Decade’s best No. 8: Todd Tilford had a lot of success with Lewisburg in football
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in a series looking back at the top 10 football teams, coaches, games and players from last decade
Todd Tilford coached only two seasons at Lewisburg last decade. That he is ranked among the area’s Top 10 coaches says all one needs to know about how successful those two years were.
Tilford looked like a miracle worker when he turned around what had been a downtrodden program and built it into a state power within three years. Lewisburg went 10-60 from 2001-07, but Tilford had it one victory from playing in the state final by 2010. He ushered in a golden era for Lewisburg football and the impacts are still felt today.
Lewisburg has made 12 straight District 4 playoff appearances, a streak which only Southern Columbia can best. It started in 2008 when the Dragons made a five-win improvement, finished 8-3, won the program’s first district playoff game and reached the District 4 Class AA semifinals. It continued the next year when Lewisburg went 11-2 and played in its first district final.
And 2010 became the year all other Lewisburg seasons are measured against.
Tilford earned Sun-Gazette Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons, leading Lewisburg to its first district championship, a state tournament victory and the state semifinals. Lewisburg finished 14-1 and no area team last decade won more games.
Tilford has revived this program and by 2010 the Green Dragons believed they could do anything. They were a wrecking machine throughout the regular season and highlighted their ascent to elite status by blanking Mount Carmel 20-0 ad beating Southern Columbia, 28-21 in Week 5. Lewisburg captured its first CSC-II championship, survived a scare against Bloomsburg in the district quarterfinals, then routed undefeated Towanda in the district semifinals.
Lewisburg went to Danville for an eagerly-anticipated matchup with the undefeated Ironmen. The Dragons forced six turnovers and won that elusive district title, 18-13. Included in that victory was one of Tilford’s signature play calls, the halfback pass, one that set up a second-quarter touchdown. Whether at Lewisburg or Shikellamy, where Tilford coached for most of the decade, he always keep opponents guessing. That was evident against District 3 champion Trinity in the state quarterfinals when Lewisburg had the Shamrocks off-balance all afternoon, building a quick 21-point lead and cruising to a 35-21 victory. It as the third straight week in which Lewisburg handed an opponent its only loss. West Catholic, a team featuring players from three different states, ended Lewisburg’s state title quest, defeating it 21-7 in the Eastern Final, but this was a historic season which no one outside the program coming just a few years earlier.
Tilford helped all-state players like sophomore linebacker Brandon Smith and junior running back Merle Moscarelo flourish. His team was strong in all areas and fullback/linebacker Nate Brown earned Sun-Gazette Player of the Year honors. A team that had been a doormat had just produced not just the best year in program history, but one of the best in area history. Players win the game, but Tilford played a major role, convincing his players they could achieve greatness.
Lewisburg remained strong in 2011, going 9-3 and reaching the district semifinals. The Dragons were a few plays from going undefeated in the regular season again, dropping heartbreakers to Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia. Lewisburg went on the road and walloped Athens, 35-7 in the district quarterfinals before losing a 19-13 semifinal thriller at Mount Carmel. That game featured a controversial ending with a late, go-ahead Lewisburg touchdown negated by a questionable holding penalty.
That semifinal essentially was a pseudo-championship with Mount Carmel easily winning the final a week later. Lewisburg outscored opponents, 386-116 that season. Tilford resigned following the season and in his final four years, Lewisburg made history while going 44-9. Included in that record were nine playoff wins.
Tilford became Shikellamy’s coach in 2012 and enjoyed a success run there which concluded last fall. The Braves captured the 2017 HAC-I championship and also reached the district final that year. His teams won five or more games six times in eight years.
Tilford has not coached at Lewisburg in nine years but his impact still reverberates throughout the program. He changed the culture there. A program that once waited for the sky to fall started not just thinking it could win, but expecting to win. That continues to this day and Lewisburg has produced winning seasons like they are coming off an assembly line.
And Tilford got the factory rolling.