By Jon Gerardi
MOUNT CARMEL —
Shamokin decided to try some trickery on third-and-10 from its own 32. Tucker Yost snapped the ball and handed it off to Preston Burns who started to run before stopping and looking back at Yost to try and throw it back to him.
Burns let the pass go but could only cringe as Mount Carmel’s Mike Gilger read the play perfectly and made an interception he returned 36 yards down the far sideline for a Red Tornado touchdown.
The interception return was the key turning point in the game and led Mount Carmel to a 21-7 victory at the Silver Bowl on Friday over its rival to keep the Coal Bucket Trophy for the 17th straight year.
“That was huge. That was the game,” Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco said. “The air was out of their balloon after that.”
The Red Tornadoes (6-4) offense struggled throughout much of the game against Shamokin (2-8). Mount Carmel’s first five possessions all ended with the Red Tornadoes punting the ball away, and their final drive of the half resulted in a turnover on downs.
Mount Carmel had just 44 yards of total offense at the half and had no success running it, rushing the ball 16 times for negative yardage.
“I thought second half our lines started to take over both defensively and offensively,” DeFrancesco said. “We started to move the ball on the ground and it was just a good performance. Our line played a lot better in the second half.”
That line opened up holes for Lucas Klingerman, who led the Red Tornadoes offense with 95 rushing yards. But while the Mount Carmel offense started clicking in the second half, it was the Red Tornadoes defense the led the way.
Late in the first quarter, Mount Carmel’s Elijah Duran recovered a fumble on the Shamokin 3 and dove for the goal line to put the Red Tornadoes ahead 6-0. It was then Gilger’s interception return that made it a 13-0 game before Mount Carmel quarterback Dominic Farronato (4 for 12, 47 yards) kept the ball and ran a keeper up the gut to make it 21-0.
“Our kids came to play tonight,” DeFrancesco said. “Our defense was just overwhelming, it was a great defensive effort tonight.”
The Red Tornadoes defense forced two fumbles, two interceptions, had two defensive touchdowns and even blocked a Shamokin punt.
Mount Carmel didn’t allow a Shamokin first down until five minutes remained in the game and only gave up one red zone possession. The Red Tornadoes played solid on third down as well, forcing Shamokin to go 0 for 8 on conversions. The Indians only moved the ball into Mount Carmel territory twice in the game.
The win not only kept the Coal Bucket Trophy with the Red Tornadoes, but kept Shamokin winless at the Silver Bowl since 1995, a 17-year drought.
“These teams play hard. It’s like no other game. This game just brings out the best in both teams, that’s why it’s a special game,” DeFrancesco said.
“One of these years, they’re (Shamokin) going to win (here). I just hope it’s later than sooner and I’m gone,” DeFrancesco added laughing.