By Brian Holtzapple
The Daily Item
Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess made sure to mention how humble running back Juvon Batts is. So the freshman speedster gave a shy smile when asked the last time he lost a foot race.
“I don’t know,” Batts said.
Batts raced 72 yards for a touchdown on his second carry on his way to 217 yards, while the Seals defense pitched their second consecutive shutout of the playoffs in a 31-0 victory over Milton to claim the District 4 Class AAA title at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field on Friday night.
It’s the Seals first District 4 championship since their state title season in 2009 and caps an amazing turnaround from a 1-9 campaign in 2011.
“It’s huge for these guys that have been through the lows. They are all great people who made all of the right decisions,” Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said. “They deserve this.”
Selinsgrove (9-3) advances to the PIAA playoffs. The Seals face the winner of District 9 champion Clearfield (11-0) and Pittsburgh City League Champion University Prep (6-3). That game is at 1 p.m. today at Clarion University.
If Clearfield wins, the game will be at 7 p.m. Friday night at Shamokin. If University Prep wins, the game will be at Mansion Park in Altoona at a time to be announced.
Milton finishes the season at 7-5.
The Black Panthers let one slip away in Selinsgrove’s 14-12 victory earlier this season, but on Friday night the Seals never let Milton into the game.
“They just had a different level of speed. They were the better football team,” Milton coach George Goodwin said. “They had a great game plan for us.”
Batts broke his long run on just the second play from scrimmage after Milton deferred the opening toss. He took the pitch and followed the lead block of fullback Mike Walter, made one cut and out ran the rest of the defense for the touchdown.
“I usually wait for the linebacker to commit to the outside and cut up field,” Batts said. “Then it’s just a foot race.”
The precocious halfback had 192 of his yards in the first half, but admitted the early touchdown run was just what he needed.
“I was little nervous. I was thinking all day that I needed to come up big in my first district title game,” Batts said. “I was ready to get started.”
“He’s a great kid,” Hess said of Batts. “He’s humble. He’s just got another gear.”
The Selinsgrove defense forced a three-and-out on the first Milton possession and the Seals took advantage with a nine-play 55-yard drive helped by two 15-yard penalties on the Black Panthers. Kaelen Sullivan’s 25-yard field goal with 6:10 left in the first quarter gave the Seals a 10-0 lead.
The Black Panthers had three consecutive possessions in Seals territory, but Logan Benner had an interception for the Seals to end one drive, while the other two ended in punts.
Selinsgrove was able to extend its lead to 17-0 with an eight-play, 76-yard drive that ate up 3:50 of the second quarter. Walter scored from two-yards out with 3:39 left in the first half. Batts had a 46-yard run on the drive and the Seals were able to overcome three holding penalties.
The Seals defense then gave its offense a chance to score one more time in the first half, forcing a three-and-out, giving Selinsgrove the ball back with 2:31 left and one time out. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Rapp executed the two-minute drill flawlessly.
Selinsgrove marched 49 yards in nine plays. Zach Adams caught a 10-yard TD pass from Rapp with 47 seconds left to make the halftime score 24-0. Rapp was 3-of-3 — discounting spikes to stop the clock — for 33 yards on the drive.
Selinsgrove salted the game away with a methodical 18-play 87-yard drive that consumed 7:59 off the third-quarter clock. The first 14 plays of the drive were runs, but Rapp capped the drive with back-to-back completions to Logan Benner, the last from three yards out with three seconds left in the third quarter, to make the score 31-0.