By: Rich Rogers | Towanda Daily Review | September 14, 2013 | Photo courtesy Rich Rogers
Towanda - The Black Knights opened their NTL schedule with a big win over a familiar foe in the Athens Wildcats last night by a score of 43-14. For the past decade or so, the NTL championship has gone to one of these two powerhouse programs, but the Knights showed early on that they had the upper hand in this year's match up.
Athens took the opening kickoff and chewed up almost the entire first quarter clock as they marched 65 yards in 18 plays. But the drive would go for naught, as on 3rd and 11 from the Black Knight 15 yard line, Athens signal caller Troy Stivason lost 14 yards on a fumble, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.
Towanda started their first drive on their 13 yard line, but would need only one play for senior running back Tony Daniello to electrify the crowd with an 87 yard sprint to the end zone. Tyler Basse's extra point was good, and with 2:02 left Towanda led 7-0.
The defense stiffened on the next series, and after forcing a three and out, Towanda took over on their own 39. The offense picked up right where they left off, as QB Noah Huff ripped off 20 yards, followed by a 19 yard carry by Dayton Wickwire. Two more 9 yard runs by both Huff and Daniello set them up with first and goal at the Athens 6. Huff would take it himself for his first of 3 rushing touchdowns on the night, and Basse's extra point made it 14-0 with 10:41 left in the half.
Athens again struggled to move the ball and were forced to punt. Setting up on their own 31, the Black knights stumbled a bit as Huff was dropped for a 5 yard loss followed by an offsides penalty, and they faced 3rd and 18 from their own 23. But Huff once again did what he does so well, faking out the Wildcat defense on the read option, and sprinting 77 yards for the touchdown. Basse hit his 3rd PAT and the score was 21-0 with 4:29 left until halftime.
Athens would save face on their next possession, switching to the hurry up offense and catching the Towanda "D" on their heels. Kalen Keathly was able to strike for two 8 yard runs, while Stivason added a 7 yard carry of his own. With first and ten from the Towanda 27, a quick snap again took the defense off guard, and Brandon Sturzenegger ran off left tackle for 27 yards and the score. Stivason's extra point kick made the score 21-7 with 1:46 left. This would turn out to be too much time for Huff to go to work, as he directed the offense to the 20 yard line with only 11 seconds left. Following his blockers and using the entire field, Huff would wind his way 20 yards on a nifty run for his 3rd rushing T.D. of the half. This time Basse's kick was wide, and the half ended 27-7.
The second half looked much like the first, except this time it was senior running back Dan Leljedal's chance to shine. Taking the kickoff, Leljedal tore off runs of 17, 9, and 4 yards before Huff hit junior tight end Tyler Vanderpool for a perfect 18 yard strike and the score was now 33-7.
The Wildcat's lone highlight of the second half happened next, as Keathly fumbled the kickoff, picked it up, broke to his left and outraced the Knights for an 87 yard return. Stivason's extra point finished their scoring for the night, making it 33-14 with 9:37 left in the third.
Leljedal would shine again 2 series later, busting through the line for a 52 yard run before being knocked out at the 2. Coach Wecker would reward him by calling his number on the next play, and he punched it in for the final T.D. on the night.
Basse would add a 31 yard field goal as the 4th quarter began, making the final 43-14. Both teams substituted freely and gave their younger players valuable experience to finish the game.
Daniello finished the night with 162 yards on 7 carries with 1 score. Huff added 124 yards on 8 rushes with 3 T.D. runs while throwing for another. Leljedal had 98 yards and 1 score.
Athens will travel to Cowanesque next week, while Towanda will host North Penn in a big homecoming matchup.