By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | October 27, 2007
MUNCY - Canton running back Tyrell Wheeler had rushed for 646 yards entering Friday night's game against Muncy.
But it took Muncy linebacker Wes Smith one play to let Wheeler and Canton know yards would not come so easy this time. Smith drove Wheeler back on the game's opening play and set the tone for a dominant team defensive performance as Muncy allowed just 97 yards, blanked Canton, 13-0 and captured the Northern Tier League-Small School championship.
"It's teamwork. That's all I can really say," said Smith, who had nine tackles and a pass breakup. "We've really come together as a team, our defense clicked and it happened."
Not much has happened for opponents against Muncy's defense. The Indians (6-3, 5-0) recorded their second straight shutout, handed Canton (7-2, 4-1) just its third loss in 15 games and clinched a winning season after starting 0-2.
So strong was Muncy's defense that it never allowed Canton to move inside its 40-yard line. The Indians surrendered just 25 second-half yards and intercepted Reese Holmes three times. Linebacker Matt Johnson had two of those interceptions, including the game-clincher in the final two minutes.
"The defense played super," Muncy coach Scott McLean said. "We played two great teams in Loyalsock and Bloomsburg and you take away those first half's against them and that's the way we've played defense all year."
While the defense took center stage, it was a first-quarter offensive play that changed everything. With Muncy facing a third-and-nine from its own 11-yard line, Tad Lupold was hit behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of going down, Lupold broke two tackles and took off for a 42 yard gain.
Dan Murphy hit Tyler Barto for a 40 yard completion on the next play and two plays later Frank Smith scored on a three yard touchdown, giving Muncy a 7-0 lead.
"The biggest turning point was early in the game when we missed a tackle in the backfield and it would have been about fourth-and-12," Canton coach Miller Moyer Jr. said. "That changed the entire complexion of the first half because we had field position and we had kept them bottled up, and that was enormous."
Muncy's offensive line started firing off the ball on the next possession and the Indians scored again as Smith's 12 yard touchdown run capped a 69 yard drive.
And on a night when Muncy's defense was playing its best game' and the constant rain eroded the field's quality, that margin looked a lot wider than 13.
"That was big for us to get up 13-0 because on a wet field like this, things can snowball," McLean said. "The defense Canton runs is tough and I give our kids credit for playing the way they did."
Canton shut out Muncy last year to capture the NTL title, but it never gained more than one first down on any second-half possession last night. The Warriors' deepest second-half drive ended at midfield late in the third quarter when Ryan Fay broke up a third-down screen pass.
"I knew we were going to beat them in my heart," Wes Smith said. "They didn't play Bloomsburg or Loyalsock. They (the Warriors) didn't see us as a big threat but we knew we were."
Canton can still clinch its second straight District 4 Class A berth next Friday if it defeats Troy. Muncy is guaranteed an Eastern Conference playoff berth but has an outside shot at districts if it defeats Hughesville and Canton loses to Troy.
Running behind a strong offensive line, Frank Smith gained 98 yards. Lupold added 73 as Muncy controlled the clock throughout the second half.
"They controlled us up front. That's what it amounted to," Moyer said. "They are a good football team. People say they throw the football, but they run the football as well as they throw."