For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — Loyalsock had rode its offense and the arm and legs of quarterback Kyle Datres to the precipice of a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II title.
However to get a chance to earn a share of the title in the final week, the Lancers had to figure out its defensive woes Friday night against Lewisburg.
Of the Lancers first eight opponents, the Loyalsock defense had held one to less than three scores — seven points in week seven against winless Hughesville.
At Amos Alonzo Stagg Field at Nicholas Lopardo Field on the campus of the Susquehanna University, the Lancers’ got their usual effort from Datres, who accounted for all five touchdows, while the Lancers’ defense put together its best performance of the season in a 34-7 victory over the Green Dragons.
“Our defense stepped up, they came ready to play,” Datres said. “We haven’t played well on defense all season, but we did tonight. We simplified some things this week and moved some guys around. Defense is what won us this game.”
Loyalsock (6-3 overall, 3-1 HAC-II) will host Montoursville (9-0, 4-0) for a chance at the league title next Friday night. Lewisburg drops to 6-3, 2-3 and will travel to rival Mifflinburg in the regular-season finale.
The Lancers’ line on both sides of the ball was key to the victory. The Loyalsock defense limited Lewisburg to just 69 yards on the ground, discounting two bad snaps early in the game. The Lancers also sacked Lewisburg quarterback Nick Costagliola three times and picked him off twice.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lancers rolled up 289 yards on the ground as Datres finished with 132 yards and fullback Robbie Newton added a career-high 12 carries for 89 yards as the Lancers hurt Lewisburg with the triple option.
Datres finished the game with three rushing touchdowns, a touchdown pass and a 70-yard interception return for a score. The junior now has 24 of Loyalsock’s 36 touchdowns this season.
Loyalsock took the lead in the first quarter set up by a bad snap on a Lewisburg punt to take over at the Green Dragons’ 40 before Datres scored five plays later for a 7-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter.
Loyalsock made it 14-0 midway through the second quarter with a five-play 62-yard drive, capped by Datres’ 10-yard TD run after Lewisburg punted for the fifth time in its first five possessions.
“We started out flat in the first half. I don’t think we were disciplined at all in any of the three aspects of the game,” Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. “It comes down to me and getting (the team) more focused before the game.”
The Green Dragons cut the lead to 14-7 as Costagliola (18-of-29, 258 yards) hit Logan Aikey with a 10-yard TD pass, but the Lancers answered with a five-play 61-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass from Datres to tight end Caleb Robbins with 34 seconds left in the half for a 20-7 advantage at halftime.
Loyalsock controlled the clock in the second half, but didn’t score until an eight-play 61-yard drive to take a 28-7 lead after a five-yard TD run by Datres and two-point conversion pass.
Datres capped the scoring with a 70-yard interception return TD with six minutes left in the game.