By Brian Holtzapple
The Daily Item
The path to Selinsgrove’s 12th District 4 Class AAA championship began and ended with its defense.
“The defense really stepped up. I don’t know where they were in terms of yards (allowed), but the defense had a heck of a night,” said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess. “They pitched a shutout, and boy, it couldn’t have come at a bigger time.
“For a playoff game, it’s huge to pitch a shutout. I think our defense has come around and we’re starting to peak at the right time.”
While the offense was producing early, the defensive unit for the Seals, and their three down linemen in particular — Harley Stahl, Billy Parks, Andrew Boob — also made their mark.
Among the hallmarks in the game for Selinsgrove’s defense was limiting Milton’s three-pronged rushing attack of Jarred Fogelman, Jayson English and Josh Brown to just 61 yards on 33 carries.
Stahl, a senior nose guard, keyed the run-stuffing defense for the Seals. He was in on three tackles, with his two solo stops going for a loss of seven yards.
“A down lineman is one of the most important players. We get to blow everything up. That’s what we were trained to do, and that’s what we did,” said Stahl. “Once we got a hold of (the running backs), we brought them down easily. We practiced that all week, and it seemed like it worked.”
Boob, who’s just a freshman, had four total tackles His first stop came late in Milton’s second series of the game, which ultimately ended when cornerback Logan Benner intercepted a pass from Brady Chappell.
“That kid has a motor that never stops. He’s tough as nails, he’s quick, he’s a fighter and I just love him. He’s a great kid,” said Hess in regards to Boob.
Parks really made his presence felt in the second quarter. He had three tackles and at least that many pressures on Chappell, who was forced to throw more than usual with the Black Panthers’ running game being stymied.
“During practice all week coaches said if we want to stop the passing game, we have to put pressure on (Chappell). We came out and did what we were taught and it worked out,” said Parks. “I can’t even explain how well we performed. Every play it seemed like if there was an open gap, we filled it.”
“Selinsgrove had a great game plan. I thought we had to throw the ball, and we kind of got out of our game plan – that’s not our forte,” said Milton coach George Goodwin.
That statement was never more evident than when the Black Panthers put together an eight-play drive that advanced all the way to the Seals’ 1. However, Stahl tackled English for a loss of six on 2nd-and-goal. Then on third down linebacker Mike Walter crushed Chappell and caused a fumble that fellow linebacker Hunter Kantz recovered to preserve Selinsgrove’s 24-0 lead.
“That was big. If we punch it in there, we’re back in the ballgame,” said Goodwin. “It was poor play calling on my part. There were a couple of things we could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done and I’ll take all the blame for that one.”
“That was a huge momentum swing. I know we were ahead pretty significantly at that point, but it was still big,” said Hess.
“Our kids stayed there and they were challenged and they came up with the ball. It was great.”
And for Stahl, Parks and the rest of the seniors, what’s great to them is completing the shutout over Milton to claim their first district title.
“It feels amazing because I was here in 2010 when we lost to Shikellamy in the district final. Last year, we were 1-9 so this is the biggest win I’ve ever been a part of,” said Stahl. “This is my first gold medal, ever. Our defense, we really stepped up to the game and we really showed them tonight I guess.”
“It couldn’t feel any better. This is the best feeling I’ve ever had,” said Parks.