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Colton Yocum helps propel Hughesville to win over Warrior Run in Week 2

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville’s Devin Swink rushes against Warrior Run during Friday’s game at Hughesville. The Defenders’ Nasir Berry (11) and Nathan Michael (25) are shown.

HUGHESVILLE – As Colton Yocum broke through to the second level, he veered slightly to his left and found nothing but grass in front of him. So many of the Hughesville senior’s runs Friday night were met quickly with contact with Warrior Run defenders. But not this one, not his longest run of the night.

Most of Yocum’s 190 rushing yards came after running through arm tackles, high-stepping out of wrapped ankles, or just knocking people backward with his broad shoulders. But for one carry, he broke free quickly and didn’t look back. Yocum’s 34-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter was the highlight of a night which saw Hughesville turn back the clock on its offense and punish Warrior Run with 385 rushing yards in a 37-13 victory over the Defenders.

The Spartans posted 447 yards of offense, the most its recorded since Oct. 27, 2017 against Muncy. They rushed for at least 300 yards for the first time since Oct. 7, 2016. The offensive line of Chase Snyder, Hayden Robbins, Josh Applegate, Cole Dyer and Caleb Burkhart were critical in Hughesville posting its first win of the young season.

“I challenged the offensive line before the game to get 250 yards rushing. We ended with 380, so that’s a good night for us,” Hughesville coach Adam Gehr said. “The kids played their guts out. The offensive line did their job and Colton ran as tough as I’ve seen him run in a long time.”

This is a Hughesville team which ran for fewer than 70 yards as a team more times last year than it ran for more than 100 yards as a team. There has been a conscious effort, Yocum said, to put in the work in the offseason to improve on those numbers. Dialing up its base Wing-T offense, Hughesville forced Warrior Run to cover sideline to sideline with the speed of halfbacks Devin Swank and Brenden Knight and then just pounded the ball up the middle with Yocum.

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville’s Devin Swank runs for a first down during Friday’s game against Warrior Run at Hughesville.

It was a chicken-and-the-egg scenario which Gehr didn’t bother to dissect in the afterglow. There is plenty of time to decided whether the inside running opened the outside or vice versa. In the moment, it was more important to bask in the Spartans second win in their last four games since snapping an 18-game losing streak in Week 9 last season.

But this much was certain following the win: The two running styles have to work hand-in-hand for Hughesville to continue to be competitive in a tough PHAC III. Yocum, Swank and Knight were the beneficiaries of an offensive line which has begun to find its footing. Yocum carried 23 times for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry less than a year after averaging just 2.8 yards per carry for the entire season and posting 304 total rushing yards.

Swank finished with 74 yards on six carries and Knight had 62 yards on 10 carries. The three ballcarriers combined for 11 runs of 10 yards or more.

“This is awesome because lately our running game kind of struggles,” Yocum said. “But our offensive line is clicking and we’re getting more yards. We’ve been mad, we’ve been hungry and we’re looking for more wins.”

“With the Wing-T stuff we try to mix it up with all three running backs,” Gehr said. “They all complement each other. From a defensive standpoint, you just don’t know where the ball is going. It all looks the same in our offense.”

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hugheville’s Colton Yocum runs in for a touchdown during the game against Warrior Run Friday at Hughesville High School.

Hughesville needed a fourth-down completion from Joey Swink to Yocum for a 5-yard touchdown to cap a 14-play, 74-yard drive – which featured 13 runs – to take a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. It used five running plays to move 64 yards for its second touchdown, and a 24-yard scoring run by Yocum after he forced a fumble on defense to take an 18-7 lead at halftime.

After just 24 minutes, Hughesville had run for 195 yards, which was more than it had run for in all but two of its last 21 games. The Spartans’ defense also limited Warrior Run to just 3.6 yards per carry in the first half and just 3.5 yards per carry for the game as it bottled up Justin Blair early.

Warrior Run capitalized on Blair’s 34-yard jaunt early to score its first touchdown and take a 7-6 lead, but that was the high point for the Defenders. Their best offensive lineman was ejected early in the second quarter and the offense never really found its footing until the game was out of reach.

“We had to move some people around and then the sixth guy (on the offensive line) went down, and we’re not deep,” Warrior Run coach Chris Long said. “I thought we could hit some things in the passing game even better than what we did. But we got some pressure early and we changed up the pass-blocking scheme early on (Hayden Robbins) because we couldn’t get anything off. There were some plays there to be made, we just didn’t make the play.”

Meanwhile, Hughesville continued to make the plays. It recorded 23 first downs and the run-heavy offense set up an opportunity for a play-action pass which left Mikey Dylina running free on a backside post. Swink hit him in stride for a 52-yard touchdown strike early in the third quarter.

Now Hughesville is hoping to turn the victory and the confidence its players have gained with it into a little momentum. The schedule becomes daunting in the next three weeks as it plays Loyalsock, Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia. But Loyalsock is playing its first game of the season after having to quarantine for 10 days because of a potential COVID-19 case. And Mount Carmel will be in the midst of five games in 18 days as it fills in its schedule following its own COVID-19 issues.

“We’ve been hungry ever since that Towanda win (last season),” Yocum said. “We’ve been working hard the whole time and this is big. It builds your momentum and keeps you pushing.”

“An early win like this is something we haven’t had in a couple years,” Gehr said. “One of the things we’ve focused on is getting better and picking up a win early and try to roll from there. I know our schedule doesn’t get any easier, but this is a good start.”

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