By Brian Holtzapple
The Daily Item
On senior night at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field, a freshman would steal the show for Selinsgrove in a Heartland crossover game against Mount Carmel.
The Seals were mired in a close game with the Red Tornadoes for much of the first half, but late in the second quarter rookie Juvan Batts took over.
Batts broke free for a 72-yard touchdown run as Selinsgrove took the lead on its way to a 33-20 victory over Mount Carmel on Friday.
In addition to crucial District 4 playoff points being on the line, the Seals needed a win over the high-scoring Red Tornadoes to build momentum for next week’s showdown against Danville for the conference title.
“It was a wonderful win. The kids came out and played their tails off and I couldn’t be more proud of them. That’s a good football team we played,” said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess.
“Two weeks ago, we decided we wanted to be 3-0 to finish out the season. Right now we’re 2-0 and we’re playing for a league championship at Danville. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Danville and its going to be a classic up there.”
A costly turnover by Selinsgrove (7-2) early in the second quarter turned a seven-point lead into a tied ballgame with Mount Carmel (5-4).
The Red Tornadoes’ Eric Joraskie made a brutal hit on Seals’ quarterback Isaiah Rapp and dislodged the ball. Danny Lesko was there for the recovery and he ran it in from 22 yards out to tie the game at 14.
But with the clock ticking down to end the first half Batts re-ignited the Seals offense with his 72-yard touchdown run that put the hosts back in front, 21-14.
“I really have to give it to the linemen. They had the holes there and I made the cut to get through,” said Batts. “It felt really good. I knew when I got it. I was just worried about a flag, and when I didn’t see one I was so happy.
Behind Batts, Selinsgrove started the second half much like the way it ended the first when the freshman reeled off a 37-yard touchdown to put the Seals up by two scores.
“That was good stuff. He’s something, I’ll tell you,” Hess said about his freshman running back. “He’s got an unbelievable amount of talent. He’s so fast.”
Selinsgrove’s defense later produced a safety and Kaelan Sullivan also kicked a 26-yard field goal for the Seals in the fourth quarter.
“They just came and took it to us time and time again on both sides of the ball, and we didn’t respond,” said Mount Carmel coach Carm DeFrancesco. “We have to go back to the drawing board. We’re still a good football team, but it wasn’t our night. It was Selinsgrove’s night.”
The night began in the Red Tornadoes’ favor as they ate up almost 7:30 off the clock in the opening series of the game to score on a seven-yard run by Luke Klingerman, who was held to just 65 yards on 21 carries.
“We had a nice game plan and we did exactly what we wanted to do in the first quarter, but things happen and we had to make some adjustments and they didn’t work out,” said DeFrancesco, who lost starting quarterback Zach Wasilewski in the first half with an arm injury.
Following the score, the Red Tornadoes tried to squib kick the ball on the kickoff. It didn’t work out as planned as Hunter Kantz scooped up the ball and took off for a 65-yard touchdown.
Later in the first quarter Mike Walter dove into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown to give the Seals a 14-7 lead.
“(Hunter Kantz’s touchdown) was a huge momentum shift. We talk about momentum change and the kids really do believe in it. They buy into answering back when something negative happens,” said Hess. “Hunter is a senior and he played like the hero he is tonight. He did a great job.”
“Big plays have hurt us all year long,” said DeFrancesco. “When you look at the game we were pretty good defensively, but we give up the big play and that’s been our story whole year long.”