By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | November 24, 2007
TOWANDA - The seeds were planted just a few miles up the road.
Loyalsock lost in last year's District IV Class AA quarterfinals at Athens, but that was more of a beginning than an end. Most of the Lancers were returning the next season and, just a few days later, many of those players were in the weight room with one goal in mind.
Anything less than a district championship in 2007 was unacceptable. The long journey began in Athens and it ended Friday night at Towanda's packed Endless Mountain Athletics Complex.
Loyalsock is the 2007 District 4 Class AA champion.
Shane Carey threw four touchdown passes, including three to Robbie Wright, while the defense dominated in a 28-7 district final win at top-seeded Towanda. The No. 2 Lancers (11-2) captured the second district title in program history and first since 1988 while handing Towanda its first loss.
"We kept going into the weight room even when our coaches weren't there. We all just got together and said we're going to lift and we can't stop," said Loyalsock linebacker Freddie Ramin, who recovered two fumbles. "I thought we could do this, but to actually accomplish it is just a great feeling."
Loyalsock plays again next Saturday against the District 3 champion, either Trinity or Delone Catholic, who play today. That game will be held at a time and place to be determined.
Whatever the future holds, Loyalsock now has its own legacy. The Lancers are the first team in program history to win the Class AA district title since the 1988 team won at Class A.
Loyalsock earned its championship the hard way, defeating two-time defending champion Montoursville and undefeated Towanda in consecutive weeks. And just like last week, Loyalsock fought from behind, turning a 7-0 first-quarter deficit into a 22-7 halftime lead.
"Back in the summer you're thinking there are a lot of good teams in District 4. There's Montoursville, there's Towanda but things kept going our way a little bit," Loyalsock coach Dick Delaney said. "There's no quit in these guys. They don't give up and their hard work has paid off. I'm almost numb right now. I'm happy and it feels good but I don't think it's sunk in yet."
Towanda seemed like it was starting to settle in late in the first quarter when Cameron Sullivan ignited the boisterous orange and black-clad Black Knights fans with a 21 yard touchdown run. One play, though, changed everything.
Loyalsock faced a second-and-10 on its ensuing possession when Shane Carey dropped back to pass. As Carey prepared to throw he was drilled from straight ahead. Still, he was unfazed and lofted a long pass down the left sideline that hit Jesse Eggerton in stride for a 49 yard gain down to the Towanda 11-yard line.
"I just saw him come through the line. I do a lot of drills with pocket presence and sidestepping pressure and I just pretty much stepped up and threw," Carey said. "I've always dreamed of winning a district championship. I always thought about it and now that it's happened, I don't know what to do with myself."
Towanda didn't seem to know what to do with Carey or Wright.
Three plays after hitting Eggerton, Carey connected with Wright on a four yard touchdown pass and the Lancers were off and running - make that throwing. Carey completed 12 of 19 passes for 240 yards. Ten of those passes went to Wright, including the go-ahead 52 yard touchdown pass on Loyalsock's next series.
Wright repeatedly exploited Towanda's shorter cornerbacks while displaying the speed, power, and hands that have made him one of the district's best receivers. He finished with a career-high 188 yards and beat Towanda long, short, and mid-range.
"This has always been a dream," Wright said. "Me and Shane grew up together and we would always say how nice it would be to play in a game like this. We worked so hard this summer and in the offseason just to get to this position right here and to win it is just great."
Loyalsock scored on all three of its second-quarter possessions, taking a 22-7 lead when Carey hit Eggerton for a three yard touchdown in the final minute. In its previous 12 games, Towanda had not allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points.
But Towanda had never faced a team like Loyalsock. The Lancers needed only 17 plays and 6:25 to score 22 points, put Towanda behind for just the second time this season and take control of the game.
"That first touchdown helped us out a lot. It made us feel like we can win this and made us step up and we just played our game," said senior tackle Stephen Dewar, part of an offensive line that also helped Austin Knighton run for 102 yards. "This is the best feeling in the world. We've worked so hard for this and we finally got it."
Loyalsock lost three second-half turnovers, but the defense made sure they did not prove costly. Much like last week, the defense played stronger as the game wore on and stifled the district's leader in yardage.
Loyalsock's secondary took away big-play threat R.J. Baker while an aggressive front three and a hard-hitting linebacking unit stuffed the run. Linebacker Jamie Van Fleet recorded 12 tackles, while Knighton had a sack, a forced fumble, and five tackles. Fellow linebacker Nick Tate also forced a fumble and Brian Losell added six tackles.
"This is great for our school and for this team," Ramin said. "It's a great accomplishment for us."