By: Rich Rogers | Towanda Daily Review | November 3, 2007
TOWANDA - "Throw out the records. It's a rivalry game."
Those who follow football in the Northern Tier hear can hear these words spoken over and over about this time every year, and more often than not, it's true. For one half of football last night, those words rang true once again, as an inspired 5-4 Wyalusing Ram squad gave the undefeated Towanda Black Knights all they could handle. In the end, Towanda flexed its muscles and showed it is a worthy champion by keeping its unblemished record intact with a 41-6 win.
"It's a rivalry game and they are a good football team," said Towanda head coach Craig Dawsey afterward. "They played typical Wyalusing defense, and they did some things offensively we weren't prepared for, hadn't seen before. Coach Jamie Wecker did a great job at halftime adjusting some things, but hats off to the Wyalusing coaching staff."
Towanda received the opening kickoff, and actually had two chances to get things going early. After a tough Ram "D" forced a three and out, Wyalusing fumbled the fourth-down punt and Towanda had the ball right back on the Ram 35-yard line.
But three plays netted it minus-1 yard, and Jake Lamphere's second punt of the night pinned Wyalusing on its own three-yard line.
From there, Ram quarterback Darren Mahoney went to work. With the Black Knight linebackers pressing the line of scrimmage, Mahoney began completing short slants over the middle to the tight end and rolling out to hit short passes to his runners out of the backfield.
Seven short completions later, Wyalusing had first-and-10 from the Black Knight 19-yard line. From there, Mahoney rolled right and hit a perfect strike to Brandon Carr, who raced just inside the pylon for the score. Paul Hugo was low on his extra-point attempt and the Rams had the early lead at 6-0 with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
Like a sleeping giant, the Towanda offense awoke and answered right back. Starting at the Towanda 26-yard line, the Black Knights used their running game and began to tear off big chunks of yardage. Lamphere ran left for 26 yards, followed by Adam Harris for 10. A 10 yard penalty against the Rams put Towanda at the 27-yard line, where Lamphere ripped off a 16 yard gain. Cameron Sullivan advanced the ball to the Ram four-yard line, where Harris bulled in for the four yard touchdown. Usually reliable Dakota Roof was wide left on his extra point, and the game was tied at six with 3:13 left in the first.
A big kickoff return by James Hickey had the Rams fans on their feet, as he set up the offense at the Black Knight 42-yard line. From there, two quick completions moved the ball to the 27-yard line, but on first down, Mahoney threw his first of what would be seven interceptions on the night, as Roof hauled in the errant pass.
Towanda drove to Wyalusing's 39-yard line, where Harris fumbled the ball back, but the Rams were unable to take advantage. They then made the mistake of punting to dangerous return man R.J. Baker, who followed a wall of blockers down the sideline for a 53 yard return to the Wyalusing 37-yard line.
From there, the Knights would need only five plays to cash in. The key play on the drive was a 26 yard hookup from Lamphere to Baker. On first down from the 10-yard line, Lamphere kept it himself on an option keeper for the score. This time Roof's kick was sure, and Towanda led 13-6 with 7:31 left in the half.
Tragedy struck for the Rams again, as on first down Mahoney was intercepted by Baker, who returned the ball to the Wyalusing 16-yard line. The Ram "D" dug in and forced a 36 yard field goal attempt by Roof, which was long enough but wide left.
The Rams began moving the ball through the air again, as Mahoney completed two passes to bring them to midfield. But on first down, he threw his third interception of the half, as Travis Chesla took the pick back to the Ram 15-yard line. The Knights needed six plays to score, as Lamphere ran off the left side from three yards out. Roof made it 20-6 with 15 seconds left till half.
The Rams headed into half with mixed emotions, down 14 points, but outgaining Towanda 175 yards to 159.
"I'm so proud of the way the kids played tonight,'" said head coach Jim Huffman. "We gave Towanda all they wanted for a half, they were in a dog fight."
The tide quickly turned in the second half, as Wyalusing was forced to punt on its first possession and R.J. Baker again burned it for a 73 yard return for an apparent score. But a Towanda penalty brought the ball back to the 17-yard line, and the Knights were forced to drive the field for the score.
They were equal to the task, as they needed eight plays to cover the distance, the big play of the drive being the 36 yard hookup between Lamphere and Baker to pull ahead 27-6, following Roof's extra point.
Both teams traded interceptions, with Towanda getting the better of the exchange, as Roof took an interception to the Ram 5-yard line. Lamphere took another option keeper in for his second score, and Roof added the point after for a 34-6 lead with 1:55 left in the third.
The Rams were able to advance to Towanda's 23-yard line on their next possession, but this time Harris got an interception to end the threat. From there, the Knights put together their own drive, only to be intercepted by Mahoney in the end zone.
Two plays later Mahoney threw pick No. 6, as Harris took his second of the night to the Ram six-yard line. Harris finished the scoring for the night on the next play, as he rumbled over the right side for the score. Roof made it 41-6 with 7:53 left. Matt Ogden recorded the final interception on the night, and the Knights were able to run out the clock.
"I'm kind of speechless," said Dawsey as he was asked to sum up the season. "There are so many people I need to thank for this. It's not me, it's about the kids and about my coaches and about a community that supported us with the facility that was built. So many thank yous need to go out to all those people."
Harris led the Knights on the ground with 130 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, followed by Lamphere with 106 yards and three scores. Mahoney led the Rams through the air with 17-of-31 passing and 214 yards. Next week Towanda will host a first-round District IV playoff game as the No. 1 seed, while Wyalusing awaits the possibility of an Eastern Conference playoff invitation.