---- — By The Daily Item
Lewisburg senior Luke Smith knows his team can't survive a season turning the ball over six times like it did in Friday night's 25-20 victory over Towanda. He also thinks the problem is fixable.
"I really think a lot of it was nerves. We have a lot of guys playing in different spots," Smith said. "Even me. I moved to the fullback spot after Brandon Smith ran for 1,100 yards last year. I was nervous. Even so it's inexcusable to lose two fumbles, so I'll work on that.
"But we've got a game under our belts and I think we'll play better next week against Mount Carmel."
If you are going to commit six turnovers in a game, your defense is going to have to create some of its own for a team to prevail.
Smith came up with a huge one in the first half to stop the Black Knights from going up by two scores.
Towanda had second-and-goal from the Lewisburg 4 when Black Knights quarterback Noah Huff rolled to his right. Smith swooped in, sacked Huff and forced a fumble, recovering at the Lewisburg 7.
"From watching film, I knew when he sprinted out he liked to pass," Smith said of Huff, who also rushed for 136 yards in the game. "He usually liked to try and drop a ball over top, but I saw the inside linebacker had good coverage. I just hit his arm."
The turnover was one of the five forced by the Green Dragons, including three interceptions by Drew Newcomb.
STRONG REBOUND: Nick Costagliola's senior season got off to a slow start as he threw two interceptions in a span of three passes in the first half of Lewisburg's opener.
But as coach Jeremy Winn said earlier in the week, not much rattles Costagliola and those two interceptions didn't.
Costagliola threw for 209 yards and score in the victory over the Black Knights.
Ben Frankel and Drew Newcomb were Costagliola's top targets, both running out of the slot in a spread set and as halfbacks in the Delaware Wing-T. Frankel caught three passes for 95 yards, including a 61-yarder to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. Newcomb finished with three catches for 79 yards.
A LITTLE LUCK: Mifflinburg junior quarterback Jordan Wagner was the beneficiary of a lucky play in his first varsity start, not like he really needed any.
Wagner exposed Selinsgrove's weakness -- pass coverage -- completing 19 passes, a pair to 6-foot-4 receiver Logan Finsterbush.
Finsterbush's two catches went for 55 yards, but his first reception was a sideline pass that was meant for running back Chris Temple.
Wagner hit Temple on the numbers but the ball bounced off his chest and into the waiting arms of Finsterbush for an 11-yard gain.
The reception helped Mifflinburg mount an 11-play drive, but it fizzled out just outside the red zone after Wagner was taken down for a nine-yard loss by Seals linemen Jack Gaugler and John Daku.
GROUND & POUND: The Daily Item's Fall Sports preview cover story was about Southern Columbia's loaded backfield. Week 1 should definitely have quieted any doubters.
The Tigers had 411 yards on 46 runs against Pius X, with nine players carrying the ball.
"Overall, offensively, especially with running game, we got some backs. We can go into that second unit and throw a (Brad) Noll or (Billy) Marzeski or (Matt) Jeremiah in there and they probably would be competent varsity runners, and we're rotating four guys now in the backfield," Southern coach Jim Roth said after the 55-28 win. "As the game went on, you could see where our backs were really running harder and the defense was getting tired and it was becoming a mismatch. With a lot of those guys playing one way, that'll be a plus in the second half."
Adam Feudale ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Marzeski had 85 on three carries. Both senior Matt Lupold and senior Nate Hunter ran for 60 yards.
Six of Southern Columbia's eight touchdowns were thanks to the run game.
GOOD AS NEW: Last year against Selinsgrove, Southern Columbia's Hunter suffered an injury and had reconstructive ACL surgery.
Now a senior, he showed area fans that he's on his way to being just as good as before. Hunter ran for 60 yards on just six carries against Pius X, breaking a 25-yard run midway through the third quarter.
"I could say honestly that a lot of times he looks not quite as sharp or quite as quick but, boy, he's not off by much for an ACL reconstruction. He looks pretty darn close to where he was before he had that injury," Roth said. "Nate's worked in the weight room. He's running physical. He ran hard (and had) lot of yards after first hit."
FIRST-GAME JITTERS: Opening night had its usual mistakes that most people attribute to the nerves that come with the first game. At Shikellamy's game with visiting Mount Carmel, they didn't all involve players.
At one point, everyone in the press box knew where the ball supposed to be spotted, but the officials working the game didn't ask. They spotted the ball some 15 yards back from the line of scrimmage and had the teams coming to the line to run a play until someone discovered the mistake.
And, as they were ready to kick off for the second half, the teams were lined up on the wrong sides of the field. That, too, was corrected in time.
EYE-OPENER: Mount Carmel senior quarterback Zack Wasilewski got early notice that the season had arrived for real.
On the first play from scrimmage the senior tried to sneak up the middle, but was met immediately and pummeled by Braves senior tackle Jeff Wojciechowski.
Fortunately for the Red Tornadoes, and not for the Braves, Wasilewski shook that play off and led his team to a TD on the opening drive.
The play was also a potential nightmare for the Shikellamy public address announcer, who had to tell the fans that Wasilewski was tackled by Wojciechowski -- on the first play of the game, no less.
Incidentally, he did a better job with that than the opening-night opponent for Line Mountain: Phillipsburg-Osceola.
BLAME THE COACH: Mount Carmel's new no-huddle offense often bogged down with confusion and delays in getting the play calls in. "That's my fault," coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. "We need to get that cleaned up and we will.
DUAL-THREAT: Line Mountain's Ryan Reed had a difficult job to do against Phillipsburg-Osceola, replacing graduated starter Cole Rickert under center for the Eagles.
The junior signal-caller started 3-for-3 through the air, including a 42-yard slant to Justin Michael for a first-quarter touchdown.
Reed also showed his ability as a runner, whether taking the ball on a quarterback sneak or rolling outside when the pocket collapsed and running for positive yardage. He racked up 96 yards on 20 carries, including a 38-yard sprint on fourth-and-1 on an option to open field which set up the Eagles' second TD.
WAKE-UP CALL: Although Central Columbia managed to squeak by Hughesville 13-12 in its opener, head coach Jason Hippenstiel felt his team was thoroughly outplayed by the Spartans and the numbers back him up.
The Blue Jays were outgained 340-256. The Spartans topped the Jays in both rushing and passing yardage, while also earning more first downs (18-12). Hughesville also ran 60 offensive plays to Central's 44.
With District 4 AA contenders Montoursville and Loyalsock, each of which scored 42 points in Week 1 wins, on the schedule the next two weeks (like Friday's game, both on the road), it will only get tougher for Central.
"I thought that was a pretty poor performance on our part and a great job by Hughesville," said Hippenstiel. "They totally outplayed us. They ran a play and ran it to death because we didn't adjust correctly on the field. At the end ... our seniors stepped up when they had to."