By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — There are certain players that can be identified just by their numbers.
No. 23 is Michael Jordan, No. 2 is Derek Jeter.
The Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II has its own player like that in Loyalsock’s No. 3. And Kyle Datres pays Lewisburg a visit in a key HAC-II and District 4 Class AA contest Friday night.
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Susquehanna University’s Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium, as a result of Bucknell University’s homecoming.
The matchup is certainly interesting. The Lancers’ are 5-3 overall, 2-1 HAC-II and still have a shot at the HAC-II title with wins in their final two games over the Green Dragons and undefeated Montoursville. Yet the Lancers will also probably need both wins to guarantee a district playoff berth
Loyalsock has been up and down at times this season, beating teams like North Penn, Mount Carmel and Troy, coming back to down Shikellamy and nearly beating Danville. The Lancers have also lost games to Central Columbia and Towanda.
“We have to be up on a week-to-week basis, out of teams in the hunt for a playoff berth (in Class AA), the only team we don’t play is Mifflinburg,” Loyalsock coach Justin VanFleet said. “It has been a positive for us because we are battle- tested, but we have wounds from being in such battles.
“In our eyes, the playoffs begin Friday at 7 p.m.”
Though Lewisburg (6-2 overall, 2-2 HAC-II) is out of contention for the league title, the Green Dragons currently are fourth in the District 4 Class AA points race, just ahead of the Lancers for the final home game in the first round.
Back to Datres. A stout Lewisburg defense will have its work cut out for it with the junior quarterback. He’s thrown for 1,107 yards, while rushing for another 648 yards on the ground. Of the 31 touchdowns the Lancers have scored this season, Datres had accounted for 19 of them, rushing for 10 and throwing for nine.
“He’s a really good athlete, obviously, plus you don’t know what (Loyalsock) is going to do,” Lewisburg coach Jeremy Winn said. “Datres is under center quite a bit in some games and in others, they are in a lot of spread formations. You just have to try to defend everything.”
If a Green Dragons’ defense that has forced 26 turnovers this season, including 14 interceptions, has had any issues at times this season, it’s been with an elusive quarterback. Towanda quarterback Noah Huff had 140 yards rushing against Lewisburg in the opener, while the Green Dragons had trouble at times in corralling Central Columbia signal caller Steve Shannon in a 28-6 win last Friday night.
“I think in practice we have to be disciplined in our secondary. A lot of (Loyalsock’s) big plays happen on scrambles when the secondary thinks it’s a run and receivers get behind them,” Winn said. “We can’t have explosive plays after first contact. We have to tackle well.”
Don’t think Datres is the only dangerous player on the field for the Lancers either. Running back Robbie Klein has rushed for a team-high 716 yards and seven touchdowns. Datres’ receivers on the outside are dangerous athletes in their own right. Phil Krizan has 31 catches for 409 yards and five touchdowns, while anybody that’s seen Omar Little, who had an 80-yard TD grab last week, on the basketball court knows what kind of athlete the junior can be.
In addition, both Krizan and Fletcher Quigley have returned kickoffs for touchdowns for Loyalsock.
“They have some other really good athletes,” Winn said. “Their skill guys are impressive across the board.”