Loyalsock over Mifflinburg
MIFFLINBURG – Earlier in the week, Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet remarked that he’d like to have a game when the outcome wasn’t in doubt so late in the contest – with the Lancers on top, of course.
His Loyalsock team was coming off two straight overtime contests, including a double OT game last week, in which it went 1-1 and while those are always fun for fans, he wouldn’t mind a little less stress this week.
Van Fleet got what he was looking for on Friday as Loyalsock scored on three of its first four possessions to seize momentum and turned in an outstanding defensive performance en route to defeating Mifflinburg 37-7 in the teams’ first meeting since 2009.
“We made some critical errors in tough situations and didn’t finish enough in our first two games but tonight we were able to turn it on and keep it on with consistency and the defense did its job,” said Van Fleet.
The Lancers held Mifflinburg to just 151 yards of offense, and running back Brayden Pierce, who had gone for over 100 in his first two games, to just 78 yards on 25 carries.
“When you go against a back like him, you want to circle him and make sure he doesn’t beat you so that’s what we did. We wanted to meet him at the line of scrimmage before he could get going and we were successful in doing that,” said Van Fleet.
Mifflinburg appeared to be executing its game plan to keep the ball away from Loyalsock’s potent offense as the Wildcats put together a nine-play drive featuring eight rushes and two first downs off the opening kickoff. The drive stalled at the Loyalsock 36 but Ryan Oliver’s punt pinned the Lancers at their own 8 to start their first drive.
Three plays into that drive, on a third-and-4 play, Connor Watkins found Marcus Williams wide to the right on a wide-receiver screen and Williams weaved his way through traffic and went 86 yards for a touchdown to put Loyalsock up 7-0.
“We were able to get the ball into our athletes’ hands quickly and allow them to be athletes in space rather than trying to stretch the field,” said Van Fleet.
Williams, who is one of the most dangerous players with the ball in the district, only touched the ball three times all night, as Mifflinburg’s defense did a good job of limiting his touches. He made the most of it, though, as he went for 138 all-purpose yards, adding a long kickoff return in the second half to go with his touchdown.
“You could tell on offense that they were trying to take Marcus away and had bodies all over him but he still had a pretty good game and other guys stepped up and took care of business,” said Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet.
One of those other players that stepped up was Cole Cavanaugh, who finished with 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns. After Mifflinburg had to punt again it’s second possession, the Lancers again struck fast, as on the second play of its drive, Cavanaugh went up the middle and past the Mifflinburg defense for a 69-yard touchdown run.
After the teams exchanged punts on their next respective drives, early in the second quarter, Mifflinburg’s Cole Laubach was hit hard, forcing a fumble, after an 11-yard gain on a rushing play. He was carted off the field and Loyalsock then took advantage of the turnover with another quick strike, this time going 54 yards in four plays in just over a minute, capped by Cavanaugh’s second touchdown run of the night, this one from 11 yards.
Laubach was the second Mifflinburg starter to be lost for the night to injury, as fullback and linebacker Clayton Sheesley went out with a leg injury earlier in the contest.
“One thing is guaranteed in football and that’s adversity but you have to pick yourself up,” said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler. “Those were two captains and leaders that went out and that definitely affected us.”
The Lancers looked headed for another touchdown on their next drive but Watkins fumbled a yard shy of the end zone and Mifflinburg recovered. But it was unable to do anything on its ensuing drive and on fourth down, lining up to punt, the ball was snapped out of the end zone for a Loyalsock safety.
Sam Newton took the free kick back 44 yards to set up Loyalsock at the Mifflinburg 36, and the Lancers took seven plays to find the end zone again on Cavanaugh’s third touchdown run of the night, this one from 10 yards.
“Tackling was our biggest issue tonight. Guys were there and in position but they didn’t wrap up and finish defensive plays,” said Dressler. “Offensively, we started momentum in some drives but didn’t finish. That was the theme tonight, not finishing.”
Loyalsock put the game into mercy-rule territory on its first play from scrimmage of the second half. After Williams took the open kickoff of the second half 54 yards to set up Loyalsock at the Mifflinburg 43, Watkins found Hunter Webb on the right flank and Webb completely reversed field and went all the way around and down the left sideline for a 43-yard touchdown reception to make it 37-0.
Mifflinburg scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter on a four-yard run by Pierce.
Loyalsock will look to go to 3-1 next week in an important Heartland Athletic Conference III game as it travels to take on a Central Columbia team that is off to a surprising 3-0 start after a dominating 48-0 win over Towanda. Mifflinburg, meanwhile, will look to regroup when it travels to Warrior Run to meet a Defender team that was handed its first loss of the season by Bloomsburg on Friday.
Loyalsock 37, Mifflinburg 7
Loyalsock (2-1) 14 16 7 0 – 37
Mifflinburg (1-2) 0 0 0 7 – 7
5:58 – (L) Marcus Williams 86-yard pass from Connor Watkins (Andrew Czap kick), 3-92, 1:13
1:29 – (L) Cole Cavanaugh 69-yard run (Andrew Czap kick), 2-77, :42
7:35 – (L) Cole Cavanaugh 11-yard run (Andrew Czap kick), 4-54, 1:04
2:39 – (L) Team Safety
:47 – (L) Cole Cavanaugh 10-yard run (Andrew Czap kick), 7-36, 1:52
11:33 – (L) Hunter Webb 43-yard pass from Connor Watkins (Andrew Czap kick), 1-43, :16
10:58 – (M) Brayden Pierce 4-yard run (Ryan Oliver kick), 9-75, 6:38
First downs 14 13
Rushes-net yards 30-244 37-123
Passing yardage 170 28
Passing 5-7-2-0 4-11-0-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 9-80 5-16
RUSHING: Loyalsock: Cole Cavanaugh (13-150-3), Ryan Ritter (5-27), Connor Watkins (3-13), Naheim Davis (3-9), Alden Mileto (2-24), Eric Holz (2-22), Hunter Webb (1-1), Marcus Williams (1-(-2)); Mifflinburg: Brayden Pierce (25-78-1), Dylan Maneval (4-34), Clayton Sheesley (3-21), Josh Foster (3-(-15)), Cole Laubach (1-11), TEAM (1-(-6))
PASSING: Loyalsock: Connor Watkins (5-7-170-2-0); Mifflinburg: Josh Foster (4-11-28-0-0)
RECEIVING: Loyalsock: Marcus Williams (1-86-1), Hunter Webb (1-43-1), Brock Hepler (1-19), Alec Little (1-17), Gerald Ross (1-5); Mifflinburg: Garrett Becker (1-10), Cole Laubach (1-9), Chris Day (1-7), Rylee Stahl (1-2)
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