By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Sam Dressler wanted no part of the credit for Danville’s dramatic second-half turnaround Friday, deflecting any hint of it toward his offensive line.
Momentum-seizing drive? “We did it all behind them.”
Scores on three consecutive possessions? “They played awesome.”
Dressler eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark? “Gotta give it up to them.”
It wasn’t a typical case of running back’s humility, either. The junior fullback was spot-on.
Danville’s offensive front took control of the District 4 Class AA quarterfinal against Loyalsock, churning out 170 second-half rushing yards as the Ironmen pulled away for a 31-6 win.
“That’s the best, I think, I’ve seen our offensive line play is the second half of this game,” said Danville coach Jim Keiser. “They really got fired up.”
Dressler rumbled for all but 30 of his 141 yards after halftime, scoring on a statement drive to open the third quarter. Shayne Riley booted a 27-yard field goal, and Bret Berg, who had a 62-yard punt return for a TD in the first half, caught a scoring pass as Danville closed the game with 31 unanswered points.
“We worked the whole year for this — this is where (our season) ended last year — and we had to come through,” said Dressler. “We just kept looking forward at the one goal.”
The top-seeded Ironmen (9-2) host No. 4 Athens, a 21-9 winner over Troy, in the district semifinals Friday. Loyalsock, playing without injured sophomore Kyle Datres, a standout at both quarterback and safety, ended the year with three consecutive losses to finish 6-5.
The Lancers put their best foot forward out of the chute, going 65 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead. Backup QB Ryan Bogaczyk hit Phil Krizan with a 40-yard bomb on third-and-7 to the Danville 5. It set up a short Ethan Moore TD run.
The Ironmen struck quickly, scoring two touchdowns in the next six minutes, to go ahead 14-6.
Zack Kozick ran a Wildcat keeper 38 yards for a touchdown, despite absorbing a hit from Loyalsock linebacker Cody McCracken around the 10. A few minutes later, Berg snaked his way through the Lancers’ punt coverage to the home sideline and raced to the end zone.
Two subsequent first-half drives were scoreless, as Danville was intercepted at the Loyalsock 1 and later forced to punt from midfield. Despite the strong start, the Ironmen had just 17 snaps in the half (15 fewer than Loyalsock) and were out-gained 138-110.
“We can play a lot better than we’re playing,” Keiser said was his message at halftime. “What did we run? Seventeen plays? You can’t have that.
“I told the guys we had to get off the field (on defense), and offensively we’ve got to take it to them.”
The Danville linemen (tackles Mason Fausnaught and Blake Remensnyder, guards Ian Ficca and Chris Humbert, and center Matt Shipe) had their marching orders, and they executed them.
“We all looked around at each other and we knew what we had to do,” said Fausnaught, a senior. “We just did a good job of putting things in the their place in the second half and things started clicking for us.”
Dressler took each of the first two carries of the second half for 9 yards. His third also went for 9. His fifth gained 11.
There were 11 running plays on the 65-yard drive, and Dressler handled eight for 57 yards. “It was great,” he said. “We did it all behind (the offensive linemen) — they did a great job.”
Of the 30 plays over the course of Danville’s first three series of the second half, only five were passes. The others netted 156 yards (6.2 yards per).
“That felt really good because we’ve been talking about being able to do that all year,” said Fausnaught. “We had a goal when we came out in the second half and that was to score on every single drive and I think we came pretty close.”
Dressler topped the 1,000-yard plateau late in the third quarter. He got the lion’s share of Danville’s carries because junior halfback Isaiah Croll came into the game nicked up. Croll injured his left leg on a 16-yard gain in the third and was walking with crutches at game’s end.
Dressler didn’t mind the extra work, it was the accolades and atta-boys he had no use for. “We just really came together as a team and as a family,” he said. “We knew what we had to do when we came out, and stuff wasn’t going our way, but we stuck together and pulled through.”