By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE — The one constant through an injury plagued season for the Danville High football team has been its all senior offensive line.
Friday night in the first half of the District 4 Class AA semifinals, that veteran group struggled a bit with a Loyalsock squad it was playing for the fourth time in two years.
Struggled enough that the Ironmen trailed by two touchdowns at halftime to the No. 3-seeded Lancers and were held to just 30 yards on the ground, including just 13 by the school’s all-time leading rusher Sam Dressler.
However the offensive line — left tackle Sean Cope, left guard Ian Ficca, center Matt Shipe, right guard Chris Humbert and right tackle Blake Remensnyder — wasn’t going to let the Ironmen’s chances at a back-to-back District 4 Class AA titles slip away so easily.
“Those guys didn’t want this season to end. I talked to them at halftime. I said, ‘listen guys you don’t want your season to end like this, we’ve got to come out and fire off the ball,’” Danville coach Jim Keiser said. “We’re down two scores, but that’s nothing. We put some drives together, our defense makes some stops and we’re back into this football game.”
The Ironmen did just that — dominating the second half, rolling up 179 yards on the ground, including 136 and two scores by Dressler — while holding Loyalsock’s dynamic junior quarterback Kyle Datres in check in a 28-21 come-from-behind victory that wasn’t decided until Zack Kozick’s quarterback sneak with 37 seconds left in the game.
“We came together as seniors. This would have been our last game,” Dressler said. “We knew we had to pick it up in the second half. Our defense played phenomenal.”
Danville improves to 10-2 on the season and will host No. 4-seed Troy (10-2), a 31-14 winner over top-seeded Montoursville — in the District 4 Class AA title game at 7 p.m. Friday night.
Trailing 21-7 to open the third quarter, the Danville defense forced the Lancers to punt, while the Ironmen put together its best offensive drive before Datres picked off a Kozick pass after Danville drove to the Loyalsock 30.
However, the Danville defense which forced more Datres second-half punts (5) than allowed Datres second-half completions (3), continued to dominate the Loyalsock offense in the second half. The Ironmen allowed just 69 second-half yards.
“We put our defense in some bad situations (in the first half with turnovers). I think that is the best I’ve ever seen a defense play that young man (Datres),” Keiser said. “Coach (Danville defensive coordinator Bill) Freeman had a great game plan for him and the kids executed. I thought they played pretty well in the first half, but they turned it up in the second half.”
The Ironmen’s defense allowed it to take advantage of back-to-back short fields to tie the game. Danville used drives of 39 yards and 20 yards to set up two Dressler touchdown runs, the second from 10-yards out to tie the game at 21-21 with 11:23 left in the game.
The Ironmen drove to the Loyalsock 5 on their next possession, but missed a 22-yard field goal. The Lancers then faced a fourth-and-one from their own 40 and thought about going for it; however a false start forced a punt.
Danville took over on its own 38 with 4:24 left in the game and drove 62 yards in 10 plays for the game-winning score on Kozick’s sneak with 37 seconds left in the game. Caleb Klein had the biggest play of the drive, dragging his foot down on a 21-yard completion down to the Loyalsock 4.
The Ironmen hurt themselves early as the Lancers jumped out to a 14-0 lead. After a three-and-out on Danville first offensive possession, Datres and the Lancers’ offense went 56 yards in 10 plays, converting two fourth downs along the way. Datres scored on a 10-yard run to give Loyalsock a 7-0 lead.
A bad pitch on the very next Danville play, gave the Lancers the ball on the Ironmen 20, setting up a four-play TD drive, capped by a five-yard TD pass from Datres to Omar Little with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
Danville got back into the game with an eight-play, 51-yard drive capped by Kozick’s 12-yard TD pass to Evan Tanner with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
Trailing 14-7, Danville looked to tie the game starting a drive from the Loyalsock 20, but a sack and forced fumble by Bailey Young set up the Lancers for a seven-play 72-yard scoring drive to take a 21-7 lead on Robbie Klein’s 24-yard TD run with 1:19 left in the first half.