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Loyalsock cruises in season opener against Hughesville, 55-18, in high school football

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville’s Brendan Knight tries to hold off Loyalsock’s JerVal Weeks-Shuler during the game Friday at Loyalsock High School.

The Loyalsock cheerleaders waved and danced for the band, the only people allowed in the stands.

The band played for the fans, limited to a few dozen people looking through the fence on the Fredna Ave. side of Kenneth M. Robbins Memorial Stadium.

And the Loyalsock football players? They were every bit as happy to run plays and score touchdowns as those able to watch from afar as the Lancers won their opening game, 55-18, over Hughesville Friday night, after a COVID quarantine canceled their first two games.

It started with Naz Smith bobbling the opening kickoff, only to recover and return it 94 yards for touchdown. It continued with two touchdown passes from Chase Cavanaugh and several breakaway touchdown runs from Cavanaugh and others in building a 48-0 first-half lead.

A few typical season-opening jitters for sure, but nothing quite like any area team had experienced before.

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Loyalsock’s Nick Barone runs in for a touchdown during the game against Hughesville Friday at Loyalsock High School.

“We were all a mess when we got back,” said Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet, who found himself unable to answer parents’ concerns for one of the first times in his career. “There was lots of uncertainty around everything and I wouldn’t want anyone around that. No one was sure what was going on.”

But the Lancers and everyone around them did their best, Van Fleet said, and returning to the practice field last weekend was more about reacclimating themselves before preparation began in earnest this past week.

“These are unfounded times for everyone, nothing to lay it against,” said Van Fleet, whose team didn’t know it could return to the field until late last week. Games against Warrior Run and Mount Carmel were canceled.

“We didn’t have much football communication the first week of quarantine. It was about moving forward academically, then psychologically, then the modicum of approaches for football,” said Van Fleet.

It worked out well enough Friday night. The Lancers scored on 7 of 8 possessions in the first half and held Hughesville (1-2) without a first down until leading 48-0.

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Hughesville’s Devin Swank fumbles the ball as he tackled by Loyalsock’s Joeb Schurer durign the game Friday at Loyalsock High School.

Cavanaugh threw touchdowns to Brendan Clark and JerVal Weeks-Shuler. His 57-yard touchdown run was part of a series of breakaway scores, with Korie Mayer, Nick Barone, and Rian Glunk. Joeb Schurer returned an interception for a score as well.

The Lancers spread the ball around and played much of the roster, as no player carried more than four times or caught more than one pass.

Hughesville broke up the shutout late in the first half, when Hunter Herr’s 42-yard catch put the Spartans into the red zone to set up Brenden Knight’s first of two scores. Colton Yocum also scored for Hughesville.

“Overall, there were a lot of one-play drives and they flat-out played better than us,” said Hughesville coach Adam Gehr. “They didn’t do one thing that we didn’t prep for. We were ready, but they did a better job executing than we did.”

Hughesville hoped to build off beating Warrior Run, but will turn its attention to Mount Carmel next week.

The Lancers have Southern Columbia, a big game as they normalize their plans after a most abnormal September.

“The only thing I was disappointed in was myself. We weren’t prepared with our junior varsity special teams,” said Van Fleet. “We weren’t planning to use them (in a JV game) Monday, we committed to offense and defense because we’ve been in a crunch schedule. There was confusion and ad-lib coaching to get them together, but other than that we executed. The younger guys were in position to make plays, but they’re 13 year olds going up against 17.”

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