”

Loyalsock (9-4) could not ask for a much better season after losing four Division I players from last year’s team. The Lancers reinvented themselves following a 3-3 start, pounded six straight opponents and shined on both sides of the ball while reaching a second district final in three seasons. Loyalsock also won three more games than last year. It was a potent blend of seniors and new contributors who made that run possible and freshman running back Davion Hill went over 1,000 yards last night, while Chase Cavanaugh scored on a 9-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.

Last night was not about what Loyalsock did wrong, but about everything Montoursville did right. The Warriors repeated as district champions for the first time since 2005-06 and brought the mercy rule into play on the fourth-quarter’s last play when Ott scored from two yards out. The defense again held Loyalsock to one offensive touchdown and the Lancers did not go over 100 yards until their final possession.

Montoursville stuffed the running game Loyalsock established so well the previous six weeks. The Warriors pressured Cavanaugh well in the backfield and players like Young and Dylan Moll blanketed receivers. Montoursville overpowered district opponents all season and last night’s win provided an exclamation point.

But the work has just started.

“They changed most of their playbook from when we played them before so we focused a lot more on their inside zone and their read option and we just grinded it out this week,” Young said. “We’re very excited. This was a great win and we all wanted this win, but the main reason we wanted this win was so we could have a shot at trying to win a state playoff game next week.”

Montoursville 42, Loyalsock 14

Loyalsock 0 7 0 7–14

Montoursville 14 21 0 7–42

First Quarter

M–Logan Ott 9 run (Ian Plankenhorn kick), 10:22

M–Dillon Young 9 pass from Hunter Shearer (Colin Gorini kick), 6:19

Second Quarter

M–Jaxon Dalena 37 pass from Shearer (Plankenhorn kick), 7:38

L–Aiden Gair fumble recovery in end zone (Brady Dowell kick), 4:37

M–Cameron Wood 29 pass from Shearer (Plankenhorn kick), 1:51

M–Young 14 pass from Shearer (Plankenhorn kick), :15.4

Fourth Quarter

M–Ott 2 run (Gorini kick), 11:55

L–Chase Cavanaugh 9 run (Dowell kick), :56

TEAM STATISTICS

L M

First downs 8 16

Rushes-yards 22-74 27-117

Passing yards 72 258

Total yards 146 375

C-A-I 10-14-2 16-21-0

Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-2

Penalties-yards 6-55 11-98

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Loyalsock, Davion Hill 13-50; Chase Cavanaugh 6-14, TD; Aiden Gair 1-6; Korie Mayer 2-4. Montoursville, Rocco Pulizzi 13-67; Logan Ott 8-31, 2 TDs; James Batkowski 3-18; Hunter Shearer 1-6; CJ Signor 1-0; Team 1-(minus-5).

PASSING: Loyalsock, Cavanaugh 10-14-2, 72. Montoursville, Shearer 15-19-0, 241, 4 TDs; Maddix Dalena 1-2-0, 17.

RECEIVING: Loyalsock, Rees Watkins 3-17; Nick Vandevere 2-23; Gair 1-13; Eli Gair 1-11; Nolin Damiano 1-7; Joeb Schurer 1-6; Hill 1-(-5). Montoursville, Dillon Young 8-106, 2 TDs; Jaxon Dalena 6-123, TD; Cameron Wood 1-29, TD; Ott 1-0.

INTERCEPTIONS: Montoursville, Ott (2).

SACKS: Montoursville, Zach Schmalhofer 1/2, Ryan Keen 1/2.

RECORDS: Montoursville (12-1), Loyalsock (9-4)..

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