Mount Carmel Finds a Way
MOUNT CARMEL: In a late-season game between two heated rivals, prior records are largely inconsequential. However, when the opponents have the two best records in the conference, not to mention the district, you are in for an intense battle. On this ninth Friday night of the 2011 season the Red Tornadoes of Mount Carmel(8-1) managed to come from behind late in the game to steal a victory from the previously undefeated Tigers of Southern Columbia(8-1) by the slim margin of 22-21. The game had no play-off ramifications for the Tigers who have already clinched the top seed in District IV class A, but it meant a great deal to the Tornadoes who were looking to improve their place among the upper ranks of class AA in the district, as well as bragging rights in the PA Heartland Conference division II.
The contest opened with a bang for Mount Carmel when Lucas Klingerman received the opening kick-off near the 10 yardline and bolted through a wide-open center of the Tiger coverage team. 90 yards and 12 seconds later the Tornadoes found themselves with a quick lead at 7 – 0. To Southern’s credit, they did not get rattled by the early deficit, and controlled the tempo of the game for the rest of the half.
Both teams played very stout defense, but the Tigers had a clear advantage in field position for most of the game. Tyler Levan evened the score on a 13-yard touchdown run at 9:48 in the second. A sack by Jake Becker and David Jeremiah forced Zack Wasilewski to lose the ball and it was recovered by Kyle Zigarski at the Tornado 18. Three plays later Casey Savitski ran for a six-yard score. Southern held the lead at 14 – 7 to end the half. The Tigers’ potent rushing attack was held to a surprisingly low 68 yards in the half while Brad Fegley added 27 yards on two receptions to Kieth Day. The constant pressure by the Mount Carmel defense also forced six incomplete passes and registered two sacks in the half. For Southern’s part the defense was even more impressive, netting three sacks while holding Wasilewski to 2 of 6 for 24 yards passing, and only allowing 10 net yards of rushing.
As the third quarter started, the Tigers looked to be taking control. Fegley connected with Matt Moore on a 23 yard reception to the MCA 30 yardline. However, Levan had the ball punched loose on the next play, and the fumble was recovered by the Tornadoes’ Ed Smerlick, killing the drive. The teams slugged it out for the rest of the quarter with Southern pushing their way into Mount Carmel territory on every series, but were unable to convert. Finally, early in the final period, Fegley hit Moore on a 28-yard pass to the MCA 26. Two plays later, he found Day down the sideline for the 21-yard TD and a 21 – 7 lead.
One minute later Mount Carmel was pinned at their own 40 after Robert Delbo dropped Meyrick Lamb for a loss of four, yielding a 3rd & 19. Needing to make something happen, Wasilewski went to the middle to an open Bryan McFadden, who then raced the distance for the 60-yard touchdown, narrowing the gap to 21- 14.
Next the Tigers sought to use up the remaining time with their ground game, but after 10 plays and moving the ball to the MCA 26, a holding penalty and a sack for a loss of eight left them with a 4th & 28. The Tornadoes had one more shot. On 3rd & 2 near mid-field, Lamb got his only break-away run of the night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for MCA. The 34-yard gain netted a 1st & 10 at the Southern 21. Then a sack by Tom Schetroma knocked them back to the 27, but an interference penalty on the ensuing play gave them new life at the SCA 13. Two plays later Wasilewski hit Jacob Kleman for a 7-yard TD with 36.9 seconds on the clock. There was little doubt that Mount Carmel would go for two, given the quick jolt of momentum that they had acquired. With the QB rolling right and pressure coming hard, Wasilewski squeaked it through two defenders to Lamb in the endzone for the go-ahead conversion at 22-21.
Despite the defensive battle and the edge in offensive power clearly leaning in Southern’s favor, special teams made the difference in this epic show-down. Mount Carmel found a way to win despite gaining less than 200 yards of total offense (most of that coming on a few big plays), and in so doing captured the HAC-II crown and evened the series at eight wins each between these two coal-region powers since 1996.
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA(8-1) will take a few lessons away from this hard-fought loss as they look forward to District playoffs. First of all, the special teams play can make or break a game and can have no let-up. Secondly, the line must control the LOS, even against larger opponents, if they hope to make a run at Hershey this post-season. They should have time to regroup and refocus as they travel to Selinsgrove(1-8) to close-out the regular season.
MOUNT CARMEL(8-1) travels to challenge another neighboring rival, Shamokin(3-6), next week. While this should be another one in the “W” column for the Red Tornadoes, their road through the District IV playoffs will not be an easy one. They played with a lot of emotion and didn’t give up in this game,but if they hope to have more fireworks in the post-season, they will have to play more disciplined, and better-executed football.
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