Chris Masse on football: Muncy’s offensive line could be strong
They know the glory often will not come their way. They also know how vital their role is. Without them Muncy would not have built a championship tradition, one that includes three District 4 Class A championships over the last four years.
Muncy’s offensive linemen have paved the way for that success these past four seasons, setting a punishing tone and helping produce five 1,000-yard passing seasons as well as a 1,000-yard rushing campaign. This year’s line is new-look with three new starters and last year’s center, Isaac Harris, now playing left tackle.
But early indications are this line could be just as strong as the previous stout Muncy lines. Harris, Travis Fogleman, Xander Brown, Josiah Meza and Gavin Hillman cleared the way for 409 yards, including 282 on the ground, last Friday as Muncy defeated Warrior Run, 32-7. The Indians averaged 8.2 yards per play, scored in every quarter and picked up where they left off last season when they repeated as district champions while reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time.
“We ingrain in those o-linemen and d-linemen, you have to take pride in being in the trenches. If you don’t take pride in being in the trenches then maybe that’s not the place for you,” Muncy coach Sean Tetreault, a former standout scholastic and collegiate lineman, said. “It’s not always not the most flattering and fun job in the word, but it’s a very crucial part of what we do as a football team and those guys are all taking ownership and it’s great to see them all stepping up.”
Muncy features one of the district’s deepest backfields with six players capable of producing big games. Ethan Gush (10 carries, 81 yards) earned all-state honors last year and Ty Nixon ran for 100 yards in his first game in two years. Paul Pepper scored twice and Gush was used as both a fullback and tailback. Still, all the success starts up front and Muncy’s line immediately set the tone against Warrior Run.
The Indians opened the game with an eight-play, 59-yard drive. They ran every time with five players carrying the ball and quarterback Branson Eyer (157 total yards) capping the drive with a 17-yard touchdown. That was a preview of things to come and the line eventually wore down Warrior Run, helping Muncy average 6.9 yards per carry.
“The five of us together have played on the line before at junior high so we’re used to each other. We know how each other work so we have good chemistry,” Harris said. “As long as we get our blocks we should get a decent amount of yards every play. There should be no reason for us getting pushed back.”
Muncy rarely did against Warrior Run, piling up 143 first-quarter yards. The Indians did not light up the night with big plays. Instead, the linemen ate as Muncy methodically ripped off chunks of yards and plowed its way down field.
That is how it’s been the last four years. Muncy has built its foundation upon strong line play and this unit is eager to build on the tradition. It is only one game, but this group looks a lot like the others and that has Muncy feeling pretty good.
“Our offensive line does a really good job. They were getting a nice push up front and were giving us a chance to get some good gains,” Nixon said. “They do a nice job getting off the ball and setting a physical tone for us.”
“We have some experience, but not a whole lot,” Tetreault said. “It was great to see them work together as one big unit. That is what we preach up front.”
AIRING IT OUT: Montgomery switched up its offense this past offseason and is utilizing a more wide-open, spread attack. A big factor in the switch was confidence in quarterback Logan Almeida. Despite missing his freshman year with an injury, Almeida topped 1,000 yards a year ago, is a quality leader and decision-maker and has some dangerous receivers at his disposal.
Obviously, it is early, but the switch sure looked effective Friday at Bucktail as Montgomery scored 36 first-half points and won, 43-15. Almeida effectively spread the ball around and completed 16 of 21 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Marino, Maurice Walters, Colby Springman and Coltin Hans all caught at least three passes. While Montgomery is throwing more than in the past, it also can keep opponents off-balance with its running game. Kaide Drick turned hard offseason work into a strong performance with 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Montgomery’s offensive line returns four starters from last year and that unit is bigger and stronger than a year ago. It showed Friday with Montgomery averaging 9.6 yards per play. Two-way linemen Bradley Leon and Thayden Miller both shined, making 14 and 12 tackles, respectively.
NEVER SURRENDER: Canton won one of the most thrilling games in the long Old Shoe series history Friday at Troy and all the Warriors involved likely will remember this one forever. Trailing by 16 with less than four minutes remaining, Canton kept fighting, rallied to force overtime and won, 34-28, against one of District 4 Class AA’s best teams. It was the second straight time in this series Canton has won at Troy and how it did so reveals as much about its character as it does its talent.
Quarterback Cooper Kitchen (165 yards) channeled his inner-Tom Brady in his first varsity start, throwing two touchdown passes to Ben Knapp and Joel Schoonover in the last four minutes. He also threw 2-point passes following each touchdown before scrambling five years for the game-winning touchdown following a Canton defensive stop in overtime. The defense forced a critical turnover to set up the game-tying touchdown and also contained Troy’s high-powered running game, limiting all-state running back Damien Landon to 79 yards. Everything had to go right down the stretch and Canton made sure everything it did and created an unforgettable moment in the process.
RECORD BREAKER: Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrand has become the program’s all-time wins leader in just seven years and one game. The Green Hornets gave Hildebrand his 67th win Friday at Cowanesque Valley, 48-6. Hildebrand is 67-14 at Wellsboro and has won at least eight games each season there. Darryn Callahan ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, Isaac Keane threw two touchdowns, producing 136 yards, and the defense allowed no rushing yards and Wellsboro dominated up front on both sides of the ball.
“I’ve had some very talented athletes that have come through here, it doesn’t happen if you don’t have them,” Hildebrand said. “The other part of it is the kids have to buy into it as well. You can have the most talented kids but if they don’t buy into your scheme or what you’re saying it doesn’t happen. We’ve been very fortunate to have very quality kids as well. The families we’ve had come through here have been very supportive and the coaching staff’s I’ve had, a lot of the guys that we started with are with me in some capacity and the consistency and the work behind the scenes … they don’t get the credit, but none of this happens without them.”
EXTRA POINTS: Central Mountain returned all five starting offensive linemen from a year ago and that group set the tone as Central Mountain hammered Shikellamy, 33-6 and won its first opening-night game since 2012. The Wildcats scored the game’s first 33 points and controlled both lines while showing why they could be one of this year’s sleepers. Brett Gerlach threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start, Peyton Johnson caught four passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan Pentz ran for a career-high 132 yards and two touchdowns … Lewisburg senior running back Max Moyers became the program’s all-time leading rusher in Friday’s 28-7 loss against Central Columbia. Moyers ran for 82 yards and a touchdown, giving him 3,895 yards and 48 touchdowns. He passed Merle Moscarello and moved into No. 9 on the 2000’s area rushing leaders list.
DR. MASSE’S TOP 5 RANKINGS
1. Montoursville (1-0): New look, same results. The two-time defending District 4 Class AAA champions feature four new starters along the offensive line and three on the defensive line, but both units shined and Montoursville routed Midd-West, 56-7. Montoursville moved the ball at will and the defensive line swarmed, constantly pressuring the passer and playing a key role in forcing six turnovers. Young players like Marco Pulizzi and Isaiah Fenner also made their presence felt, returning interceptions for touchdowns. Quarterback Maddix Dalena threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. It also helps having some potent returning starters as well. Rocco Pulizzi ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Dylan Moll continued showing why any time he has the ball in his hands he is a threat to go the distance. Moll touched the ball six times and produced 132 yards and two touchdowns. C.J. Signor also scored twice, Dillon Young intercepted two passes, the defense allowed just 94 yards and it was 56-0 after three quarters.
2. Jersey Shore (1-0): A year after repeating as District 4 Class AAAA champions and reaching the Class AAAA state semifinals, Jersey Shore shows no signs of slowing down. Literally. They again operated their no-huddle offense at cheetah-like speed, an experienced offensive line took charge and the Bulldogs scored 41 straight points in thumping Shamokin, 41-7 for their 10th straight HAC-I win. Quarterback Branden Wheary shined in his first start, throwing for 179 yards and two touchdowns while Cam Allison provided outstanding running, producing 128 yards and two touchdowns. All-state wide receiver Cayden Hess built off his breakout sophomore campaign, catching eight passes for 85 yards and a touchdown and the defense shut down Shamokin’s running game. The starters did not allow a point and Jersey Shore surrendered just 26 yards on 33 carries.
3. Williamsport (1-0): Frankie Morrone made good progress when replacing injured starter Dallas Griess late last season and he again appeared a capable leader in a similar role last Friday, completing 10 of 14 passes for a career-high 183 yards and two touchdowns as Williamsport routed Nanticoke, 43-18. Wide receiver Nassir Jones again showed why he is one of District 4’s best players, making some super catches and producing five receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. He also sparked a strong defense, recording a sack, setting up his home in the backfield and helping the starters allow just six points. Williamsport inflicted the mercy rule by early in the third quarter and featured an explosive offense with four different ball-carriers scoring touchdowns. The offensive line helped Williamsport average 10.1 yards per play and the Millionaires won their sixth straight opener. They have a big challenge coming Friday playing at defending Class AAA state champion Wyoming Area.
4. Loyalsock (0-0): The Lancers had to cancel their scheduled opener at Warrior Run because of COVID-19. Loyalsock features some dynamic weapons and hopes to make its season debut in Week 3 against Hughesville.
5. Muncy (1-0): Warrior Run tried all night, but it could never really could elude Muncy middle linebacker Bailey Hadzinikolov. Building off last year’s excellent starting debut campaign, the Muncy linebacker seemingly was everywhere, consistently blowing up plays near or behind the line of scrimmage. Hadninikolov all but lived in his weight room during quarantine and is strong and more explosive than last year. That is scary for opponents, considering the junior made 123 tackles last year.
“He was a monster,” Warrior Run coach Chris Long said. “We had to get on him and we couldn’t block him.”
Players of the Week
Ben Marino, Montgomery and Owen Anderson, Jersey Shore: Marino excelled on both sides of the ball and helped Montgomery start its season with a flourish when he returned an interception 55 yards for its first touchdown this season against Bucktail. The linebacker/tight end made 10 tackles, including two for loss, and also caught five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. There is much Anderson does not do. Playing both quarterback and wide receiver, Anderson caught six passes for 82 yards, ran for 66 more and completed a pass while playing strong defense. Anderson also is one of the district’s premier punters.
Game of the Week
North Penn-Mansfield at Wellsboro: This rivalry game is a big deal no matter the records, but it has gone to new heights in the last eight years with both programs being among the district’s biggest winners. North Penn-Mansfield will be playing its first game following its late start this summer and Wellsboro will be eager to exact revenge. The teams split two games last year, but North Penn-Mansfield ended Wellsboro’s season on its home field, winning, 17-14.
Chris Masse may be reached at by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse