By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — Angelo Martin was never counted on as the feature running back for Selinsgrove this season. The talented sophomore figured to get on the field as a quarterback, or maybe as a wide receiver.
But when fellow sophomore standout Juvon Batts was knocked out of the lineup in the pre-season with a serious illness, Martin found a home at tailback for the Seals.
For many it might have seemed that Batts had somehow slipped into Martin’s No. 3 jersey for the first round of the District 4 Class AAA playoffs against Milton at Harold L. Bolig Stadium Friday night, that’s how explosive Martin was.
Martin feasted on the Black Panthers reeling defense for big play, after big play, torching Milton for five touchdowns and 163 yards rushing as Selinsgrove eased into another district final with a 41-18 victory.
Selinsgrove, finally back on the plus side of wins (6-5) for the first time since mid season, will host No. 4 seed Jersey Shore after the Bulldogs bounced Shikellamy, 24-14, in the other semifinal.
And it was mostly on the legs of Martin that the Seals were able to solve Milton, a 33-28 winner in the regular season a month ago when Selinsgrove squandered an early 21-0 lead to the Black Panthers.
The Seals fumbled deep in Milton territory on their first drive of the game and then had a 22-yard field goal attempt by Joe Radel bang on the right upright late in a scoreless first quarter.
Martin then dominated the second quarter, slicing through a Milton defense that was stung for 124 points in three consecutive regular season ending losses. He broke a 60-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the quarter and, two possessions later, after Mason Pope’s 56-yard burst inside the Black Panther 10, added a five-yard TD to give the Seals a 14-0 lead.
“When we lost Juvon, we went to Angelo,” said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess. “He is an amazing kid. He sees the field well and he keeps getting better every time he touches the ball. He is really finding the seams and he’s got great speed and acceleration.”
Hess might have added another attribute: breaking a big play when the Seals needed it most.
After Milton’s Brady Chappell hit Greg Shultz with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the first half, Martin stung the Black Panthers for 56-yard touchdown on the first play after the ensuing kickoff.
“Those plays were more about the offensive line than me,” Martin said. “Those guys had a great week of practice and that showed tonight. I owed those touchdowns to the line.
If Martin’s first half performance (123 yards in 7 touches) wasn’t enough, his second half effort was — at least for the wobbly Milton D. Martin returned the second half kickoff 52 yards to the Black Panthers 26 and three plays later dashed in from the 14 to hand the Seals a 28-6 lead.
Milton (5-6) answered with an efficient 60-yard march and Josh Brown bulled in from the two to cut the Selinsgrove lead to 28-12. But this time there was no comeback by the Black Panthers.
Conner Liesenfeld pushed the Seals advantage to 34-12 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter and Milton answered with another steady drive, scoring when Chappell hit Shultz for an 11-yard score.
But Martin ended the quarter like he started it — with a 46-yard kickoff return into Milton territory — and then tallied his fifth touchdown seven plays later with a run from the 15.
“Martin is a tough kid,” Milton coach George Goodwin said. “It is scary to think how good they will be if they get everybody healthy for next year.”
But the Seals still have work to do this season when they host Jersey Shore, a team they handled 14-6 in week 7.