By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE — Questions abounded this week about the health of Danville fullback Sam Dressler heading into the District 4 Class AA playoffs.
The senior, who had been in-and-out of the lineup since a Week 6 injury against Jersey Shore, returned in last week’s regular season finale against Selinsgrove, but carried just six times for eight yards.
“It was tough. I just kept praying, hoping things would work out,” Dressler said.
Friday night in the quarterfinals against No. 7-seed Lewisburg, Dressler was healthy enough to carry the ball 29 times for 167 yards and a touchdown, while Shayne Riley kicked three field goals in the Ironmen’s 23-6 victory over the Green Dragons.
“This week was real nice to come back out and feel good again,” Dressler said.
Danville improves to 9-2 on the season and will host No. 3-seed Loyalsock, a 48-20 victor over Towanda, at 7 p.m. Friday night. Danville defeated the Lancers 23-21 in the second week of the season.
Lewisburg finishes the season at 6-5.
Dressler now has carried 140 times for 1,111 yards on the season and set the Danville High career-rushing record Friday. He moved past Carmen DeFrancesco Jr. on the list. Dressler now has 3,630 yards in his career.
Leading by six points at halftime, Danville controlled the clock in the second half, putting together scoring drives of 13 plays and 18 plays, which consumed 7:10 and 9:45 off the second-half clock.
“Especially in the second half, I think our kids did an excellent job. That was our game plan to control the clock because they have some dangerous kids,” Danville coach Jim Keiser said.
“In the first half, we did a good job of controlling the clock,” Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. “In the second half, Danville controlled the clock and made plays.”
The Ironmen took the opening kickoff of the second half and used Riley’s third field goal — a 33-yarder — to open up a 16-6 lead.
After a Lewisburg punt, Drew Newcomb intercepted his ninth pass of the season, setting up Lewisburg at its own 47. The Green Dragons drove to the Danville 35, but were stopped on downs when a fourth-down pass fell short by a yard.
Danville clinched the game with its 18-play drive. By the time, Dressler punched it in from the one, there was 1:30 left in the game and the Ironmen led 23-6.
Both teams started slowly — the Green Dragons threw an interception and missed a field goal on its first two possessions, while the Ironmen were forced to punt twice — before Lewisburg took a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.
A short punt gave Lewisburg good field position at the Danville 46. Five plays later, Nick Costagliola hit Ben Frankel with a 31-yard TD pass when cornerback Caleb Jones bit on the double move, but the senior would get his revenge shortly.
The Green Dragons then recovered a Danville fumble on the final play of the first quarter to take over on its own 46. However, three plays later, Jones picked off a pass down the seam intended for Drew Newcomb. He returned it 51 yards for the touchdown and Riley’s extra point gave Danville a 7-6 lead despite just one first down in the game.
“It was a kid in his first playoff game and he was a little bit nervous I think,” Keiser said of Jones. “He did a great job after that. He made the adjustment on his own. He’s a good kid and that was a great play (on the interception and return). That’s the bad thing about being a cornerback. Nobody notices the six times you make the right play, just the seventh play when you make the mistake.”
Jones’ pick changed the momentum for the Ironmen. They forced a Lewisburg punt on the next possession and went on a 40-yard drive to set up the first Riley field goal, this one from 31 yards to take a 10-6 lead with 4:05 left in the first half.
Lewisburg drove to the Danville 35, but was stopped on downs with 52.7 seconds left in the first half, which was enough time for the Ironmen to notch another Riley field goal. Quarterback Zack Kozick was 4-for-4 for 34 yards and added an eight-yard run to drive the Ironmen to the Lewisburg 28. Riley knocked home a 45-yard field goal to send the Ironmen to the locker room with a 13-6 lead.