By: Chris Masse | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | November 15, 2009
LEWISBURG - When Nate Brown started talking about a recurring theme at Lewisburg, an eavesdropper probably thought he meant the Green Dragons winning, something they have done six straight times.
Instead, Brown was talking about how many outside the Lewisburg locker room still don't accept the Dragons as one of the district's elite teams. And foolishly this is not because they haven't been outstanding the last two years while going 19-4, but because they were not good for a long stretch earlier this decade.
Driving home how wrong the naysayers are and that only the present matters, Lewisburg made another emphatic statement Saturday at Christy Mathewson Stadium, using two big plays and stifling defense to knock off District 4 Class AA giant Montoursville, 21-10 in the quarterfinals. The Dragons (10-1) clinched their first 10 win season since 1984 and earned a spot in the semifinals for a second straight year, this time against top-seeded Towanda.
"They have a quiet confidence about them," Lewisburg coach Todd Tilford said. "They feel like they can play with anybody."
That's because they can. Lewisburg outgained Montoursville, 337-139 and outscored it 14-3 in the second half while becoming the first team to defeat Montoursville in its opening-round playoff game since 2004. Ryan Lopes caught a 69 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 before Merle Moscarello clinched the victory with a scintillating 30 yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"We talked in the locker room about firing off the ball and getting the momentum back," said Moscarello, who ran for a game-high 128 yards. "Our line, as usual, came out and fired off the ball. Me and the other running backs ran hard and in the end I think we wore them down. That's kind of what we've done all year and it worked again today."
Montoursville (7-4) did everything it could to pull the upset, holding a 7-0 lead until late in the first half and having a chance to move in front midway through the fourth quarter. But the Warriors, who were ravaged by injuries all season, including to district leading rusher Cody Haupt, fullback Eli Ruscyzk, and linebacker Josh Albert, could not generate enough consistent plays against a defense that grew stronger as the game wore on.
"We asked the kids at the beginning of the year to give us their best effort all the time in practice and in games and they certainly gave us their best effort. We just ran out of people," Montoursville coach Jim Bergen said. "The kids did everything we asked of them."
Haupt played through the pain of a high ankle sprain to run for 109 gritty yards in his final scholastic game and his 14 yard second quarter touchdown run put the Warriors ahead 7-0. Montoursville nearly went ahead 13-0 two series later when Haupt had a 33 yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty.
The Dragons made Montoursville pay for that costly mistake on the ensuing possession.
Sophomore quarterback Cam Cassels made a near-perfect throw down the left sideline on a third-and-13 and Lopes made an even better catch. Montoursville had the play defended well but there was no defense for the play Lopes made as he outleaped the defender, spun away after touching the ground and ran the rest of the way for a game-tying 69 yard touchdown.
"That's a game-changer," said Brown, who shined on both sides of the ball. "Cam Cassels put the ball right where it needed to be and Lopes made a great play on the ball. That was huge."
Lewisburg unveiled another aspect of its versatile offense on the second-half's opening possession with Brown taking centerstage as the quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Following a 25 yard hook-and-ladder gain on third down, Brown carried on four of the next five plays and capped a 65 yard drive with a one yard touchdown run, putting Lewisburg ahead to stay, 14-7.
Christian Clark's 37 yard field goal cut the deficit to 14-10 and Montoursville threatened to take a fourth-quarter lead when it drove toward midfield. Brown and Cody Raup, though, combined on a huge second-down sack that helped force a punt and set the stage for Moscarello.
Lewisburg's offensive line of Sean Charest, Jared Smith, Cody Fisher, Kyle Santorine and Joe Affsprung took control in the second half, but on a second-and-five from the Warrior 30-yard line, a Montoursville defender barreled in untouched, hitting Moscarello three yards behind the line of scrimmage. The hard-running sophomore, however, kept his legs churning, broke free of a few more would-be tacklers, then exploded into the clear for the game-clinching score.
"Before the snap I saw them load up on the side Brown was and luckily he sealed off the inside backer and right where that hole was I kind of busted through it," Moscarello said. "We had great blocking the whole game and luckily I was able to take it in."
Lewisburg forced a four-and-out on the ensuing possession as Affsprung and Fisher, who combined for 12 tackles recorded consecutive sacks.