By: Matt Beltz | Towanda Daily Review | November 15, 2014 | Photo courtesy Matt Beltz
LOYALSOCK - All season long, the strength of Towanda has been its running game behind quarterback Noah Huff and that running game was able to help the Black Knights score an upset over second-seeded Troy last week to earn a spot in Friday's District 4 AA semifinal at Loyalsock, which had scored a mild upset of its own last week at Mount Carmel.
Towanda was able to put together a decent running attack against the Lancers but the Black Knights simply had no answer for Loyalsock's ground game or its overall offense and despite keeping the game close early on, Towanda fell to Loyalsock 50-21, marking the second straight year the Knights have had their season end at Loyalsock in the District 4 AA playoffs. The game was tied late in the second quarter but some key plays shifted the momentum to the Lancers late in the first half and the Black Knights were unable to recover.
"This is where Towanda comes to die it seems like lately and we need to come down here and pull one out (in the future) because I've got a bad taste in my mouth," said Towanda coach Jamie Wecker. "I thought our kids gutted it out and never quit. They played hard to the end so overall I'm very proud of my kids for what they fought through during the season with injuries and to beat Troy to get down here for the semifinals. We're down and upset right now but later on when they look back on the season I think they'll see we did a lot of good things."
Loyalsock pounded Towanda on the ground for 377 yards, including 201 and two rushing touchdowns by Marty Clark and another 149 and three rushing touchdowns by quarterback Kyle Datres. Clark had three touchdowns overall, as he also had a touchdown reception in the first quarter and finished with 254 all-purpose yards while Datres accounted for five touchdowns as he also threw for two in addition to his three on the ground and finished with 269 yards of total offense.
"Loyalsock has a great program and Datres is just something special," said Wecker. "We make a mistake and he takes advantage of it and I don't think he missed taking advantage of any mistake we made tonight."
Datres and Clark showed early on what would become the theme of the game as on just the third play from scrimmage on a third-and-5 from the Loyalsock 47, Datres extended the play by escaping numerous tackles in the backfield and he scrambled around long enough to find an open Clark down the middle of the field for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The time Datres spent in the backfield just scrambling before finding Clark probably spanned over 10 seconds.
"I don't know what he (Datres) is doing sometimes. I didn't coach him to do half of the stuff he does," said Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet. "He dropped back that one play, touched almost every blade of turf here and then threw the ball. It's interesting to coach the offensive line and tell them when he starts scrambling to try to find a way to not go down field because it might be eight or nine seconds and you don't know where he is. When he gets into the open field, he is certainly exciting to watch."
Towanda was able to answer right back as it took just five plays to even the score at 7-7 on a Dayton Wickwire 5-yard touchdown run. Steven Yates broke off a 40-yard run on the play before that to set up Wickwire's first touchdown of the game.
The Lancers answered right back as they put together a nine-play drive that spanned nearly five minutes to take the lead back 14-7 on Datres' pass to Nasza Short from 18-yards out.
Far from discouraged, the Black Knights had another answer as Huff returned the kickoff 27 yards and then got free for a 39-yard run plus a late hit penalty on the first play from scrimmage to set up Towanda at the Loyalsock 13. Four plays later, Wickwire found the end zone for the second time to knot things up at 14 apiece.
The teams exchanged punts on their next respective possessions, which included a successful fake punt by Towanda from their own 32 on a fourth-and-three play, but the drive would later stall. Towanda punted the ball all the way to the Loyalsock 13 but the Lancers got a decent 17-yard return on the punt and then, on the first play from scrimmage, flipped the field as Clark broke loose for a 45-yard run to set up Loyalsock at the Towanda 25. Five plays later, Datres found the end zone from eight yards out for his first touchdown to put Loyalsock up 21-14.
On the ensuing drive, Towanda drove into Loyalsock territory but was forced to punt with 1:15 remaining in the half. On the second play from scrimmage, Clark was stripped and the Knights took over on the Loyalsock 35 with :55 left. A completion to Yates by Huff and a personal foul penalty gave the Knights a first down from the Loyalsock 14 as they looked to tie the game just before the half. But on second down, Dylan Bates caught a pass from Huff at the 10 but was hit hard by Giovanni Davis and fumbled and it was returned by Fletcher Quigley to the Loyalsock 46 with just :29 remaining.
A first down completion and a pass interference penalty gave Loyalsock the ball at the Towanda 29 with time left for one of two plays. On first down, Datres was flushed out of the pocket but somehow managed to dodge several would-be tacklers and run all the way into the end zone with no time left on the clock to give Loyalsock a two-touchdown advantage heading into the half. To add to the momentum swing, after three straight false start penalties on the PAT pushed Loyalsock back 15 yards, Datres came back into the game and found Short in the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Towanda got the ball to start the second half but was forced to punt. Despite pushing the Lancers back to their own 24 to start their drive, Loyalsock needed just three plays to take a three-touchdown lead as Clark used his breakaway speed to outrun the Towanda defense for a 61-yard touchdown. Loyalsock would also score on its next possession as Datres got loose again, this time for a 52-yard touchdown run. The Black Knights were able to score a second half touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Dakoatah Manning recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone for a score but that was the extent of the Towanda offense in the second half. After having recorded six first downs on their first two drives of the game, the Black Knights only had 12 for the remainder of the game, including just eight in the second half.
The game marked the last game in the standout career of Huff, who finished with 99 yards on 17 carries to break the Towanda school record for career rushing yards. He had needed 58 yards to break the mark entering the game.
"That is an accomplishment for him and the team," said Wecker. "What a career. He's very humble and if you ask him to do something, he works his butt off. He's a quiet leader and a great kid and keeps his composure as do all of these seniors. This is a great group of kids and I'm going to miss them a lot. Coming to work every day with these kids is a lot of fun and it's tough to see them go because it's a great group of high-character kids."