By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE — It’s a phrase that is used by coaches everywhere, and often. Yet, it could have been invented for OK, in case you didn’t figure it out, it is, “It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”
That is being said, for good reason, about Friday night’s Heartland Athletic Division crossover game between unbeatens Danville and Montoursville.
With every week that the Ironmen (6-0) and Warriors (6-0) have kept their record intact, more fans have begun to anticipate this matchup at Memorial Field.
Danville coach Jim Keiser, in his fifth year at the helm, said this week, “This may be the biggest regular-season game that I’ve ever had since I’ve been a head coach.”
He recalled the Selinsgrove game in 2010 in which the two teams joined in paying tribute to Ironman player Alex Vitunac and Seal player Seth Lauver, both seriously injured in accidents during the summer.
“When Alex and Seth were both there that was very emotional, but this is probably the biggest one (for me),” Keiser said.
Entering the game, the Ironmen are at the top of the District 4 Class AA standings, 80 points ahead of the second-place Warriors.
While it is difficult to hide the magnitude of this game — Keiser was interviewed Tuesday afternoon by at least one radio station, a television station and a newspaper — he insisted that will not have an adverse affect on his players.
“We just preach (to the players) that we game-plan for whoever is in front of you, week to week, and we try to limit the distractions,” Keiser said. “Right now, it is just another game to try to get some points and get the No. 1 seeding in the district.”
Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said there is excitement in the air in his section of Lycoming County.
“It’s going to be neat for the community to have this type of atmosphere again, and we’re excited to represent our town,” Keefer said.
Like Keiser, the Montoursville coach said his team has four more important games to go, starting this week, to try to grab that top spot in the district points.
“Each of the remaining four games on our schedule have huge District 4 AA playoff implications, but we’re taking one game at a time.”
Keefer added, “Danville is a great all-around football team. They are well coached and very disciplined.”
The Warriors have ridden the legs of talented senior tailback Cameron Ott, who has already rushed for 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 10.46 per carry and nearly 200 a game.
Keiser said his team will need to limit Ott, but added, “We just can’t focus on him because the other kids will get you too. They all have great speed and that offensive line makes a lot of room for them to run.”
He added that the quarterback, senior Griffin Dunne, runs well, making the Montoursville offense that much more difficult.
He said that, if all the Ironmen needed to do to win was stop Ott, it would be easier.
As most weeks, the Ironmen will face a bigger front line, but Keiser said, “I think the difference (this week) is that some of their defensive linemen are a little bit more athletic than some of the teams we have played.”
Danville will be without starting halfback/linebacker Isaiah Croll, who had surgery Tuesday for a broken bone in his hand, sustained in last week’s win over Jersey Shore. Also injured early in that game was fellow senior fullback Sam Dressler. Keiser said Croll is expected to miss four weeks, but Dressler was hoping to be cleared to play. He said they would not know until the end of the week.
Keiser said the team has responded well to the loss of Croll and the latter is encouraging his teammates to continue to play well.
“I think we will respond OK from this,” he said. “We need to not turn the ball over and keep our penalties down, which is one of the things I have been upset with lately. We need to clean that up and we can’t turn the ball over and give these guys any extra momentum and extra shots, because they will take advantage of it.”