Lancers outlast Tornadoes
Two glaring truths can be taken from Friday night’s season opener. Justin Van Fleets’s Lancers have enough depth to be a major player in District IV “AA” and John Darrah’s young Red Tornadoes, although undermanned, will surprise many as we move through the 2015 campaign. At the end of a picturesque evening in Loyalsock Township, the Lancers outlasted the Tornadoes 34-7 – a score that seems a bit inflated- considering the play by both squads at Ken Robbins Stadium.
The Lancers entered the contest ranked 6th in Eastern PA’s small school poll and heavily lauded as one of the favorites in District IV AA. These accolades apparently did not intimidate the Red Tornadoes, who fielded a lineup of 16 first time varisty starters on both offense and defense. Mount Carmel came out fired up and set the tone in the first quarter the hard nose running of senior tailback Kyle Karycki who picked up three key first downs on MCA’s first possession, which ended on downs. Mount Carmel also got a major spark on their first defensive series when Michael Cuff intercepted a Marcus Williams pass and returned it 27 yards. MCA’s offensive success continued on their second drive, with Freshman QB John Ayres doing an exceptional job running the Tornadoes’ shotgun single-wing offense. It was Ayres, who looked like anything but a first time starter, finding pay dirt and scoring Mount Carmel Area’s first touchdown of the season on an 8 yard run. “He didn’t look like a freshman [tonight]. Every time we needed a big play, or momentum, John was out there firing up our guys. He is already showing us he can be our leader,” said head coach John Darrah. Ayres is already being compared to two other recent freshman stars to start at qb for Mount Carmel Area. Michael Higgins (1991) and Marcus Wasilewski (2005). After Ayres’ run, Thomas Pastucha’s first career PAT made the score 7-0, where it would remain to end the first period.
The Lancers ramped up their offense in the second period with quarterback Marcus Williams doing his best impression of former Lancer signal-caller Kyle Datres and scoring on an elusive 20 yard touchdown scamper. Andrew Czap’s PAT knotted the score at 7-7. Williams’ night would be short lived as he was injured on Loyalsock’s next defensive series and did not return to the game.
On Mount Carmel’s ensuing possession head coach John Darrah was given his first do-or die decision of his coaching career and elected to go for it on 4th and 1 from his own 42 yard line. The decision paid off as Ayres’ hard count got the Tornadoes a fresh set of downs. Mount Carmel drove deep into Lancer territory, with the highlight of the drive being a huge 12 yard run by fullback Allen Yancoskie. MCA could not capitalize and was turned away on downs at the 21 yard line with 1:43 left in the half.
After his defense turned away the Tornadoes, Justin Van Fleet debuted his own freshman quarterback, Connor Watkins. This transition was eased by the play of highly touted running back Marty Clarke. Clarke showed everyone in attendance why he is one of the best backs in Eastern Pennsylvania, ripping off a huge 46 yard run and setting up the Lancers in great position to score. Watkins capitalized and found Kevin Anderson on a 10 yard scoring strike with 14 seconds left in the second quarter. Czap’s PAT made it 14-7 Lancers at the half.
In the early third quarter Mount Carmel Area could not capitalize on two big opportunities on their next drive as tight ends dropped two key passes. Although the catches were not made, the Tornadoes gave fans a look into opportunistic deep ball passing out of the shotgun single wing. This will only improve as the season progresses. At this point in the third quarter, depth outlasting youth, started to become the theme of this game. Only dressing 30 players, Mount Carmel lost Kyle Karycki and Mason Duran to cramps midway through the third quarter and additionally lost Ayres and sophomore linebacker Manus McCracken to ankle injuries; all but McCracken eventually returned. Early prognosis on McCracken is an ankle injury, x-rays pending.
Loyalsock began taking advantage of the undermanned Tornadoes behind Clarke’s running and he cashed in his first touchdown of the season early in the 4th qtr. Czap again added the PAT to make it 21-7 Sock. On Mount Carmel’s next possession Ayres had a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage by Alec Little and into the hands of big two-way lineman Justin Wood. After the interception, Watkins connected with Kevin Anderson on another scoring strike, making it 27-7 (extra point no good). To complete the scoring, Lancer fullback Nate Rainey punched in a late touchdown from 2 yards out. Czap again added the XP, making the final score Loyalsock 34, Mount Carmel Area 7. Asked his thoughts on his first game as a head coach, Darrah responded, “We have a very young team and they did everything we asked them to do. They came out fired up with emotion and played hard. They will only improve with experience as we move through the season. As these freshman and sophomore first time starters keep seeing game action week after week they will only get better.”
For week 2, Loyalsock will host Central Columbia and Mount Carmel will look to get Coach John Darrah his first career victory on the road at Selinsgrove. Both games are set for Friday at 7 pm.
MCA: 7-0-0-0 = 7
SOCK: 0-14-0-20= 34
MOUNT CARMEL (0-1)
Kyle Karycki 16-60; John Ayres 20-75 TD; Lane Tanney 4-16; Zach Zarkowski 4-13; Allen Yankoskie 1- 12; Cameron Britt 2-15; Tommy McDonald 1- (-8)
John Ayres 1-6-1, 0 yds
Mason Duran 1-0
Mount Carmel Area Stats provided by Jose Gonzalo
Marty Clarke 24- 140 TD; Nate Rainey 5-20 TD; Marcus Williams 4-23 TD; Cole Cavanaugh 2-5; Connor Watkins 3 – (-3)
Connor Watkins 6-8-0, 68 yards 2 TD; Williams 2-3-1, 32 yards
Nate Krizan 3-44; Kevin Anderson 3-39 2 TD; Larry Vanstavoren 2-27.
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