By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Central Columbia fullback Cody Bowman stood in the right side of the endzone at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium flailing his arms hoping his quarterback, Steve Shannon, who was scrambling around looking for an open receiver, would notice him.
Trailing by a touchdown late in the first half, the Blue Jays had a chance to give themselves momentum heading into the second half of the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II matchup with the Green Dragons.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Lewisburg linebacker Luke Smith also saw Bowman standing alone in the end zone.
Smith stepped in front of Shannon’s floating pass with nothing but artificial turf in front of him, returning the interception 100 yards for a touchdown, changing the course of the Green Dragons’ 28-6 victory.
“I saw the kid waving his arms up and down in the end zone. I noticed watching film that the quarterback likes to throw back side a lot. I read his pass and he floated it a little bit,” Smith said. “I just grabbed it and I ran as fast as I could, because I wasn’t getting caught by a lineman. (My teammates) must have thrown some great blocks back side, because there was no one chasing me.”
“It goes from us possibly being up at halftime (the Blue Jays always try a two-point conversion), to Lewisburg leading 14-0,” Central Columbia coach Jason Hippenstiel said. “That’s obviously the play of the game. It changed both teams’ strategies in the second half.”
Coach Jeremy Winn stressed to the Green Dragons (6-2 overall, 2-2 HAC-II) all week about getting off to a good start against the Blue Jays. Lewisburg won the toss and took the ball, scoring on its opening drive for a 7-0 lead. The Green Dragons opened the game with a 38-yard Nick Costagliola-to-Ben Frankel pass. Frankel ran a double move on the Central Columbia cornerback and Costagliola made a perfect throw. Two Drew Newcomb runs, the second one a 16-yard scoring jaunt, gave Lewisburg the early momentum Winn was looking for just 1:05 into the game.
“Two weeks in a row we wanted to jump ahead on teams,” Winn said. “We wanted to capitalize with some points. We knew we wanted to run that pass play. It’s a play we put in last year and Ben runs it really well.”
Central Columbia (3-5, 2-3 HAC-II) looked to answer, putting together an 18-play, 8:18 drive, but failed to score when the Lewisburg defense stopped a fourth-and-15 attempt from the Green Dragons’ 29.
The game was a defensive struggle as the Blue Jays punted on back-to-back possessions, while the Green Dragons were stopped on fourth down on three consecutive drives into Central Columbia territory. The Blue Jays put together their best drive since the the opening one, marching to the Lewisburg 6, before Smith’s interception changed the game.
Lewisburg forced a three-and-out on Central’s opening drive of the second half and took a 21-0 lead with a six-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Logan Aikey’s three-yard TD run with 8:51 left in the third quarter. Costagliola hit Smith with a 28-yard pass and had a 25-yard run on back-to-back plays to set up Aikey’s TD run.
The Blue Jays had a chance to get back into the game late in the third quarter, putting together a nine-play, 53-yard drive, capped by Danny Koch’s six-yard TD run with 8:37 left in the game. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 21-6.
Lewisburg salted the game away with its longest sustained drive of the game, an 11-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Aikey’s second three-yard TD run of the game. The big play came on a fourth-and-four from the Central 30 when Newcomb caught a 24-yard pass to set up a first-and-goal at the 6. It was just the second of seven fourth-down attempts converted by Lewisburg.