By: Seals Football | November 2, 2018 | Photo courtesy Paige Smith
SELINSGROVE — Midd-West jumped out to a quick lead in Friday night's District 4 Class 4A semifinal with Selinsgrove.
The upstart Mustangs had a chance to take control against the Seals in the first half, but Selinsgrove senior Blaise Zeiders and his teammates knew they couldn't let their season end that way.
"The whole season we've had some games where we've gotten down and we put our heads down," Zeiders said. "We decided that isn't how we wanted our season to end. We had faith in our offense that we could score and we knew our defense was good."
Selinsgrove's got two late first-half touchdown passes from Danny Shoch — a 40-yard screen to Joe Kahn and a 72-yarder to Ben Swineford — while Zeiders had a sack and three tackles for a loss in a second half that saw the Seals defense allow just 5 total yards in a 21-9 win at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field.
"Honestly, the kids, we kept them up. We hadn't allowed anything defensively," Selinsgrove coach Derek Hicks said. "They hadn't had any success. I told the kids that at some point we would get the offense going."
Selinsgrove (5-6) travels to play Jersey Shore (6-5), a 52-0 winner over Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, in the District 4 Class 4A championship game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Midd-West ends its inaugural season at 5-5.
"You'd like to win, but only one team ends their season with a win. We have a lot to be proud of," Midd-West coach Brad Hatter said. "I told the seniors after the game, they laid a great foundation."
The Mustangs got off to a quick start. Hunter Wolfely returned the opening kick 68 yards to the Selinsgrove 20, but Carter Sauer's 32-yard field goal attempt sailed to the right.
Midd-West got on the board with 2:08 left in the first quarter. Braden Swineford came through from his defensive tackle spot and forced a fumble in the end zone, Owen Zechman jumped on it and the Mustangs took a 7-0 lead.
On the Seals' next possession, back-to-back shotgun snaps got past Shoch. The second one went into the end zone and Shoch couldn't escape before the Mustangs' Walker Stuck tackled him for a 9-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter.
"They had nothing to lose. They came in here and wanted to play smash-mouth football," Zeiders said. "That's what they did. They started quick. It opened up our eyes and we knew we had to be ready to play them."
After the first quarter, the Seals' experiment of moving their starting backfield down to the offensive line ended. Kahn and Nate Schon quickly changed from linemen jersey numbers back to their normal No. 2 and No. 5, respectively. The ensuing possession turned into Selinsgrove's best series of the night to that point, a 40-yard drive that ended when a fake punt failed.
"(Braden Swineford) for them was doing a great job of getting a push against Joe at guard. We wanted to get a bigger body in there," Hicks said. "If Joe can't block him, let's feed him the ball.
"Sometimes an experiment fails and you go back to what you are doing."
The final two minutes of the first half turned into Midd-West's downfall. On a first-and-21, Shoch hit Kahn with a screen pass to the left side. He picked up some blocks and busted through a tackle about 10 yards downfield. The senior raced along the sideline to cut the Midd-West lead to 9-7 with 1:25 left in the half.
The Seals quickly got a stop — Kahn tackled Mustangs quarterback Marc Piccioni for a 10-yard loss — and got the ball back on their 28-yard line with 27 seconds left.
"We thought about sitting on it for about a second, then we knew we had still had two timeouts left," Hicks said. "I thought we enough time to put a drive together, but I didn't think it would be one play like that."
Shoch went up top to Ben Swineford against one-on-one coverage. Swineford won the battle with the cornerback and raced down the sideline for 72-yard score and 14-9 lead for the Seals with 14 seconds left.
"Two plays. If we could have finished a little better at the end of the first half, who knows?" Hatter said. "I'm just so proud of our kids for coming in and competing against a good football team."
The lead remained five points for most of the second half, but Selinsgrove never let the Midd-West offense get going in the second half. The Mustangs managed just 5 total yards and one first down after halftime. Their best chance to score came late in the third quarter. Owen Zechman blocked Wyatt Metzger's punt and Bryce Fawver jumped on it at the Seals 25. However, the Mustangs had negative 15 yards on the drive and Zeiders sacked Piccioni on a fourth-and-16 to end the threat.
"A credit to them: I knew they were going to be aggressive. On film, they were bringing a lot of guys," Hatter said. "I would have liked to have seen us do a little more offensively. We had some things but we couldn't sustain them. That's credit to them. They have a good, aggressive defense."
Midd-West punter Oakley Bennett pinned the Seals at their 10 with 9:01 left in the game. The Seals struggled from there in the first half, but not this time. Selinsgrove put together a 15-play, 90-yard drive that consumed 6:11 to salt the game away. Schoch ran 14 yards to score on a third-and-goal with 2:50 left in the contest.
DISTRICT 4 CLASS 4A SEMIFINAL
at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field
NO. 2 SELINSGROVE 21, NO. 3 MIDD-WEST 9
Midd-West (5-5)`9`0`0`0 — 9
Selinsgrove (5-6)`0`14`0`7 — 21
MW-Owen Zechman fumble recovery in end zone (Carter Sauer kick)
MW-Safety, Walker Stuck tackled quarterback in end zone
Sel-Joe Kahn 40 pass from Danny Shoch (Kyle Ruhl kick)
Sel-Ben Swineford 72 pass from Shoch (Ruhl kick)
Sel-Shoch 14 run (Ruhl kick)
RUSHING — Midd-West: Marc Piccioni 14-26; Kameron Kline 13-16; Trey Lauver 4-6; Gabe Regester 1-(-6). Selinsgrove: Joe Kahn 13-68; Nate Schon 10-43; Dean Hollenbach 8-14; Danny Shoch 3-14, TD; team 6-(-32).
PASSING — Midd-West: Piccioni 5-14-0 for 63 yards. Selinsgrove: Shoch 8-15-0 for 158 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — Midd-West: Regester 2-27; Kline 2-21; Christian Levan 1-15. Selinsgrove: Ben Swineford 1-72, TD; Kahn 1-40, TD; Nick Sheaffer 3-40; Schon 2-6; Wyatt Metzger 1-0.