Lewisburg over Shikellamy 49-30
SUNBURY – Usually, when a team scores 49 points, including 42 in the first half, it means they were dialed in and ready to play. But following Lewisburg’s 49-30 win over Shikellamy on Saturday, Green Dragon coach Marc Persing was more concerned with his team’s inability to pull away from the now 1-6 Braves.
“The whole vibe this week was just off. We didn’t have the best week of practice,” said Persing. “I don’t know if we were going through a little bit of Max withdrawal, but the vibe was off. We got here, it was a weird setting (6 pm start on a Saturday night), the kids were in a weird mood, and I said to a few of the guys on the staff, ‘I think we’re going to be in a ballgame tonight.’
“They just didn’t seem like they had the mindset to play, but to my surprise, we came out and took care of business when we had to. But this was another week that I was looking to see if they would just step on the gas and give it to them but they took the opposite approach. That’s something that we need to clean up. I’m not sure exactly what it is yet, but the good teams don’t let a Shikellamy back in the game like that.”
The Green Dragons were without Max Moyers, their playmaking running back who was hurt in last Saturday’s win over Bloomsburg, and although it’s not official yet, is likely lost for the season. Despite the absence of one of their biggest offensive weapons, the Green Dragons showed that they have the personnel to withstand the loss and still run a functioning offense.
Lewisburg score on five of its six first half drives as Shikellamy was unable to put up much resistance defensively. Its five offensive touchdowns were scored by five different players, while Ethan Spaulding also added an interception return for a touchdown, all of which gave the Green Dragons a 42-14 halftime lead, which came after the game was tied 14-14 early in the second.
But in the second half, the Green Dragons struggled finishing drives despite still enjoying the same advantage in field position as they did in the first half. Lewisburg’s average starting field position in the first half was its own 46, and in the second was its own 49, yet it only finished one drive with a score in the second half.
The Braves hung in early and then refused to be put away late, mainly on the strength and toughness of its starting quarterback Drew Balestrini, who was the Braves’ leading rusher with 74 yards on 13 carries as he kept several plays alive with his ability to scramble outside the pocket and keep broken plays alive. Balestrini also threw for 166 yards and a touchdown, including 107 in the second half.
Although Lewisburg didn’t have the same offensive success later in the contest, it didn’t end up being necessary after the team’s offensive and defensive exploits in the first half. After receiving the opening kickoff, on the Green Dragons’ fifth play from scrimmage, Nick Shedleski found Ethan Dominick down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown reception to put Lewisburg up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Dominick, who has replaced Moyers as the team’s feature back, also scored Lewisburg’s only second half touchdown on a 17-yard run, and finished with 87 rushing yards on 18 carries and also hauled in three passes out of the backfield for 97 yards.
“I’ve been saying for two years now that this kid is going to be special,” Persing said of his sophomore running back. “You can make a case that he is a feature back on 90 percent of the teams in this conference. We’re lucky to have a kid like him as a second back. Him and Max were complimenting each other so well and we were getting better every week with our personnel packages and what we wanted to do. But our offense hasn’t changed a whole lot (without Moyers) other than we just let Nick be the four-year starter and captain and he did early.”
Shikellamy put together a 10-play, 62-yard drive later in the first quarter capped by Balestrini’s one-yard run for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal to pull within 7-6 after Lewisburg blocked the PAT.
Lewisburg answered on its next possession as a 46-yard reception on an over-the-shoulder catch by Dominick set up the Green Dragons on the Shikellamy 1-yard line, and Shedleski ran it in one play later to put Lewisburg up 14-6. Shedleski had another strong game throwing the ball, as he hit on 8-of-14 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including 176 yards in the first half.
“It was another fantastic game for Nick We knew how they were lined up that they were going to have a hard time covering backs out of the backfield, so went to that early and burned them on it and we forced them to play zone so we did what we had to do,” said Persing.
The Braves pulled even at 14-14 early in the second quarter as Zahki Nettles capped an 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion run by Balestrini. But from that point, Lewisburg ran off four straight scores to permanently shift the momentum of the game. Shedleski found Simeon Beiler for a 16-yard touchdown to cop a four-play drive with 9:37 left in the second.
On Shikellamy’s next drive, Balestrini appeared to have the wind knocked out of him on a tackle after scrambling out of a collapsing pocket. That forced him to leave the game for a down, and on that play, backup quarterback Mason Brubaker’s pass was picked off by Spaulding, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, the first of two interceptions on the evening for Spaulding.
After Shikellamy went three-and-out on its next drive, Lewisburg took over in Shikellamy territory and put together another short drive of just five plays, capped by a Gavin Sherriff 10-yard touchdown run to go up 35-14. The Braves also punted after a three-and-out on their next drive, and the Green Dragons again took over on Shikellamy’s side of the field, this time putting together a nine-play drive that took up most of the rest of the second quarter and was finished by a four-yard touchdown by Spaulding.
The Braves made it a 20-point game midway through the third quarter on a 42-yard touchdown run by Coltyn Sempko, which followed a successful fake punt in which punter Jon Gittens found Brayden Long for a 22-yard reception. Shikellamy also tacked on a late touchdown after Dominick had scored his second touchdown of the game as Balestrini hooked up with Long for a 53-yard touchdown reception with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter.
Lewisburg 49, Shikellamy 30
Lewisburg (5-2) 14 28 0 7 – 49
Shikellamy (1-6) 6 8 8 8 – 30
9:36 – (L) Ethan Dominick 49-yard pass from Nick Shedleski (Ben Liscum kick), 5-69, 2:24
2:34 – (S) Drew Balestrini 1-yard run (kick blocked), 10-62, 3:58
:57 – (L) Nick Shedleski 1-yard run (Liscum kick), 4-48, 1:37
11:01 – (S) Zahki Nettles 1-yard run (Balestrini run), 6-80, 1:56
9:37 – (L) Simeon Beiler 16-yard pass from Nick Shedleski (Liscum kick), 4-58, 1:24
8:12 – (L) Ethan Spaulding 34-yard interception return (Liscum kick)
4:29 – (L) Gavin Sherriff 10-yard run (Liscum kick), 5-43, 1:24
:39 – (L) Ethan Spaulding 4-yard run (Liscum kick), 9-44, 3:10
5:47 – (S) Coltyn Sempko 42-yard run (Balestrini run), 6-66, 1:17
3:10 – (L) Ethan Dominick 17-yard run (Liscum kick), 3-18, 1:32
1:08 – (S) Brayden Long 53-yard pass from Drew Balestrini (Sempko run), 5-82, 2:02
First downs 18 19
Rushes-net yards 41-135 33-192
Passing yardage 218 188
Passing 8-14-2-0 9-26-1-3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-67 9-119
RUSHING: Lewisburg: Ethan Dominick (18-87-1), Nick Shedleski (16-26-1), Gavin Sherriff (3-11-1), TEAM (2-(-2)), Cam Michaels (1-9), Ethan Spaulding (1-4-1); Shikellamy: Drew Balestrini (13-74-1), Joel Derr (6-11), Zahki Nettles (5-4-1), Coltyn Sempko (4-62-1), Nathan Minnier (4-24), Eric Shoch (1-17)
PASSING: Lewisburg: Nick Shedleski (8-14-218-2-0); Shikellamy: Drew Balestrini (8-24-166-1-2), Jon Gittens (1-1-22-0-0), Mason Brubaker (0-1-0-0-1)
RECEIVING: Lewisburg: Ethan Dominick (3-97-1), Ethan Spaulding (1-46), Jack Landis (1-38), Gavin Sherriff (1-17), Simeon Beiler (1-16-1), Dante Simms (1-4); Shikellamy: Brayden Long (3-97-1), Mason Brubaker (1-35), Connor Fitzgerald (1-24), Jon Gittens (1-13), John Peifer (1-12), Coltyn Sempko (1-7), Zahki Nettles (1-0)
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