By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE — No one will confuse Griffin Dunne with Peyton Manning anytime soon, but Danville fans won’t soon forget the Montoursville senior’s pinpoint passes that shifted Friday’s battle of unbeatens.
Dunne completed four of his five third-quarter passes — each completion to classmate Alex Erb — as the Warriors scored twice and erased a 10-point halftime deficit.
Dunne then broke the Ironmen’s backs with a long touchdown run early in the fourth, and Montoursville staked its claim to the District 4-AA top seed with a 21-10 victory.
“They’re a good football team,” said Danville coach Jim Keiser, whose team dropped to 6-1. “They just came out and took it to us in the second half. You got to give them all the credit. They did a great job.”
The Ironmen limited Montoursville to 62 yards of offense on just 16 first-half snaps. The Warriors, playing without 1,000-yard senior tailback Cam Ott, found few running lanes and managed only three first downs. Dunne completed just two passes for 14 yards in the half.
After the break, though, Dunne hit Erb with a 16-yard corner route off play-action to convert a second-and-12 on the Warriors’ second snap. The drive ended on downs just across midfield, but Dunne was just getting warmed up.
“It felt good,” Dunne said. “I finally was able to get it to Alex Erb. We needed him to step up, and he did. He made some great catches.
“The last couple weeks I wasn’t able to get him the ball, but this week I was.”
Montoursville began its second series of the half with a sideline go pattern against single coverage that Erb leaped to beat for 30 yards. Two plays later, Erb again beat one-on-one coverage to catch a perfectly thrown post-corner for a 21-yard TD that made it 10-7.
The next Warriors’ series saw Dunne run a 14-yard keeper on second-and-12 before connecting with Erb on a slant that went for 25 yards to the Danville 25. Alec Rothrock, starting for Ott, took the next carry to the end zone for a lead.
In the course of seven snaps over two series, Dunne went 3-for-3 for 76 yards and a score.
“He’s not that guy that’s going to sit back there and throw it 25 times, but his ability to run the football makes him an efficient and effective passer,” said Warriors coach J.C. Keefer. “He doesn’t have the big, strong arm, but he’s very accurate, very smart, and he does what he does well.”
Just 23 seconds into the fourth quarter, following Danville’s third punt of the half, Dunne ran a keeper over the right side of the line, picked his way to daylight and bolted 53 yards to make it 21-10.
Dunne accounted for 230 yards (124 rushing, 106 passing) of the Warriors’ 316 of total offense.
“I kinda felt like we wore them down,” said Keefer, “and Danville’s a team you typically don’t do that to.”
Weston Baylor seemed destined for similar numbers as his counterpart after a superb first half in which he orchestrated Danville’s offense for an eye-popping 44 snaps. The Ironmen held the ball for about 15 minutes of the first-half clock, with 16- and 17-play drives, but came away with only 10 points.
“Absolutely (disappointed with 10 points) the way we were moving the football,” said Keiser. “(We) keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Playing without fullback Sam Dressler and halfback Isaiah Croll (and their 1,000 combined rushing yards), the Ironmen turned to Baylor and the second-year starter responded with 113 passing yards and 65 more on the ground in the first half.
On the Ironmen’s first drive alone, Baylor completed both his passes, made a great choice on an option pitch, and kept the ball three times for 26 yards, including a slick 17-yard TD run. He then got the Ironmen out of a potentially disasterous situation when they were punted to the half-yard line, gaining 8 yards on third-and-7 from the Danville 4 on a drive that stalled across midfield.
Late in the second quarter, Baylor hit Evan Tanner for a 24-yard gain on third-and-14 to extend a drive capped by Shayne Riley’s 25-yard field goal with 2.2 seconds to play.
Danville ended the half with 221 yards and 14 first downs, one more than Montoursville totaled. The Ironmen had 34 yards and one first down on six second-half possessions.
“That’s what we had to do in the second half and (we) didn’t do it,” Keiser said of the Ironmen’s offensive execution. “They made adjustments, put a (five-man defensive) front in front of us, but I’m going to take the blame because we came out in the second half and didn’t match the intensity. That’s on me.
“We got behind and that’s not our type of offense (to play catch-up),” Keiser added. “Losing Sammy and Isaiah hurt us, but I’m proud of they way our kids played. We can learn from this and build from this. I think our kids will respond.”