By: Al Robinson | Towanda Daily Review | November 14, 2009
TOWANDA - The Towanda Black Knights broke open a close game in the final minute of the first half and completely shut down the Troy Trojans after the intermission to post a 35-7 victory in the first round of the District 4, Class AA football playoffs Friday night. The top-seeded Knights ran their record to 11-0 and set up a second round meeting on home turf next weekend against the winner of Saturday afternoon's matchup between Montoursville and Lewisburg.
As usual, running back Travis Chesla and quarterback Dakota Roof were the big offensive weapons. Chesla ran 70 yards to score on Towanda's first play from scrimmage and finished the night with 171 yards on 17 carries, breaking the 1,500 yard mark for the season. Roof accounted for two rushing touchdowns, threw to Nate Bennett for another, and kicked five extra points. The Knights' final scoring play came from Kodi Thompson.
On defense Cody Miller recorded his area-leading tenth pass interception and the pass rush led by Chesla and Akeem Calaman was in the face of Troy's shotgun quarterback Lucas Havens on almost every passing attempt.
Coach Craig Dawsey saw Chesla's ramble down the left sideline to the end zone only a minute and a half into the game as a mixed blessing. "That was huge, it gave us some momentum," he related. "The only thing I was concerned about is we scored so quickly we may have let down a little bit."
Later in the period, Towanda tried a fake punt from their own 40-yard line and Roof's pass fell incomplete, setting Troy up with excellent field position. A strike from Lucas Havens to Brandon Spiak covered 35 yards and Beau Parker carried it in to knot the score after Clayton Schucker's kick.
"Troy's a good football team and they came right down the field and scored," Dawsey noted, emphasizing "games like this are based on momentum. You have to fight to keep the momentum."
The Black Knights answered that challenge on their next possession, highlighted by a pair of Chesla runs of 22 and 15 yards. Roof went the last 13 yards on the first play of the second period. Troy came away empty from a drive that saw Havens hook up with Aaron Bristol on a 47 yard completion and Towanda looked ready to do the same thing until Roof hit Bennett from 44 yards out to give the Knights a two touchdown margin with 42 seconds left in the half.
"It was big to show we can still pass the ball and to make them have to look for it," Bennett commented after the game.
Havens came out slinging in the final series of the half, picking apart the Towanda secondary for three long gains, with a fourth completion nullified by a motion penalty. Critically, Troy could not stop the clock for one more shot at the end zone.
"We may have been in a bit of a prevent defense," Dawsey explained. "We came in at halftime and had to regroup. We made some minor adjustments. Our execution was much better in the second half than the first."
Indeed, Troy picked up only four first downs in the second half and their deepest penetration was to the Towanda 41-yard line. The Black Knights took the second half kickoff 68 yards in four minutes with Roof scoring from six yards out, and finished the scoring with a similar drive of 77 yards just before the end of the quarter with Thompson getting the call for the touchdown.
Summing up his team's effort, Coach Dawsey declared, "At times we looked sharp. In the second half we played a lot better. You can't take anyone lightly. They're going to make big plays because no one wants to go home at the end of the night. That's the great thing about this tournament we're in."
Troy, which virtually doubled its aerial yardage for the season with a 204 yard effort from Havens and his receiving corps, closed out the 2009 campaign at 6-5.