By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE – Injuries may be part of the game, but Danville and Selinsgrove both have seen more than their share of players go down this season.
Regardless, the Seals and Ironmen still found themselves playing for higher seeding in the upcoming District 4 playoffs in the final game of the regular season.
Selinsgrove, however, was hit by the injury bug again prior to the game when senior running back Conner Liesenfeld was ruled out with a concussion.
An upset over the heavily-favored Ironmen would be exactly what the doctor ordered, and the Seals pulled it off with a 17-14 Heartland-I victory Friday at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field.
“That loss is all on me. I made some poor decisions during the ballgame to put us in bad situations,” said Danville coach Jim Keiser. “I didn’t have these guys prepared. I just want the kids to put this loss behind them.
“It’s a new season, and I expect these guys to step up again,” added Keiser.
The win by Selinsgrove (5-5, 4-2 HAC-I) assures the Seals a Class AAA first-round playoff game next Friday at home against most likely Milton, which fell to Shikellamy in a barn-burner in their game on Friday.
Danville (8-2, 5-1) enters the Class AA playoffs as the No. 2 seed behind Montoursville.
The Ironmen hold a slim 42-41-3 edge in the all-time series against Seals, but Danville will play in the HAC-II beginning next season and that will temporarily end the long-time rivalry between the schools for at least the next two years.
“It was a good win against a good football team. They have some injuries and we have some injuries, but the bottom line is we played a good football team,” said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess. “Danville has been a long-time rival of ours, and this will be the last time we’ll see them for a few years.
“The win was big. We haven’t beaten Danville since 2009,” added Hess.
Junior quarterback Isaiah Rapp led Selinsgrove to the win with his arm, and with his legs. He passed for 183 yards on 12-of-21 passing with one interception as five different receivers caught at least one pass.
“I can’t say enough about Isaiah Rapp tonight. He just came out throwing the ball and did an outstanding job. He really did a great job for us tonight,” said Hess, who especially needed to lean on Rapp in the game due to the high number of injuries his team has suffered.
“We have a 50-man roster, and now we’re down to 34 kids. That’s where we are with our injuries,” said Hess. “It’s one of those things. We have to develop a lot of depth, and the players have to step up and make plays. Tonight was Rapp’s night.”
But despite his strong passing performance, Rapp did his biggest damage on the ground as he scored on two one-yard touchdown runs – one each in the first and second quarters – to stake the Seals to a surprising 14-0 lead.
“It felt great (to score twice). I like getting the ball down (at the goal line) because I don’t even want to take the risk of handing it off,” said Rapp. “I have confidence in my line and confidence in myself to punch it in.”
Selinsgrove continued its inspired play in the second half, and its lead grew to 17-0 late in the third when Joe Radel connected on a 34-yard field goal.
However, a pair of turnovers by the Seals, including a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Danville’s Matt Meloy, got the Ironmen back in the game.
Then midway through the fourth Danville got to within three points following a one-yard touchdown run by back-up quarterback Zach Kozick.
“I was truly worried. Danville is a good football team and they are extremely well-coached,” said Hess. “Regardless (of their injuries), they are still an awful good football team. We knew that if we didn’t keep scoring points and if we didn’t possess the ball they could come back on us, and that’s exactly what happened.”