Blue Jays Nip the Dragons
BLOOMSBURG: The week eight Heartland Conference Division II match-up was a perfect example of what the race for the District IV, Class AA crown looks like – So evenly matched, it could’ve gone either way right to the last minute. Both teams entered the contest with 6-1 records; Both teams’ sole loss was to Mount Carmel; Both teams touted fairly stingy defenses. The deciding factors ended up being dominant line play by Central Columbia, and missed field goals by Lewisburg, as the Jays squeaked passed the Green Dragons 16-15.
Central got the initial possession of the night, but was stymied by a sack and loss of 15 by Lewisburg’s Luke Smith. To make matters worse, the fourth-and-twenty punt attempt was blocked by Alex Starmack, giving the Dragons unbelievably great field position at the Jays’ eight. Ultimately, the outcome of the game hinged on what would happen next. Central’s defense held Lewisburg to only four yards on three rushes to force a field goal attempt. The 22 yard try sailed wide right and the Jays breathed a sigh of relief.
Central employed a very balanced attack to march downfield 76 yards, where they were bottled up at the Dragon 4. However, Dylan Hine’s leg was true as his kick split the uprights and gave the Jays a 3 – 0 lead.
Lewisburg once again got great field position when the ensuing kick bounced out-of-bounds, then a Central player was flagged for a personal foul. But the first-and-ten from the 50 only netted a fourth-and-25 three plays later after a sack by Jake Klinger.
Next the Jays put on a 77 yard drive, featuring a 49 yard rumble by Eric McCracken and a 16 yard touchdown toss from Jordan Thivierge to Nate Hughes to extend the lead to 9 – 0.
Lewisburg’s offense struggled to find its way past the Jays’ defensive front and were once again stopped when Klinger and Alex Shiber combined for a tackle and loss of six on Joe Gardner on a fourth down conversion attempt.
The Dragon defense gave them new life though, when Andy Nash tipped a Thivierge pass and Luke Smith intercepted and returned it to the Central 47. It took Lewisburg six plays, including a 22 yard run by Joe Gardner capped by a three yard keeper by Nick Costagliola for the score. Max Reed’s PAT made it 9 – 7 just before the half.
Both teams traded three-and-out series to open the second half. Then Lewisburg started to find some momentum with their passing game, but it was soon put on hold due to an hour long lightening delay at 7:08 in the third quarter.
After the delay, the Dragons continued their 14 play drive only to be stopped at the Blue Jay 11 for another field goal attempt. The 28 yarder once again sailed wide right, and the defense knew they had to make a good stand.
Central pounded out 39 yards on nine plays, but had to punt as the final period began. Returning the punt was Andrew Nash, who broke a tackle and turned on the jets for a 52 yard return to the Jays’ 37.
If the Dragons couldn’t convert here it was all over for them. But, after a holding call set them back to the 46, Costagliola found tight end Ty Turner for a 27 yard toss to the 19. With Central’s defense keying on Brandon Smith and holding him to very short gains, Costagliola burst ahead on a keeper for nine yards and a first-and-goal at the five. Gardner took it in from there for the go-ahead score. The Dragons went for two and converted on a pass to Brandon Batman to go up 15 – 9.
Both defenses stiffened again and traded three-and-outs before Central engineered its final scoring drive. Thivierge hit Dain Kowalski on a 12 yard toss to break into Dragon territory at the 49. Then McCracken burst ahead for 20 yards. Three plays later Thivierge threw a strike to Jarrod Flick for 24 yards to retake the lead.
True to form, the Blue Jay defense smothered the Dragons once again as time ticked away. They got the ball back on downs at Lewisburg’s 42, and all that was left was for Central to get the ball back and run out the clock.
LEWISBURG(6-2) faces two more Class AA foes to finish the regular season. They will travel to Loyalsock(5-3) next week in their final HAC-II match-up to take on an inconsistent Lancer team that could give them fits. Week 10 pits them against HAC-I crossover opponent, Mifflinburg(2-6).
CENTRAL COLUMBIA(7-1) is firmly on top of the HAC-II standings with the win and in position to take the top seed in District IV, Class AA, but has a very tough road ahead. They will travel to Southern Columbia(8-0) next week to take on the unbeaten Tigers, then to Bloomsburg(6-2) to battle the arch rival Panthers. While both these teams are Class A and in HAC-III, they will likely be the toughest faced by the Jays this season.
Hine 22 yd. field goal, 2:49 1st qtr. 3 – 0 (Central)
Thivierge to Hughes 16 yd. TD pass, 9:47 2nd qtr. 9 – 0 (Central)
Costagliola 3 yd. TD run, 3:10 2nd qtr. 9 – 7 (Central)
Gardner 5 yd. TD run+ Batman 2 pt. conv. catch, 4th qtr. 15 – 9 (Lewisburg)
Thivierge to Flick 24 yd. TD pass + Hine PAT , 2:18 4th qtr. 16 – 15 (Central)
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