By: Jake Felix | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | November 8, 2009
Loyalsock entered Friday night knowing what was at stake, even if its head coach tried to channel his best Joe Paterno throughout the week. A win guaranteed the Lancers a berth into the District 4 Class AA playoffs, while a loss left them scrambling in search of scores from teams behind them in the district standings.
"Regardless of what coach said about it being just another game, we knew it was really important and we came out here and played that way," said senior Don Kinney.
Yes they did.
The Lancers rushed for more than 100 yards, received big plays from the passing game and suffocated Shamokin's offense after allowing 13 second quarter points in a 35-13 victory.
And while Senior Night was the last home football game for several Loyalsock Lancers, their careers will continue into next week.
"We knew this game was a must-win," said senior quarterback Stephen Stopper. "All our seniors stepped it up and we got everyone else pumped up because we didn't want to go home and we didn't want to be done."
The Lancers (7-3, 4-1 Heartland Athletic Conference II) clinched their third district playoff berth in four seasons and, as a side note, clinched a tie for the HAC-II crown with Mount Carmel.
Both were in doubt well into the second half as the Indians remained just one score behind until early in the fourth quarter when Stopper found Frankie Pagana behind the Shamokin defense for a 31 yard score. Stopper delivered the ball under heavy pressure and Pagana easily broke free of single coverage, and as he broke the goal line Stopper turned to the sideline with both arms raised high in the air.
Stopper then watched his defense torment the Shamokin offense as quarterback Leon Supsic was left with little room and time to throw.
"If teams get down two scores, it's going to be tough to come back on us because we have such a good secondary and pass rush," said Stopper. "We knew that if we gave our defense a cushion that we were going to take it."
Nearly seven minutes after taking a 28-13 lead, the Lancers scored a final time when Stopper took a shotgun snap and ran through the middle of Shamokin's defense for 15 yards.
Nine seconds later, Loyalsock's defense forced its sixth turnover.
Stopper finished with 161 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and missed on just three of his 10 attempts. Six of his completions went for 14 or more yards.
Shamokin's passing game wasn't nearly as effective as Supsic completed 3 of 11 passes for 28 yards. While he completed his first pass for 13 yards, his second attempt went off the hands of Brent Forbes on a screen play and into the waiting hands of Brandon Smith who returned 30 yards for the game's first score.
The Indians turned the ball over three times in the opening 12 minutes, which led to 14 Loyalsock points, including a 3 yard run by Mike Kinney after Smith's interception return.
Trailing 14-0, Shamokin scored 13 consecutive points on touchdown runs by Supsic and Jared Montgomery, who went through the Loyalsock defense for 54 yards.
The Lancers followed with one of their best drives. Loyalsock put together 10 plays and went 72 yards. Stopper finished it with his first touchdown pass, a well-placed ball that found the outstretched hands of tight end Don Kinney, who played fullback a year ago, from 20 yards away.
"He's always had great hands and this year we decided to put him down at tight end because he was another big body on the line and a good blocker," said Loyalsock coach Alex Jackson. "In the summer, we found out that this kid could catch anything thrown to him and he's been a nice addition for us."
Mike Kinney finished with 132 yards on 29 carries, while Brent Forbes had 125 on 23 for Shamokin.