By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG – Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer walked into the locker room at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium and even he thought it was a little odd.
He hadn’t planned on ranting-and-raving at his team despite being down 20 points at halftime.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t yell or scream,” Keefer said. “I walked in the locker room and I looked around. It really shocked me. Some of our guys had this grin on their face, this grin of confidence.”
The Warriors knew they had weathered the storm and had 24 minutes to get back into Friday night’s key Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II showdown with Lewisburg.
It’s exactly what Montoursville did.
The Warriors scored 27 unanswered points in the second half, overcoming six turnovers, by stymieing the Green Dragons’ offense in 27-20 victory.
“I have 22 seniors, it was not going to happen. I knew we wouldn’t roll over,” Keefer said. “If we were going to down, we were going to go down swinging. We caught a couple of haymakers in the first half, but we still came out on top.”
Montoursville improves to 6-0, 4-0 HAC-II and has another huge game next week at home with fellow undefeated Danville. Lewisburg drops to 4-2, 1-2.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Green Dragons took advantage of Montoursville’s aggressive defense and turnovers. Quarterback Nick Costagliola narrowly avoided a blitz on a rollout and found Ben Frankel wide open behind the defense for a 65-yard TD with 6:43 left in the second quarter for a 7-0 advantage.
Lewisburg then took advantage of two Montoursville turnovers to score two touchdowns in 13 seconds. Drew Newcomb picked off his seventh pass of the season and returned it 40 yards to the Montoursville 35. Facing a fourth-and-1 from the 26, Costagliola hit Luke Smith on a drag pattern across the field for the score with 13 seconds left in the half to take a 14-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kyle Palmer forced a fumble and Zach Pyers picked it up in stride and ran 30 yards for the score with no time left in the first half. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced a missed 35-yard extra-point attempt and the Green Dragons took a 20-0 lead at the half.
Montoursville answered quickly in the third quarter, scoring on its opening drive, keyed by a face mask penalty after a third-down sack. Cameron Ott scored from a yard out with 8:51 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 20-7.
The Warriors scored 13 seconds later when Ott stepped in front of a Costagliola pass on the first play from scrimmage by Lewisburg and returned the interception 31 yards for a score to cut the lead to 20-14.
Montoursville’s defense was outstanding in the second half. Cutting back on the blitzing and mixing their coverages, the Warriors held Lewisburg without a first down until late in the fourth quarter. After completing 8-of-13 passes for 154 yards and two scores in the first half, Costagliola was just 3-of-14 for 27 yards and two interceptions. Lewisburg was also held to negative three yards on the ground after halftime.
We mixed up our coverages and let our front four guys get the pressure. We don’t have to get the sack, we just have to make him uncomfortable back there,” Keefer said. “We were switching our coverages from man, to zone, two-deep zone. Not many high school quarterbacks are going to be able to read that on the fly.”
Montoursville took the lead with a nine-play 96-yard drive, capped by a Dunne 12-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-goal after a Warriors penalty.
They added an insurance score with 5:30 left in the game when Dunne found Ott for a 21-yard scoring pass on a fourth-and-six play.
“We were the better football first 24 minutes and they were the better football team for the final 24 minutes,” Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. “We haven’t been able to come up with a win the last two times here (at home).”