By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT — Friday’s game between the Lancers and Red Tornadoes can be summed up by the legendary Yankees catchers Yogi Berra: “It’s like deja-vu all over again.’
For the second straight year, Loyalsock and Mount Carmel meet in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division II contest following a Red Tornadoes’ loss to Southern Columbia.
“There’s no down week in our schedule this year,” Lancers head coach Justin Van Fleet said. “The difference between this year and last year is that we are fighting to find an identity right now. We have a little more game experience than last year’s team and that is building confidence throughout our team.”
Loyalsock (1-2 overall, 1-0 HAC-II) missed a last-second field goal for the win at Danville and the Lancers were leading Central last week 14-13 at halftime.
“I give Central a lot of credit for playing a heck of a game.” Van Fleet said. “Jake Klinger completely destroyed us. They won the battle at the line of scrimmage. It was tough to sustain a drive and keep the ball moving in the second half.”
Van Fleet said that the team can learn from those back-to-back losses.
“We are looking to learn from those experiences as we were in a position to win those games,” Van Fleet said. “Central came out in the second half and physically beat us. There’s no excuse for anything. We came out flat and they got their confidence going in the second half.”
Van Fleet said he saw a polished team on film in Mount Carmel (2-1, 1-0) that lost to a very good team in Southern.
“We want to see if we can hang with the landmark programs like the Centrals, Southerns, Mount Carmels and Danvilles of the world,” he said. “Mount Carmel is certainly a very good team and they had some breaks go against them last week.”
Last year, Mount Carmel lost to Southern 49-35.
“We never recovered from that hangover last year and that three-game winning streak,” head coach Carmen DeFrancesco. “We had a 21-point lead over Loyalsock last year and lost and I can guarantee it that it is not going to happen.
“Even though we had a Division I kid (Eric Joraskie), I think our defense is better than last year,” he said.
Last week, the Red Tornadoes we were down 25-0 to Southern after the first quarter. They went on to lose 45-7.
“Our kids never quit last week and when you take away the first-quarter score, we lost 13-7, so there are some positives we can take away from the loss,” DeFrancesco said. “We looked hard at the film and we saw the mistakes we made and we are moving on.”
If DeFrancesco and the Red Tornadoes want to avoid getting into another losing streak like last year, Lancers’ quarterback Kyle Datres will have to be accounted for.
“What stands out on film about him is that he has the ability to extend the play with his scrambling ability,” he said. “We are younger on defense this year, but, we are a little more aggressive and our scheme is easier for the kids to understand.”
DeFrancesco noted that the Lancers have some pretty good skilled players and they match up well with them up front.
“In their two losses, they were run on very easily and we haven’t been successful in running the ball and that’s a point of emphasis this week,” he said. “We have to establish the running game. We don’t have one guy that can just take it to the house like we did last year, but we have some players that will be good in the future.”
It was the option play that did in Mount Carmel last year against Loyalsock.
“We are expecting them to spread us out again and we have to contain Datres and that’s not easy,” DeFrancesco added. “If he has to tuck the ball and run, that could be a nightmare.”