By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Dwayne Pepper sat on the ground, checking the spot of the ball.
Had it been a few inches closer to him, Pepper and the Shikellamy Braves would have had a chance to run out the clock on Kyle Datres and the Loyalsock Lancers on Friday night at Shikellamy Stadium.
But this carry by Pepper, unlike the 23 before it, had netted a few chain links less than a yard, on a fourth-and-one play at the Braves 38, with Shikellamy clinging to a 28-27 lead.
It was all the Lancers’ junior quarterback needed to stick a dagger into the hearts of the Braves and their fans on Homecoming night.
Datres led the Lancers to the go-ahead score as the Lancers got a 13-yard TD run from halfback Robbie Klein with 1 minute, 29 seconds left and it stood up for a 35-28 Heartland crossover victory.
For some time, it appeared the winner of this game would be the one to blink first, or whether Pepper or Datres would be the first to run out of gas.
They did not.
Pepper had a monster game in a losing effort, rushing for 165 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. Datres’ contributions will not all show up on the stat sheet, because there is no official record of how many times a quarterback kept a play alive when it seemed nearly impossible.
Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said, “Kyle’s a special player. He does some things that we work on but he sometimes ad libs a little bit and that’s when he’s real scary.“
When Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford gambled on getting the first down (the Braves took one shot at drawing the Lancers offsides with a hard count), not only was Van Fleet not surprised, he said he would have done the same thing.
Tilford said, “They way we were going and running the ball, and we didn’t want to give the ball back to Datres.”
He added, “There is only so much you can do chasing that kid all night. We were trying to contain him and it didn’t pan out.”
After the defensive stop, Loyalsock (3-2) quickly faced a third and nine at the Braves’ 38. Running like a jackrabbit with a hound on its heels, Datres managed to zip a pass to tight end Mickey Haller for 10 yards.
On the next play, Datres, who also ran for 121 yards and a TD on 19 carries, hit his other tight end, Caleb Robbins, for 15 more yards. Klein scored on the next play.
The Braves (1-3), starting from their own 36 after a holding penalty, picked up a first down at the Lancers’ 49 on a Garrett Kemberling pass to Nathan Shrawder and a run by Kemberling. But four incomplete passes ended the game.
Before all of this happened, Datres and Pepper put on a show.
Pepper gouged the Lancers’ defense for 39 yards on the game’s opening drive, scoring on a 3-yard run.
The Lancers answered with a 59-yard scoring drive on 10 plays. The game continued that way, neither team stopping the other until each team had to punt on successive possessions.
Just before the end of the half, Shrawder kept the Braves on top 14-13 with a diving interception of Datres in the end zone. But the second half opened with Loyalsock’s Philip Krizan returning the kickoff 88 yards for a score.
The Braves came right back on five plays to tie it at 21-all with 9:57 left in the third. Pepper scored again to put the Braves up 28-21. The Lancers came back to score, but missed the PAT, opening the door for the Braves.
Then Datres slammed it shut.