By: Mitch Rupert | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | October 29, 2011
The ball kind of fluttered through the air, wobbling end over end out of the hand of Athens quarterback Nick Carl. There wasn't a Wildcats receiver to be found after Carl was hit by Montoursville's Matt Krezmer, causing the deflected pass to just barely get over the line of scrimmage.
The only thing the Montoursville coaches could do was wait and see if one of the Warriors' defenders would come down with the ball. This was the chance they needed trailing Athens by a touchdown in the third quarter Friday night. This was the chance Montoursville - clinging to his playoff life - needed to get the game back to square.
Clay Stoner didn't wait for the football to fall into his hands, he went and got it. Then he danced down the right sideline to the Athens 3-yard line. Krezmer scored on the next play, tying the game. It was the breath of fresh air the Warriors so desperately needed after digging themselves a hole in the second and third quarters.
Krezmer's touchdown, his third of the day, was the second of four unanswered touchdowns the Warriors scored at Memorial Field last night that gave Montoursville a 49-35 win. The win kept Montoursville's playoff hopes alive, but still on life support. But with the win over the second seeded Wildcats in the District 4 Class AA field, this Montoursville team that came into the season so young and green, looks like it could be a player in the district playoffs.
If it can get in.
"This is a real confidence booster," said Stoner, who ran for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "But we still have to take it week-by-week, one game at a time."
"We've beaten some good teams, but (Friday night) was the test because Athens is going to be in the playoffs," Montoursville head coach J.C. Keefer said. "We're going to believe (we can be in the playoffs) after this, that's for darn sure. But we're not worried about that. Loyalsock is what we're worried about, and then we'll see what happens."
Even with the big win last night and the bonus points that came with it for beating a seven-win Athens team, the Warriors are still on the outside of the eight-team Class AA field looking in. Even with second-seeded Athens and fifth-seeded Danville losing Friday, neither team will lose enough ground to make a big difference in the standings for Montoursville.
In all likelihood, the Warriors are going to need a win over Loyalsock in the Battle for the Bridge next week, and for Canton to upset Troy for the Warriors to get in. But beyond that, Friday night's win for Montoursville was about seeing how far the Warriors have grown since losing four of its first six games - all to probable playoff teams.
Montoursville's offensive line dominated Athens to the tune of 266 rushing yards. Stoner's 165 rushing yards was a season high, and it came a year after he torched the Wildcats for 216 rushing yards.
With the exception of a second quarter where a bad option pitch and an interception turned into touchdowns for Athens, Montoursville all but had its way offensively. Jacob Jones completed 7 of 11 passes for 141 yards. The 49 points scored by Montoursville was the most its scored since putting up 56 on Towanda in the District 4 quarterfinals in 2008.
"Credit the offensive line on this win," Keefer said. "They were getting out to (Athens') three linebackers. The big boys up front is why we scored 49 points."
"Our running game was just dominant. Any play we ran we were good with," Krezmer said. "We had dominant blocking and our line just played really good."
Those two second-quarter turnovers erased the 14-point lead Montoursville built up in the first quarter with a Stoner 32-yard scoring run and a Krezmer 1-yard run. Athens turned the fumble into a 15-yard touchdown pass to Curt Moore, and it turned the interception into a 4-yard touchdown run by Casey Shiposh.
It only got worse when Shiposh returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown with 17 seconds left in the second quarter giving Athens a 21-14 lead. It extended the lead to two touchdowns when Ray McDougan took a lateral on a swing pass to the left side. He appeared to be bottled up in front of his own sideline, but somehow escaped and crossed the field before running down the right sideline for a 78-yard touchdown run.
"I grind on these kids all year about mental toughness," Keefer said. "This game is a roller coaster and you have to stay tough upstairs, and we did. We got down a little bit. We lost momentum a little bit. But we just kept plugging away and doing our thing. That second quarter didn't really phase us."
McDougan's second touchdown run, this one from 32 yards, once again pushed the lead to two touchdowns. But Montoursville responded just 21 seconds later with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Jones to Cameron Ott. And on the first play following the kickoff, Krezmer hit Carl, forcing the errant throw and Stoner interception.
"That turnover really gave us the momentum to go back and score," Stoner said.
"Those were the two plays (Ott's touchdown and Stoner's interception) that sparked this comeback," Keefer said. "We're not young anymore. We're going into Week 10 now and we've matured. We've gotten better every week and it's showing."