For The Daily Item
MOUNT CARMEL —
After back-to-back defeats, Mount Carmel head coach Carm DeFrancesco decided his team needed a little positive mojo early in their homecoming game with undefeated Montoursville. So with his team facing a fourth-and-2 from its own 38 on their first possession, DeFrancesco opted to go for it.
But when running back Blake Panko was stopped a yard short of the first down by the interior of the Montoursville defense, the desired “Old mo” became “Oh no” for the Red Tornadoes, who gave the visitors a short field on their own 39.
Eight plays later, Montoursville’s star senior running back Cameron Ott went around the left side and ran through a final tackle at the 5 for a 16-yard score that gave his team the early lead and some much need momentum as it would go on to win in the Silver Bowl for the first time, 18-13, in an important Heartland Athletic Conference Division II game.
Mount Carmel is now on a three-game losing streak for a second-straight year and DeFrancesco admits his gamble backfired.
“It was a gamble on my part and it didn’t come through,” DeFrancesco said. “I thought that it would really energize us. It was two yards and we ran a play that we practiced a lot this week and we just came up a little short. Obviously as I sit here now and think about that play, what if we would have punted? But I can’t worry about that.”
While Mount Carmel failed on its fourth down attempt, Montoursville fullback Matt Shea converted on a fourth-and-1 from the Red Tornadoes’ 19 two plays before Ott’s score.
Ott would also swing momentum back to his team at the start of the second half. AfterMount Carmel got an 86-yard touchdown pass from Zach Wasilewski to tight end Christian Kelly to close within 10-6 with 1:40 left in second to give the Red Tornadoes a halftime boost, Ott took a quick hitter 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter,
And when quarterback Griffin Dunne found Shea for a two-point conversion, Montoursville immediately regained command at 18-6, just 22 seconds into the half.
Ott would go on to rush for 204 yards on 25 carries and two scores — leaving him just one shy of 1,000 — as his team improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the HAC II.
More remarkably, he played nearly every snap, also helping lead an aggressive Warrior defense that limited Mount Carmel to just 146 yards of total offense with six sacks of Wasilewski contributing to minus 23 yards rushing.
“They ended our season each of the last two years, so this was a big game for us to come out and get this win,” said Ott.
“We were just talking about him [Ott]. I don’t think he came out of the game,” DeFrancesco said. “He’s amazing. Our hats are off to him. He’s a senior and a tough kid and that’s how a senior star has to play and he lived up to his billing.”
Ironically, Ott also figured in the play that got Mount Carmel back into the game. With the Red Tornadoes facing a fourth-and-5 from the Montoursville 17, Ott came on a safety blitz and appeared to have Wasilewski on a sack as he tried to knock the ball from his throwing hand. But Wasilewski managed to break free from Ott’s clutches, then rolled to his right and found a wide open Treyvon White in the back of the end zone for a touchdown that pulled his team within five with 10:58 left.
The Red Tornadoes would make one final drive to try and win the game. Starting from their own 20 with 2:39 to play, Wasilewski marched them in seven plays down to the Montoursville 34. But Montoursville’s defense would continue to pressure Wasilewski, forcing him into a scramble and three incompletions — the last on a fourth-and-14 that ended essentially ended the game.
“The defense won the football game,” said Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer, “and the offensive line grinded it out, going double tight with 11 guys in the box and we’re still running the football successfully.
“Our defense just played relentlessly,” he continued. “Our defensive backs were just all over the place. It allows our defensive line to do some different things up there and get after the quarterback.”
Despite 146 yards passing from Wasilewski, Mount Carmel fell to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
But DeFrancesco reminded his team that it was in this same position a year ago when it still managed to advance to the District 4 Class AA championship game.