By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
DANVILLE — Danville ran the football for 175 yards in the second half of Friday’s win over Bloomsburg.
While that may not seem like a number worth highlighting, if you consider the Ironmen didn’t attempt a pass after halftime with senior quarterback Weston Baylor out due to a foot injury, it packs more of a punch.
Now, understand that Danville played one-dimensional football with backups at both halfback positions, fullback and quarterback, and still rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Bloomsburg, 31-23. That rushing total could be thrice as large for any other team and yet not as impressive.
Senior Isaac Troutman ran for a career-high 142 yards, junior Tom Brouse gained 76 and freshman Trent Hilkert added 17 — and all three scored touchdowns — as the Ironmen won back the Judy Price Memorial Trophy after a two-year stay in Bloomsburg.
“Attitude — I think that’s a lot of it,” Danville coach Jim Keiser said of the second-half turnaround. “Plus, Coach (Chris) Coombe saw a weakness we could exploit and he hit it and they couldn’t stop it. I thought our guys up front really came off the ball. They took it to them when we needed them to.”
The Ironmen (8-1) trailed 17-14 at halftime, with two mistakes among many (a first-quarter muffed punt and second-quarter interception) leading to 10 points by the Panthers (5-4).
Making matters far worse, senior quarterback Weston Baylor suffered a potentially significant foot injury late in the half and was unable to return.
That development moved flanker Zack Kozick to quarterback along with Troutman and Brouse, who were already subbing for injured seniors Sam Dressler and Isaiah Croll. However, they didn’t perform like reserves in the second half.
Danville received the second-half kick and, after Evan Tanner’s 19-yard return, moved 54 yards with eight punishing runs.
Troutman had 24 yards on the drive, Kozick ran a 17-yard keeper and Brouse capped it with a 5-yard bolt up the middle to the end zone.
The Ironmen, though, were just getting warmed up.
After forcing a three-and-out, they went 61 yards for a 28-17 lead.
Brouse ran like a freight train, gaining chunks of 12, 14 and 19 yards, before Hilkert punched in the TD from 1 yard.
“Coach was mad at us because we didn’t have a good first half,” said Brouse. “When he talked to us in the locker room, we got focused. We weren’t going to lose on our home field.”
The Ironmen held the ball for more than 10 minutes of the third quarter, keeping Panthers star Ricky Klingerman and his stable of pass-catchers on the sidelines. Klingerman had a relatively quiet first half with 84 of his 194 passing yards, but his knack for moving the chains turned Danville’s early 7-3 lead into a 17-7 hole with a pair of second-quarter TD drives.
The Ironmen stepped up with a pair of red-zone stops in the fourth quarter (including one in which they faced first-and-goal from their 1) and forced Cade Harmon’s second and third field goals of the game.
Danville answered the first fourth-quarter field goal with a four-minute drive that resulted in a booming Shayne Riley 39-yard field goal for a 31-20 lead.
Bloomsburg opted to take a 22-yard Harmon kick with 41 seconds left and try to recover an onside kick. Danville’s Caleb Jones covered the ball to preserve the win.
“I had a little episode in the locker room (at halftime) and told the guys, ‘I am sick of the penalties. I am sick of the excuses. Let’s go out and do it.’ To their credit, they did,” said Keiser. “What a great job by those kids. That’s why I’m so damn proud of them.”