By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
TURBOTVILLE — The football gods were not kind last year to the Warrior Run Defenders and, with their best player — offensive lineman Austin Fiedler— — at Penn State University in 2013, the current season hasn’t been any better.
However, Warrior Run coach Mark Burrows wants everyone to know his Defenders haven’t given into their poor start.
“The attitude is still good. I give these kids credit; they don’t quit,” Burrows said of his 0-6 Defenders. “We just have to let the chips fall where they may and be as competitive as we can be.”
Friday night, Warrior Run hopes to be competitive against Lewisburg in a Heartland Athletic Conference-crossover game.
The Green Dragons (4-2) are coming off another heartbreaking loss to Montoursville. Lewisburg took a 20-0 lead into halftime, only to fall 27-20 to the undefeated Warriors.
“I told our kids we proved to ourselves that we can play with the better teams in District 4. We just haven’t done it for a full 48 minutes,” Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said.
Lewisburg is locked in the usual dogfight for a District 4 Class AA playoff berth and currently in fourth place in points. It controls its own destiny for a berth and home contest. The Green Dragons face Central Columbia, Loyalsock and Mifflinburg to end the season.
“We have to try to win every play the rest of the season,” Winn said. “We have a challenging schedule in front of us and winning every play has to start on Friday night.”
Senior quarterback Nick Costagliola has thrown for 842 yards and eight touchdowns this season, but it’s his feet that concern Burrows. Costagliola has carried the ball 70 times this season, tops on the Green Dragons.
“He’s a very good athlete and it’s the first time we’ve seen a quarterback that runs like he does,” Burrows said. “It’s the first time on defense we’ve had to account for that type of threat. He’s hard to emulate (in practice), so it’s our biggest concern.”
Lewisburg’s defense has been forcing turnovers all season, including six last week against the Warriors. The Green Dragons have forced a District 4-high 20 turnovers, perfectly split between fumbles and interceptions. Junior safety Drew Newcomb intercepted his seventh pass of the season against Montoursville.
Winn thinks that defense can be tested by the Defenders offense. Quarterback Hunter Raup has thrown for 568 yards, while three different receivers have at least 10 catches, led by Wyatt Kirkendall’s 18 grabs.
“They do pose some problems,” Winn said. “We have to be up to the challenge in the passing game.”
Burrows’ biggest concern about his team is once again its injury problems.
“We are doing our best to get kids healthy and get them back,” Burrows said of his squad that dressed 27 players in last week’s 50-0 loss to Shikellamy.
Injuries have really taken a toll on Warrior Run’s running game and last week against the Braves, wide receiver William Michael was forced to move to tailback during the game, carrying the ball 16 times for 50 yards. Michael had carried the ball just four times previously this season.
“It’s been tailback du jour. We had to move Williams over during the game and it’s an adjustment that takes time, let alone trying to do it at game speed,” Burrows said.