By: Jake Felix | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | December 10, 2007
SHAMOKIN - Week in and week out, Loyalsock's multi-dimensional offense churned out yardage at an alarming rate, but on Saturday afternoon, the Lancers learned just how tough it can be sometimes to gain two yards.
Dunmore stuffed the high-powered Lancers twice on fourth-and-2, and those stops led to Bucks' touchdowns as the District 2 champions defeated Loyalsock 28-7 at Kemp Memorial Stadium in the PIAA Class AA Eastern Final.
"They took some things away from us that we usually have, but we just didn't execute," said Loyalsock quarterback Shane Carey. "We missed some balls, I throw some really bad balls and we just missed some opportunities."
Dunmore's second fourth-down stand came in the third quarter and with its backs against its own goal line. Loyalsock (12-3) trailed 21-7, but was just two yards away from making it a one possession game. Facing a fourth-and-goal, Loyalsock called timeout and then put the ball in the hands of Carey on a rollout to the right. The lefty had trouble finding an open receiver in the end zone, but tried to squeeze the ball in when linebacker Mike McHale, who shadowed Carey down the line of scrimmage, reached up and picked the pass out of the air.
"On that play, they took away our No. 1 receiver and No. 2 and I tried to force it in there and that was a really bad decision by me," said Carey.
One play later, running back Mike Perry, who fumbled the previous possession, ripped off a 79 yard run to the Lancer one-yard line. Loyalsock's Austin Knighton tracked down the sophomore from behind to save the touchdown, but Pat Hart took the next handoff and flew over the Lancers' defense for a three touchdown lead, 28-7.
"That (the 79 yard run) was a big one because I made the mistake by fumbling before," said Perry, who finished with 241 yards on 26 carries. "Coming back out after the fumble, I knew I had to pick up my team. My defense had my back and I just wanted to show them that I had their back, too."
Perry and his defense put Dunmore (14-1) in position to open up a 21-7 lead right before the half. Trailing by seven, Loyalsock coach Dick Delaney attempted to keep a Lancer drive alive at midfield on a fourth-and-two. Knighton however, who earlier scored on a fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line to tie the game at 7-7, met too much resistance from the Bucks' defensive front this time and came up a yard short.
Dunmore took advantage of the short field, driving 51 yards on eight plays. The final play, a sneak by quarterback Miller Homes, came on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.
"That was my mistake," said Delaney. "We should have never done that. Deep in my heart I said punt the ball away and go into the locker room 14-7, but the kids wanted to go for it. They said they could make it and it's one of those things, should we punt it and show the kids the coach doesn't have faith or do I let them go for it and hope we get the first down. But we didn't, and they ended up scoring off it and that hurt us."
Loyalsock finished 1-for-11 on third- and fourth-down conversions combined, while Dunmore was 3-for-4 on fourth down and 6-for-12 on third down.
Dunmore's biggest conversion led to the game's first points. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 24-yard line, Holmes found a streaking Mark Fortese down the seam for an improbable 24 yard touchdown pass.
"It took us just a little while to get there and we didn't break on it soon enough," said Delaney.
Miller added to a ground game that nearly gained 300 yards behind a brawny offensive line, which averaged 275 pounds, with 107 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Loyalsock's passing game couldn't supplement Austin Knighton's 110 yard performance, which put him over 2,000 yards for the season. Carey finished with just 63 yards on 4 of 16 attempts. The Bucks' defense didn't leave Carey or his receivers much space to operate. Dunmore didn't allow Robbie Wright, who entered the game with over 1,000 yards receiving, too many clean releases, and when it did, a safety was typically awaiting Sock's top receiver.
"Coming into the game we knew they had great wideouts and No. 5 was a great player," said Dunmore senior cornerback Ryan Ehnot, whose team will play Jeanette in next week's state championship game at Hershey. "We watched tape all week and we knew we had to force him inside and play physical and we were able to do that today."
That physical play held Loyalsock to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Lancers scored eight points in a Week 9 loss to Bloomsburg, which also played in the PIAA semifinals yesterday. Those two defenses were the only ones to keep Loyalsock in single digits and below 20 points.
Carey added, "We didn't execute at all and that's the reason we lost this game and they're going to Hershey."