By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Maybe if they had occurred over the course the game, Shikellamy’s mistakes wouldn’t have been so damaging.
Coming one after another in the first half, though, they fed Danville’s momentum and took the Braves out of the key Heartland-I game.
The Ironmen scored three first-half touchdowns, one on each of their first two drives, and played impressive defense to stay unbeaten in the division with a 24-0 win at Shikellamy Stadium.
Danville’s first shutout of the season, which wasn’t in coach Jim Keiser’s best-case scenario, snapped the Braves’ three-game win streak.
“Not against this team; not the way they’ve been playing football,” said Keiser. “I was hoping we could hold them to 14 points, actually.”
Ironmen junior Weston Baylor completed 10 of his first 11 throws on a foggy night and finished with 133 passing yards and two scores, both in the first quarter.
Danville’s defense gave up just seven first downs and limited the Braves to 25 yards on 27 rushing attempts.
“They got up on us and we got out of what we game-planned to do,” said Shik coach Todd Tilford. “That’s to their credit, giving us different looks defensively and getting that big lead.”
The Ironmen (7-1, 5-0 HAC-I) set up a de facto division championship game against Selinsgrove in the teams’ regular-season finale Nov. 2 at Danville. Shikellamy dropped to 4-4 overall and out of the division race at 2-2.
“Early mistakes took us out of what we wanted to do,” said Tilford. “A good team capitalizes on that, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Danville forced a punt on Shikellamy’s first possession, and the Braves appeared they had done the same. However, they had too many players on the field for the punt and the 5-yard penalty gave the Ironmen a first down.
Two plays later, Danville scored on a 45-yard screen pass from Baylor to Isaiah Croll.
“If we punt the ball away and they put a drive together you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Keiser. “We were fortunate to take it down and get the points. That was a real big point in the game.”
On the touchdown, Croll spun his wheels on the muddy turf after making the catch, but quickly built a head of steam. He held off one Brave with a stiff-arm for more than 10 yards, then slipped another tackler inside the 10.
“I saw the end zone and I just went for it. I wasn’t stopping until I got there,” said Croll, a junior halfback. “You’ve got to capitalize after that (Lewisburg mistake) and that’s all I thought about.”
The Braves attempted a fake punt on their second series, but Garrett Kemberling’s run on fourth-and-3 was stuffed by linebackers Gunnar Feldmann and Eric Haney.
Danville turned the stop into a seven-play scoring drive, with Baylor hitting 4-of-4 for 37 yards, including a 4-yard TD to Cale Rice.
“I felt like I was getting into a rhythm, and it really helped seeing how wide-open the receivers were and how (far) off they were playing,” said Baylor, who hit his first six passes “After we kept scoring, it felt like we could do what we wanted in the passing game.”
The Braves had an high shotgun snap that cost them 23 yards and killed a second-quarter drive. Though it didn’t turn into Danville points, Zack Kozick’s interception just three minutes later and a horse-collar tackle at the end of play set up a 14-yard scoring drive for a 21-0 lead.
“We felt, with the power-run game, we wanted to keep plugging away at it,” said Tilford. “But we got down 14-0 and took a couple chances to try to get ourselves back into it. It just didn’t materialize.”
Shikellamy’s John Schaeffer had a 42-yard return on the kick following Sam Dressler’s 1-yard TD run. The Braves moved inside the 30 in the final minute of the half, but lost a fumble.
“Our defense played great; the kids really flew to the ball,” said Keiser. “Shik did make a couple mistakes that hurt them and we gained momentum off that, but I can’t take anything away from our defense. They played really hard, really well.”