DANVILLE — Danville’s recent stretch of success has been built on rushing the football.
Friday, the Ironmen were at their best when rushing with the football.
On two occasions — after a turnover on their first series and again after Shamokin’s only score — the Ironmen went to a hurry-up attack and produced touchdown drives.
Senior quarterback Weston Baylor capped both series, with one of his two scoring passes and with a short TD run as Danville beat the Indians 28-7 for its fourth 3-0 start in as many years.
Ironmen senior Sam Dressler ran for 171 yards and touchdown, finishing 11 yards shy of 3,000 for his career, and classmate Evan Tanner caught both of Baylor’s TD passes.
The Danville defense controlled the line of scrimmage and kept the Indians’ running game from gaining any traction until after they trailed by three scores.
"I still don’t think we’re playing great football right now," said Ironmen coach Jim Keiser, who improved to 41-11 in his fifth season. "There’s still too many penalties; we’re still dropping passes. We’re leaving points on the field, and that’s something we can’t do."
Interestingly, Danville’s answer to a sluggish offense is often the hurry-up style which should, by definition, lead to mistakes or confusion. Instead, the Ironmen run it with confidence.
Early in the first quarter Friday, a high pass was tipped for an interception that led to a missed field goal attempt by Shamokin. The Ironmen then went hurry-up midway through their second series, and broke Tanner open on a crossing route that went for a 59-yard touchdown down the left sideline.
"Shamokin was switching people in depending on our formations, so with hurry-up they couldn’t get their right personnel in. With quick snaps, there were big holes there," Baylor said. "I think it hurts them, obviously, and tempo-wise it’s good for us."
The Indians (0-3, 0-2 HAC-I) gave away field position with a 15-yard punt late in the first quarter, and Danville made short work of a 40-yard drive. Dressler ran 28 yards and was pushed out at the left pylon, and Baylor followed with a play-action flip to Tanner in the back of the end zone.
Less than 3 minutes later, Dressler got his score on a 63-yard bolt. He skipped out of a tackle near the line of scrimmage and won a footrace with linebacker Garrett Zalar to the goal line for a 21-0 lead just 35 seconds into the second quarter.
"It all started up front," said Baylor, who passed for 100 yards. "Our line did a great job."
Danville (3-0, 2-0) played conventional offense until the fourth quarter, after a 9-minute, 13-second touchdown drive by Shamokin. The Indians went just 60 yards, but they converted twice on fourth down, including a 17-yard TD fade from Tucker Yost to Sean McLaughlin on a fourth-and-10 call.
Shamokin gained just 37 yards on 21 first-half rushing attempts, but more than tripled that figure (totaling 114) with 21 runs after halftime. John Demsko led the way with 62 yards.
"They did a nice job on that drive," said Keiser. "Beautiful. Real nice execution. Got to give them credit."
The Ironmen took over at their 35 and flipped the switch to the hurry-up. Consecutive 12-yard runs by senior halfback Isaiah Croll and a 16-yard blast by Dressler moved the ball just outside the red zone. A couple more chunk gains set up Baylor’s 2-yard TD keeper with 5:29 to play.
"It’s a tempo thing for us, and it hurt them a bit because usually you don’t see a lot of the (personnel) switching up that they did," Keiser said. "It’s something (offensive coordinator Chris) Coombe likes to do by feel. If he feels it’s something that gets us in a better (offensive) rhythm, he’s going to hit it.
"We started with it and it had them really back on their heels, and then again on that last (scoring) drive."